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Space History - Part 1
Looking back in space and time...

Earth rise as seen by the astronauts on Apollo 8.

History may not immediately spring to mind as a hobby but in fact it is a very popular one. History buffs typically have a particular period of interest, such as the American Civil War or Wild West period, and obsessively learn everything about it.

Space history buffs are no exception. They spend innumerable hours reading about space history events such as the Space Race, and pride themselves on knowing not only the important facts but also the trivia that makes the period come alive. They try to visit as many of the relevant historical sites as possible. Collecting memoribilia of the time is often a symptom as well.

Space historian Dwayne Day notes that amateurs have long made significant contributions to the study of Soviet and Russian space history:

The field of Soviet—now Russian—space history has always been relatively small. It has also been dominated by amateurs, meaning people who do not get paid as historians or have graduate-level academic training in history or related fields. Part of the constraint on the study of Soviet space history was due to extreme Soviet secrecy. When virtually every satellite that the Soviet Union launched flew under the deliberately bland designation of “Cosmos,” it was hard to apply standard research tools and training to studying Soviet activities. As a result, for years the study of Soviet space activities was akin to detective work using very limited clues, and the people who dominated the study were usually amateur sleuths. Of course, during the Cold War, Western intelligence agencies also studied Soviet capabilities. They had greater resources, but often resorted to many of the same techniques as the amateurs. - Cosmos unmasked: studying Soviet and Russian space history in the 21st century - The Space Review - June.26.06

There are certainly many periods and topics for the space history buff to explore. The history of modern rocketry and space exploration intertwines closely with many of the most dramatic political and technological developments of the 20th century.

See the other topics page for suggestions on space history subjects to explore.

Space exploration has had great impact on many individuals, especially during the space race beginning in the late 1950's. We include here a list of Personal Space Histories for those who have a web page dedicated to their own space experiences.

Space History on the Space-for-All Blog

Links to older news items on space history are available in the archive ...

News & Forums

General Space History


NASA History
NASA's official history department provides extensive resources on all aspects of NASA history:

Cape Kennedy History
History section of NASA's Cape Kennedy Space Center. Many subsections including:

MSFC History
NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama has played a major role in the history of spaceflight. Led during the 1960's by Werner Von Braun, MSFC was responsible for the development of the Saturn rockets. This site is a rich source of not only the history of MSFC but of NASA and spaceflight history in general.
Lunar & Planetary Exploration Timeline
NASA's NSSDC (National Space Science Data Center) provides this "list of a known (successful and unsuccessful) lunar and planetary missions including a few historical missions which were instrumental in the development and evolution of space exploration."
See also the individual lunar timeline and Mars timeline.
Spaceline: The Past, Present And Future Of Cape Canaveral
Huge amount of historical information on every aspect of space activity that occurred there since the start of rocket launches at the Cape in 1950. Also, it provides a nice overview of the History of Rocketry.

This site presents digitized transcripts of the audio transmissions for famous space missions in an easy to read, Twitter-like post format.

Other General Space History Sites

Encyclopedia Astronautica
Mark Wade created this enormous site that spans space history and current events. Exhaustive entries cover just about every rocket and spacecraft ever built.

Lots of info on US, European, Russian, and Chinese space efforts.

Calvin Hamilton's History of Space Exploration
Calvin Hamilton's spectacular PlanetSpaces multimedia site includes a large section on space history. Study the history of "rocketry, early astronauts, space missions, spacecraft through a vast archive of photographs, scientific facts, text, graphics and videos."

Jacqmans Spaceflight History
Jacques Edwin van Oene's page gives systematic compiliations of many aspects of spaceflight such as lists of all the astronauts from, 1959 to 1992, including the MOL military astronauts,cosmonauts from 1960 to 1994, international astronauts, Atlas rocket launches since 1990, and so forth.

Jonathan McDowell's History of Spaceflight
Jonathon McDowell provides, besides his famous Space Report, a number of historical resources. These include a archive of launch vehicle photos that reaches back to the 1950's. Organized chronologically and by type. Other historical pages include a list of non-human astronauts, Orlan spacesuit history and Chronologies.

Sourdough Jeanne’s Space Flight Log – Auntie Aircraft Media
Jeanne Jackson has "been compiling [a] log of space launches to orbit and to deep space, including all the known failures". The data is in

... Excel spreadsheet form. The workbook, which contains a separate worksheet for each year, has swollen to some two megabytes, as it contains a separate row for each payload launched (with Starlink and CubeSats, the annual log lists have gotten rather long).

