Space History at a GlanceAuthor: Mejo John
Britain's contribution to space science began hundreds of years before Prime Minister Harold Macmillan announced a new British space research programme in 1959.
For centuries our scientists and astronomers have shaped how the world is seen and they continue to add to our knowledge of the Universe through space missions and ground-based science.
The following list highlights some of the most important
discoveries for science as well as key missions involving British scientists and engineers.
1668 - Sir Isaac Newton builds the first reflecting telescope. Over 300 years later, Newton's invention forms the basis of the Hubble Space Telescope.
1675 - John Flamsteed becomes the first Astronomer Royal at The Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
1687 - Newton publishes Principia Mathematica, possibly the most important book in the history of science. It contains his theory of universal gravitation, marking the beginning of modern astronomy.
1705 - Edmund Halley correctly predicts that a comet seen in 1682 would reappear in 1758. The comet, now named after Halley, is visible from Earth every 7576 years. It featured in the famous Bayeux Tapestry, was last seen from Earth in 1986 and observed in close-up by ESA's Giotto spacecraft. The comet will return in 2061.
1781 - William Herschel, a German musician who spent his whole life in England, discovers the planet Uranus with a mirror telescope of his own creation.
1798 - Henry Cavendish, an English chemist and physicist, first measures the force of gravity between two objects.
1846 - Calculations made by English mathematician John Couch Adams enable Johann Galle to see Neptune for the first time.
1856 - Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell proves that Saturn's rings are not solid, liquid or gaseous but are actually made up of different independent particles.
1897 - JJ Thompson, a leading English mathematician and physicist of the late 19th century, discovers the electron.
1919 - During an expedition to view a solar eclipse in Africa, English astrophysicist Arthur Eddington proves Einstein's prediction that gravity bends light.
1932 - English physicist James Chadwick proves the existence of neutrons.
1957 - Launch of first British Skylark sounding rocket.
1957 - The UK's massive Jodrell Bank radio telescope becomes operational.
1957 - Sputnik becomes the first manmade object to enter orbit.
1957 - Russian dog Laika becomes the first creature to be launched into space.
1959 - In September Soviets crash land a probe on the Moon. A few weeks later Lunik 3 sends back the first pictures of the far side of the Moon.
1959 - First meeting of the British National Committee on Space. This is the first committee to advise the government on space issues. Later in the year, Harold Macmillan announces a new British space research programme.
1961 - Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man to orbit the Earth and returns a hero.
1962 - The first international satellite, Ariel 1, is launched. Built by NASA, it contained six instruments developed by British scientists.
1963 - Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space.
1963 - The British Government establishes the Space Research Management Unit, a forerunner of the BNSC.
1965 - Cosmonaut Alexi Leonov is the first person to ‘walk' in space.
1967 - The first all British satellite, Ariel 3, is launched.
1969 - On 21 July, Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to set foot on the surface of the Moon.
1971 - British Prospero satellite launched on British Black Arrow launch vehicle.
1975 - The European Space Agency (ESA) is established with the UK, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland as founder members.
1976 - America's Viking I spacecraft lands on Mars and sends back the first photographs of the planet's surface.
1979 - The first European-built rocket, Ariane 1, successfully completes its maiden flight.
1980 - The Voyager 1 space probe sends back vivid images of Saturn.
1985 - The British Government sets up the BNSC.
1986 - Space station Mir is launched by the Soviet Union.
1988 - Professor Stephen Hawking publishes A Brief History of Time, the most influential book about space written in the last 100 years.
1990 - The Hubble Space Telescope is launched.
1991 - Helen Sharman from Sheffield becomes the first Briton in space when she joins the crew for Project Juno. This was a Soviet mission, partly funded by British companies.
1992 - Michael Foale becomes the first British-born man in space, as part of the crew for the Space Shuttle mission STS45.
1995 - The joint NASA/ESA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is launched.
1997 - The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, a joint mission between NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency, is launched to Saturn.
1997 - The Pathfinder robot begins its exploration of Mars.
2001 - The Aurora project begins, with the first launch due in 2011.
2002 - Piers Sellers joins the crew of the STS112 mission and becomes the third British-born astronaut in space.
2002 - The first satellite for the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) is launched. All five satellites in the group have been built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.
2003 - The launch of Mars Express.
2003 - Europe's first mission to the Moon, Smart1, is launched.
2003 - China succeeds in sending its first manned spacecraft into orbit.
2003 - Mars Express arrives in orbit. It releases the Beagle 2 probe but the signal from the lander is lost.
2004 - ESA's Rosetta spacecraft launched on its way to a rendezvous with Comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko.
2004 - The Mercury Messenger mission is launched to the Sun's closest planet.
2005 - The Huygens probe begins its descent through Titan's atmosphere. The first part of the probe to land on Titan was built in Britain.
2005 - The European Venus Express mission is launched and Mars Express sends back images of the Red Planet.
2005 - The world's largest and most sophisticated civilian telecommunications satellite, UK-built Inmarsat4 f1, goes into orbit.
2005 - Launch of GioveA, the first satellite in the Galileo global positioning system.
2006 - NASA's New Horizons mission heads for the outer reaches of our Solar System towards Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
2006 - Venus Express reaches its final orbit and begins to send back data.
2006 - Solar B, later renamed Hinode, is launched. This three year mission to study the Sun involves ESA and the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
2006 - After a highly successful mission, Smart1 undergoes a controlled 'crash' into the Moon.
2007 - Japan launches Kaguya (formerly SELENE) for a global survey of the Moon.
2008 - India's first mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-1, is due for launch.
Mejo is a Copywriter of
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He had written various articles in different topics on Latest Science and Technology. For more information visit:
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