|5–8 Million BC
|The earliest recognisable human ancestors, Australopithecus afarensis, begins to evolve.
|400,000– 200,000 BC
|Homo sapiens (the modern human species) evolves. Eventually they migrate across the globe, presumably using the stars as a navigation aid.
|Australia is settled by Aborigines, who become the first people to document stars in the Southern Hemisphere.
|Early agriculture is established, presumably using stars as a calendar.
|Sumerians develop the earliest known writing system.
|Newgrange Passage Tomb was built in Wales. During the winter solstice sunrise a shaft of sunlight shines through a box over the entrance, down the passage and lights up the burial chamber.
|Egyptian astronomers use the stars to predict the annual flooding of the Nile.
|Stonehenge is constructed, possibly demonstrating some basic astronomical knowledge.
|Observations of Venus were recorded and reproduced 1000 years later in the Venus Tablet.
|The Nebra sky disk is made somewhere in Europe, demonstrating Bronze-age understanding of basic astronomical principles.
|The earliest Babylonian star catalogues.
|Greek mathematician Pythagoras reasons that the Earth and other planets are spheres.
|410 BC–355 BC
|Greek mathematician Eudoxus of Cnidus attempts to create a mathematical explanation of the planets' movements, and introduces the astronomical globe.
|Greek philosopher Aristotle refines a model of the universe with Earth at the centre and everything else orbiting in perfect circles.
|310 BC–230 BC
|Aristarchus of Samos becomes the first known person to suggest that the Earth orbits the Sun, but no-one takes him seriously.
|276 BC–195 BC
|Eratosthenes of Cyrene calculates the circumference of the Earth.
|Greek astronomer Hipparchus makes numerous discoveries including prescession and the first nova. He also catalogues over 1,000 stars.
|The Antikythera mechanism is made, probably in Greece. The oldest known complex scientific calculator, it is designed to calculate astronomical positions.
1 AD - 1900 AD
|Ptolemy proposes a model to explain the complex motions of stars and planets, with the earth at the centre of the universe.
|Simple rockets are used by Chinese military forces.
|Mongols bring rocket weaponry to Europe. Arab writings later describe rockets being used by Mongol invaders to capture the city of Baghdad.
|Military rockets become established throughout Europe.
|Nicolaus Copernicus publishes De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), the first major work describing the Sun at the centre of the universe.
|Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe observes a "new star" (supernova) and reasons that it must exist outside the solar system. Tycho sets a new standard in celestial observations which last until his death in 1601. He is the last major astronomer to work without a telescope.
|Johannes Kepler completes Astronomia nova (New Astronomy), a book that includes his "first law" of planetary motion, explaining that the planets move in an elliptical orbit. The book is published in 1609.
|Hans Lippershey creates the first known design of a telescope. Whether he invented it or copied the idea from someone else is unclear.
|Galileo Galilei uses the telescope to observe three moons orbiting Jupiter, proving that other orbital systems exist independent of earth.
|Sir Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727)
|Military rockets come to the New World.
|Albert Einstein publishes his theory of special relativity.
|Einstein completes his theory of general relativity.
|American Robert H. Goddard publishes a paper titled A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, describing ideas to build space rockets.
|Russia cosmologist Alexander Friedmann proposes that the universe is expanding, an idea that later becomes known as the Big Bang Theory.
|Rumanian-born Hermann Oberth publishes the book The Rocket into Interplanetary Space.
|American astronomer Edwin Hubble proves that the Milky Way is only one galaxy in a universe that includes many other distant galaxies.
|Goddard launches the world's first successful liquid-fuelled rocket flight. The rocket flies about 46 metres.
|German Wernher von Braun successfully launches the first A2 rocket, powered by ethanol and liquid oxygen.
|The first A4 rocket is launched. Later known as the V2, this infamous rocket marks the beginning of modern rocket science.
|V2 rockets are deployed against London, but too late to affect the ultimate outcome of the war.