The log is provided as "a free service for all space enthusiasts, buffs, and hobbyists". The log is available in .xlsx files to use with Microsoft Excel for the Web or for downloading.

National Air & Space Museum
The home site of the USA's foremost aerospace museum. Main sections are Research and Collections (includes archives and Space History Division) , Exhibits, and Public Events, News & Info.
The Ultimate Space Place - Space History
The Ultimate Space Place provides both lots of info on space history and also sells space collectibles and memoribilia.

Grand Tour! Planetary Exploration
Paolo Ulivi built this site that gives a broad history of the unmanned lunar and planetary programs. Covers programs in US, Soviet, European, and other.

Spaceflight Directory - Sandcastle V.I.
This site provides

"a summary page for each manned spaceflight project, of both the United States and Russia, and linked pages that include details of each and every individual mission. But before going to the directory, you might want to check out the comparison drawings below. Each thumbnail is linked to a 640x480 JPEG file (about 60kb each). Each individual spacecraft was scanned from published line art and then scaled, cleaned up, and colorized with Photofinish."


Air Force Space and Missile Museum
Located in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the museum "preserves both the hardware and the spirit of United States' ventures into space. The museum displays numerous missiles, rockets and related space equipment".

This well designed site covers the development of space technology from from early rocketry to the shuttle program. Includes not only the US and Russia but discusses space efforts of many other countries as well.

Soviet & Russian Space History
N1 Project
Here are sites dedicated to the massive N1 rocket that would have propelled cosmonauts to the moon if it had been successful.
Soviet Web Space
Asif A. Siddiqi has built this site dedicated to the Soviet space program. Sections include Soviet/CIS ballistic missiles, spacecraft, etc.

First Manned Spaceflight: Yuri Gagarin - April 12, 1961
In 2011 there were celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the first human flight to space. There were many articles and commentaries leading up to the 50th anniversary of the event.

The documentary Yuri Gagarin's First Orbit presents a re-enactment on the ISS of the flight path that Gagarin took on his historic mission. You can see the movie for free:


The movie has been quite popular: New 'Yuri's' Film 'First Orbit' Seen By 2.6 Million People - Moonandback - Apr.20.11.

Soviet Space History - Mark Wade
Mark Wade's Encyclopedia Astronautica presents an extensive history of the Soviet space program with lots of images, details on rockets and spacecraft, biographies, etc.

'Zarya' - Soviet and Russian Space Information
Soviet and Russian space history is here presented by Robert Christy. 'Zarya' means 'dawn' in Russian and was used as Yuri Gagarin's call sign and is the name of the first element of the International Space Stations.

Sven Grahn's Space History Notes
Sven Grahn is a top program manager at the Swedish Space Corporation but he is also well known as a historian of amateur space radio, especially for picking up transmissions from Soviet/Russian spacecraft.


Cosmonaut Deaths/Myths

More resources

European Space History
Arianespace Milestones
The Ariane program evolved into the commercial company Arianespace in 1980. This page gives highpoints in the history of the company.

British Rockets and Satellite Launchers
Nicholas Hill provides this history of British space between 1955 to 1971. Programs covered include the Black Knight and Black Arrow,

Jonathon's History of European National Space Programs
Jonathan McDowell's History of Spaceflight includes this section on European Space.

Rockets in Europe
(Also Les fusées en Europe) Gives a history of European space launchers, suborbital rockets, and rocket ranges. See also the list European acronyms.


Started in the 1950's with small sounding rockets, the Japanese space program has developed into one of the largest and most ambitious in the world. They set long term goals and methodically moved towards them in incremental steps.

Today Japan has developed a world class launch vehicle, the HA-II. A vigorous space science program has launched scientific payloads to the moon and Mars. A reusable vehicle, HOPE, is under development and there is a strong hypersonics research program.

There are some eccentricities in the Japanese space program that grew out of post-war society and politics. Rocket launches, for example, are restricted to short periods of the year due to objections from a small, but politically powerful, fishing lobby that claims that the noise bothers the fish and that falling boosters might hit their boats.

