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April 12, 1961: 60th anniversary of historic first human space flight by Yuri Gagarin

April 9, 1959: NASA introduces the ‘Mercury 7’ astronauts

On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its very first astronaut class. This dashing group of young men is known as the Mercury 7.

Mercury 7 AstronautsThey were all military test pilots before they were chosen for the job, and they had all “the right stuff” to take on such risky missions. But in a way, they essentially became guinea pigs for NASA’s new human spaceflight program, because they didn’t get to do much piloting inside the Mercury spacecraft.
Some of the pilots weren’t too happy about this. But the rest of the country paid no attention to that, and the Mercury 7 instantly became national heroes. In 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to fly to space, followed by Gus Grissom. Then in 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

After that, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper all completed orbital missions as well. Deke Slayton, the only Mercury 7 astronaut not to fly a Mercury mission, later flew on the historic Apollo-Soyuz mission, the first joint flight by two countries: the United States and Soviet Unio

April 3,1973: Soviet Union launches Salyut 2 space station –

April 3, 1973: Soviet Union launches Salyut 2 space station

On April 3, 1973, the Soviet Union launched a small space station called Salyut 2. This was the second space station to be successfully launched (after Salyut 1) and the first military space station.

The Soviet Union told the rest of the world that Salyut 2 was a civilian space station built for scientific research, but it was secretly intended to be a crewed military reconnaissance station. No crews ever made it to Salyut 2, though. Less than two weeks after it launched, its attitude control system stopped working, and it started tumbling around in space. Mission control noticed that pressure inside the station had dropped for no apparent reason.

They later found out that a small explosion had happened in the station’s propulsion system several days earlier. The damaged station was slowly falling apart. Bits and pieces of Salyut 2 fell back to Earth and burned up in the atmosphere.