There are many anniversaries every year, some truly significant and others of a more mundane nature. What follows is a short chronology of anniversaries taking place in 2014 relating to the spaceflight community. It is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it hits most of the truly significant anniversaries. I would welcome corrections, additions, and alterations.
1944—70 Years Ago
September Germany employed the first true ballistic missile, the V-2, against Allied targets in France, Belgium, and England.
1949—65 Years Ago
3 May The Naval Research Laboratory launched the first of twelve Viking rockets from White Sands as part of its sounding rocket research—non-orbital instrument launches exploring the upper atmosphere and testing rocket performance.
1959—55 Years Ago
2 January The Soviet Union launched Luna 1 into solar orbit from its rocket facility at Baikonur. Luna 1 was the first human-made object to escape Earth’s gravity and to be placed in orbit around the Sun.
17 February The United States launched Vanguard 2, the first successful launch of a United States principal International Geophysical Year scientific satellite.
28 February The Thor rocket, with an Agena upper stage rocket, both originally developed by the U.S. Air Force, were used to launch Discoverer 1, the first reconnaissance satellite.
3 March The United States sent Pioneer 4 to the Moon, successfully making the first U.S. lunar flyby.
9 April After a two-month selection process, NASA unveiled the Mercury astronaut corps.
28 May The United States launched and recovered two monkeys, Able and Baker, riding in a Jupiter nosecone during a suborbital flight.
12 September The Soviet Union launched Luna 2, which sent back the first close images of the Moon’s surface and then crashed on the lunar surface on 14 September.
7 October The Soviet Union’s Luna 3 lunar probe took pictures of the far side of the Moon.
1964—50 Years Ago
8 April The first American Gemini flight took place, an unpiloted test that made four orbits.
28 May The United States placed the first Apollo command module (CM) in orbit in a test flight atop a Saturn I.
1969—45 Years Ago
16-24 July The first lunar landing mission, Apollo 11, achieved the late President Kennedy’s goal of landing an American on the Moon before the end of the decade; astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were aboard.
15 September The presidentially appointed Space Task Group issued its report on the post-Apollo space program, calling for a far-reaching space program that included development of a space station, a reusable space shuttle, a Moon base, and a manned expedition to Mars.
1979—35 Years Ago
11 July Skylab finally impacted the Earth’s surface after its orbit had been in decay for more than two years; debris dispersed from the southeastern Indian Ocean across a sparsely populated section of western Australia.
1984—30 Years Ago
25 January President Ronald Reagan announced the decision to build a space station within a decade.
3-10 February During the flight of STS-41B, the Challenger, astronauts performed extravehicular activity using the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).
15 December 1984-14 March 1986 An international armada of spacecraft encountered the Comet Halley during its closest approach to Earth in 76 years.
1989—25 Years Ago
5 May 1989-1993 The highly successful Magellan radar mapping mission to Venus took place.
25 August Voyager 2, operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, encountered Neptune within 3,115 miles and then moved on to encounter the Moon Triton.
19 October 1989-21 September 21, 2003 The Galileo spacecraft was launched from STS-34 and began a gravity-assisted journey to Jupiter, arriving in December 1995. This began a two-year encounter with the planet in which Galileo sent back to Earth scientific data about the density and chemical makeup of the giant planet’s cloud cover.
1994—20 Years Ago
3-11 February The Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-60) flew an historic mission with a Russian cosmonaut to rendezvous with the Mir space station as part of the international effort to build a space station.
1999—15 Years Ago
27 May-6 June In STS-96, the Space Shuttle Discovery became the first spacecraft to dock with elements of the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit. During this flight, the crew delivered more than 3600 pounds of supplies—ranging from food and clothes to laptop computers—for the first crew to live on the station next year.
22-27 July The Space Shuttle Columbia’s 26th flight was led by Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a Shuttle mission. STS-93 successfully carried to orbit the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the third of NASA’s “Great Observatories,” joining the Hubble Space Telescope and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
23 September Mars Climate Orbiter, a mission to study the martian weather, failed. Findings of the failure review board indicated that a navigation that caused the spacecraft to miss its intended 140-150 km altitude above Mars during orbit insertion, instead entering the martian atmosphere at about 57 km. Atmospheric stresses and friction at this low altitude destroyed the spacecraft.
3 December Mars Polar Lander, a mission to soft landing on the Martian surface and explore the terrain, failed. At the time of landing JPL lost contact with the spacecraft and due to lack of communication, it is not known whether the probe followed the descent plan or was lost in some other manner.
19-27 December The third Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, STS-103, required Shuttle Discovery’s seven-astronaut crew to perform three space walks to install new and replace old equipment.
2004—10 Years Ago
4 January Mars Exploration Rover A (Spirit) landed on Mars. Equipped with a battery of scientific instruments it was intended to operate for 90 days, until April 2004, and to traverse about 100 meters a day. The scientific goals of the rover missions are to gather data to help determine if life ever arose on Mars, characterize the climate of Mars, characterize the geology of Mars, and prepare for human exploration of Mars. It performed exceptionally well and operated until 22 March 2010. It landed in Gusev Crater because it had the appearance of a crater lakebed. The rover’s scientific data suggests that Gusev may have at one time been filled with water.
25 January Mars Exploration Rover B (Opportunity) carried identical instruments to “Spirit” and landed at Terra Meridiani, also known as the “Hematite Site” because it displays evidence of coarse-grained hematite, an iron-rich mineral which typically forms in water. This mission has continued into 2014.
21 June (Test flight), 29 September and October 4 (record flights) SpaceShipOne, launched from its White Knight mothership, represented the first times in which a privately-developed spacecraft reached space. The flights were part of the Ansari X-Prize competition to develop a robust and