|Wernher von Braun and his team of scientists narrowly escape execution by Nazis, and are taken by American forces.
|Wernher von Braun, now based at White Sands, USA, helps America build and launch V2 rockets. The rockets carry scientific instruments instead of explosives.
|The Joint Long Range Proving Ground is established at Cape Canaveral, Fla, USA.
|Russia launches Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite.
|America's first satellite, Explorer I, launches aboard a Jupiter C rocket.
|NASA is established. Project Mercury becomes the United States' first manned space program.
|The US mission Explorer III discovers the Earth's radiation belt.
|In January Russia launches Luna 1, the first lunar flyby. In September Luna 2 is the first spacecraft to impact the surface of the Moon, and in October Lunar 3 returns the first images of the Moon's far side.
|Wernher von Braun's team is transferred to NASA along with the US Army Ballistic Missile Agency, to form the core of NASA's space program.
|Russian Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space, orbiting the Earth once.
Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space with a 15-minute flight.
|President Kennedy announces the goal of developing a manned lunar landing program.
|The USA's Mariner 2 arrives at Venus. From space it measures the surface temperature at around 425°C.
|Gemini III, the first manned flight of the Gemini program, orbits the Earth three times.
|Gemini IV includes America's first extravehicular activity (EVA), Ed White's 22-minute "space walk".
|Gemini VIII accomplishes the first docking with another space vehicle (an unmanned Agena stage). A malfunction then necessitates the first emergency landing of a manned U.S. space mission.
Surveyor 1 is the first successful soft-landing on the Moon, returning photos and data.
|Luna 9 lands on the Moon and returns the first photographs from the surface.
|The USA's Mariner 4 flies past Mars, returning 22 close-up photos of a cratered surface.
|Russia's Venera 4 becomes the first probe to enter the atmosphere of Venus and return data (it is crushed by the pressure before reaching the surface).
The USA's Mariner 5 also reaches and studies Venus.
|Apollo 8 completes the first manned lunar fly-around.
|Apollo 10 tests the lunar landing module.
| Apollo 11 makes the first manned lunar landing at the Sea of Tranquility.
|Apollo 12 lands on the Moon at Oceanus Procellarum.
|Apollo 13 strikes trouble and immortalizes the phrase "Houston, we have a problem". The crew is returned safely to Earth using the Lunar Module as a lifeboat.
|Apollo 14 lands on the Moon in the Fra Mauro highlands.
Apollo 15 lands on the Moon at Hadley-Apennine.
Russia's Mars 2 crashed-lands on Mars, leaving the first human artifact on the Martian surface.
|Apollo 16 lands on the Moon at Descartes crater.
Apollo 17, the last of the Apollo lunar missions, lands on the Moon at Taurus-Littrow.
Russia's Venera 8 successfully lands on Venus and transmits data for 50 minutes before dying.
|The Skylab module is successfully launched into orbit, becoming the first "space station". It is manned for 171 days before being abandoned and eventually re-entered the Earth's atmosphere in 1979.
The USA's Pioneer 10 flies past Jupiter, returning images and data.
|Pioneer 11 flies past Jupiter, returning more images and data.
|American and Soviet craft dock in space as part of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project.
|Viking 1 and Viking 2 arrive at Mars and successfully place landers on the surface.
|Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 fly by Jupiter.
|Voyager 1 flies by Saturn.
|Space Shuttle Columbia completes the first mission of NASA's new Space Shuttle program.
Voyager 2 flies by Saturn.
Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds into its flight, killing all on board.
Mir Space Station is launched.
|Voyager 2 flies by Neptune.
|Hubble Space Telescope is launched.
|Mars Global Surveyor achieves orbit around Mars.
|Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars.
|Mir Space Station is retired and de-orbited to burn up in the atmosphere.
|Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates over Texas, killing all on board.
|The Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit & Opportunity) land on Mars.
|Phoenix Mars Lander lands on Mars.