Space Exploration Timeline Title

1971 - 1980


April 19, 1971

First Space Station

The Salyut 1 space station is launched by the Soviet Union and become the first space station in orbit. It remains in orbit until May 28, 1973.

June 6, 1971

First Occupation of Space Station

Soyuz 11 carried Cosmonauts G.T. Dobrovolsky, V.N. Volkov, and V.I. Patsayev to Salyut 1, the first manned occupancy of an orbital station. Tragically, on June 29, the Cosmonauts died upon Soyuz 11's reentry.

July 30, 1971

First Lunar Rover Mission

Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin drive the first moon rover while exploring the Moon's surface. The next year, Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt drives a similar rover.

November 13, 1971

First Spacecraft to Orbit Another Planet

American space probe Mariner 9 is launched May 30, 1971. Six months later it arrives at the planet Mars and becomes the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. Over the next year, it maps 100 percent of the Martian surface.


December, 1972

First Black Hole Candidate

Astronomers designate Cignus X-1 as the first probable black hole This binary star system emits strong bursts as X-rays as matter is crushed out of existence by the black hole.


May 14, 1973

First U.S. Space Station

The United States launches Skylab, the first U.S. space station. It will be occupied by three crews and over the next few years will be an important arena for a number of scientific experiments.

May 25, 1973

First Skylab Crew

The United States launches Skylab 2, carrying the first crew to visit the Skylab station. The three-member crew repairs damage sustained by Skylab station during its launch. They spend 28 days in space, setting a new space duration record for American astronauts.


July 17, 1975

First International Space Rendezvous

American Apollo and Soviet Soyuz spacecraft dock in what is the first international spacecraft rendezvous. Known as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, this important mission proved that U.S. and Russian crews could work together successfully in space.

October, 1975

First Surface Images of Venus

The Soviet Venera 9 and Venera 10 spacecraft land successfully on Venus send the first pictures of the Venusian surface to Earth. The also take measurements of the planet's atmosphere before being destroyed by the intense heat and pressure.


July 20, 1976

First Surface Images of Mars

The first pictures of the surface of Mars are sent back to Earth by Viking 1, the first U.S. spacecraft to successfully land a on another planet. The pictures reveal a rocky, desolate landscape that shows no signs of life.

September, 1976

Discovery of Water Frost on Mars

Following the success of Viking 1, the Viking 2 spacecraft lands on Mars on the Plain of Utopia. It discovers and photographs water frost and sends back stunning images of the Martian surface.


August-September, 1977

Launch of Historic Voyager Missions

The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft leave Earth on an epic tour of the Solar System. They will soon meet with Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980.


December, 1978

U.S. Probes Arrive at Venus

Two U.S. Pioneer spacecraft reach the planet Venus. One drops four probes into the atmosphere, while the other maps the surface.


March 5, 1979

Voyager 1 Arrives at Jupiter

The U.S. Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, arrives at Jupiter and begins sending back amazing images of the giant planet and its moons.

July 9, 1979

Voyager 2 Arrives at Jupiter

The U.S. Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in 1977, arrives at Jupiter and begins sending back images of Jupiter and its moons.

September 1, 1979

First Images of Saturn

The U.S. space probe Pioneer 11 reaches Saturn, flying within 13,000 miles and taking the first close-up photographs of the planet.


November 12, 1980

Voyager 1 Arrives at Saturn

The Voyager 1 spacecraft arrives at Saturn and begins sending back extraordinary images of the ringed planet and its many moons.