From the Soviet Union's pioneering satellite to the first man on the Moon 50 years ago, here are 10 key dates that restructured space exploration once and for all.
On October 4, 1957, Moscow launches Sputnik 1, the first artificial space satellite, firing up the Cold War tussle for the cosmos.
The beach ball-sized aluminum sphere takes 98 minutes to orbit the Earth and sends back the first message from space, simple "beep-beep-beep" radio signals.
On November 3, Sputnik 2 carries the first living being to fully orbit the Earth, a small street dog called Laika.
She dies after a few hours.
1961: Gagarin, the first man
On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space to complete a single orbit that lasted for 108 minutes.
23 days later, Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space on May 5. His trip was 15 minutes long.
The Cold War rivals are only joined in space by a third country in 2003 when China sends up Yang Liwei onboard Earth orbiter Shenzhou V.
1969: on the Moon
On July 20, 1969, US astronaut Neil Armstrong is the first man to step onto the Moon.
His teammate Edwin Aldrin joined him around 20 minutes later.
Between 1969 and 1972, 12 astronauts, all American, walked the Moon as part of NASA's Apollo program.
1971: space station
On April 19, 1971, the Soviet Union launches the first orbital space station, Salyut 1.
In 1998 construction of the still-operating International Space Station (ISS) starts. It is the biggest man-made structure in space.
This structure orbits the Earth 16 times a day.
The ISS, composed of 16 participating countries, took over the Russian space station ‘Mir’.
It was brought back to Earth in 2001 after 15 years in orbit.
On July 20, 1976, US spacecraft Viking 1 becomes the first to successfully land on Mars and send back images of the Red Planet.
The robot ‘Opportunity’ explored Mars between 2004 and 2018, with NASA's ‘Curiosity’ Rover still active on the planet.
About 40 missions have been sent to Mars, more than half failing.
1981: space shuttle
On April 12, 1981, the first reusable manned US space shuttle ‘Columbia’, makes its first voyage.
It is followed by ‘Challenger’, ‘Discovery’, ‘Atlantis’ and ‘Endeavour’, which serve the ISS until 2011- when the shuttle program winds up.
Since then, the US has depended on Russia to transport its astronauts to the ISS.
Two US shuttles - Challenger and Columbia - were destroyed in flight with the loss of 14 astronauts in 1986 and 2003, respectively.
On April 25, 1990, the Hubble is the first space telescope to be placed into orbit, distancing at 547 kilometers (340 miles) away from Earth.
Thirteen meters (42 feet) long, Hubble revolutionizes astronomy - allowing scientists to observe the planets and most distant stars and galaxies.
2001: space tourist
On April 28, 2001, Italian American multi-millionaire Dennis Tito, 60, becomes the world's first space tourist.
He pays Russia $20 million to stay on the ISS for eight days.
Since then, a total of seven space tourists have taken Russian flights to the ISS.
2008: private SpaceX
On September 29, 2008, US company SpaceX is the first private venture to successfully launch a rocket into Earth's orbit - Falcon 1.
SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship on May 22, 2012, becomes the first commercial spacecraft to visit the ISS.
2014: comet landing
On November 12, 2014, the European Space Agency places a small robot, Philae, on a comet more than 500 million kilometers from Earth.
The first comet lander is part of a mission aiming to explore the origins of the Solar System.
The man-made object that is furthest away from Earth is the unmanned US spaceship Voyager 1 that was launched in September 1977.
The spacecraft is still traveling.
In August 2012 it paved its way into interstellar space, about 13 billion miles from Earth.