JAXA History
JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is the national space agency of Japan. It was created in 2003 from the combination of NASDA (National Space Development Agency of Japan), which had previously carried out national space projects, ISAS (Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science), which grew out of university research, and the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL).

More resources

The Race to the Moon


Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal at NASA

".. is a record of the lunar surface operations conducted by the six pairs of astronauts who landed on the Moon from 1969 through 1972. The Journal is intended as a resource for anyone wanting to know what happened during the missions and why. It includes a corrected transcript of all recorded conversations between the lunar surface crews and Houston. The Journal also contains extensive, interwoven commentary by the Editor and by ten of the twelve moonwalking astronauts." editor Eric M. Jones

Apollo 15 Flight Journal
There is now also a companion Flight Journal in development. The first installment is the transcript of the flight of Apollo 15..

Now available on CDs

Apollo Landing Site Images
Lunar orbiters have started imaging the six Apollo landing sites with higher and higher resolution. Here are galleries and resources sites for these interesting observations.

NASA's site that commemorates the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing.
The Decision to Go to the Moon
Information at the Lunar & Planetary Institute on the background to the decision to begin the Apollo program.

Destination Moon: History of the Lunar Orbitor Program
The NASA History section hosts Bruce K. Byers story of the Lunar Orbitor program which put unmanned probes around the moon. Their findings provided much useful data for the later manned landings.

Exploring the Moon
Information at the Lunar & Planetary Institute on exploration of the Moon. Includes the Apollo Missions and also the unmanned Ranger and Surveyor programs. It also covers the Russian Zond and Luna missions.
Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations
Charles D. Benson and William Barnaby Faherty present this detailed history of the Apollo launch facilities and operations including development of the launch pad,transporter, control center, Vehicle Assembly Building, and more. Table of Contents

Karl D. Dodenhoff's Little Space Museum
Karl D. Dodenhoff offers lots of info on the Apollo program:

Other Moon Race Resources
NASM--Apollo to the Moon--Gallery Contents
See the online version of the National Air & Space Museum exhibit on the space race.

Air & Space: Apollo Manned Space Program
National Air & Space Museum, in addition, has this web site dedicated to the Apollo program.

Apollo 11

Apollo 13
Though objectively a failed mission, Apollo 13 has become a shining example of NASA at its best. Saving the lives of astronauts took tremendous technical skills, great teamwork, and innovation under terrific pressure.

Here are various sites and articles about the ill-fated mission.


Apollo 8
Arguably the most important and most risky of all the Apollo missions. Going directly to the Moon with an "all up" test of the Saturn V was a stunning achievement. The mission's success set the Apollo program on course for the Apollo 11 landing the following summer.

Apollo 17

John Duncan's Apollo Saturn
John Duncan's website is devoted to the Apollo program and the Saturn rocket.

Romance to Reality - Annotated bibliography of Moon and Mars Expedition and Settelement
David S. F. Portree built this enormous site of information about the developments leading to the exploration of Moon and Mars to eventual expeditions and settlements.

"Romance to Reality contains more than 180 annotations (that is, summaries and descriptions) of classic, seminal, and illustrative moon & Mars expedition & settlement studies. These are arranged in chronological order by date of presentation for conference papers and presentation materials, and by date of publication for all others..." - D.S.F. Portree

Kipp Teague's Apollo Archive
This enormously rich site includes:
"over a thousand high-quality Apollo photograph scans, video and audio clips, launch vehicle and crew info/photos, memorabilia, diagrams, a JavaScript lunar-landing simulator, books and videos, and links to numerous Apollo and space-related websites."
See also the companion site Contact Light, which gives personal retrospective on Kipp's growing up in the Moon race days.

The Space Race - Mark Wade
Huge resource site on all aspects of the race to the moon including extensive info on the Soviet program.

New York Times: Eclipsed
A NYT Magazine article about the Soviet Union's ill-fated attempt to beat the US to the moon.
NOVA: To the Moon
The PBS show Nova has this site to support its show about the race to the Moon. - Includes Hear the Space Pioneers.

BBC | A silent death
Documents have been revealed that show the plans of the Nixon administration "In Event of Moon Disaster" during the Apollo 11 mission. See also

Lunar Module

Saturn V

Slow motion video of Saturn V launch. LiveLeak


Other Apollo Equipment
More sites


The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey








Walt Disney's
Man in Space
Man and the Moon, &
Mars and Beyond




























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