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Bet You Didn’t Know That!
Footprint on the moon. Life is full of firsts, and the life of the nation's space program is no exception. In the years since space exploration began in the 1950s, there have been many well-documented firsts. Alan Shepard, for example, became the first American to fly in space in 1961. And who can forget the indelible image of Neil Armstrong planting the first human footstep on the moon in 1969, or the excitement when Sally Ride became the first American woman in space as part of the crew of space shuttle Challenger in 1983?

Image at Right: Apollo astronauts left the first footprints on the moon. Image credit: NASA

Those were truly historic moments in mankind's exploration of space.

But while you may know that John Glenn was the first astronaut to orbit the Earth, do you know which crew first shaved in space? The space program's historical landscape is dotted with scores of other firsts, Moon and Earth. like craters on the moon. Many are significant in their own right, and a host of others are just downright fascinating. So if you'd like to test your space-savvy knowledge, see if you can identify this mix of historic and interesting firsts (answer link at the bottom of the page):

Image at Left: The first picture of the Earth and moon in a single frame taken by a spacecraft was recorded Sept. 18, 1977, by NASA's Voyager 1. Image credit: NASA

The Early Years

Even before the Mercury Seven astronauts, Americans made space milestones. See if you can identify these unmanned firsts:

1. First missile launch from Cape Canaveral
2. First satellite launch by the U.S.
3. First Earth photos from a satellite
4. First transmission of TV pictures in space
5. First Mercury capsule suborbital test launch occupant
6. First spacecraft to scan another planet
7. First visual telecast via a communications satellite
8. First successful Mars probe
9. First U.S. spacecraft to soft land on the moon
10. First man-made object to leave the solar system

America's Journey to the Moon

The race was on, and in just eight years, U.S. astronauts went from first launch (Alan Shepard, 1961) to first human footstep on the moon (Neil Armstrong, 1969).

Original Mercury astronauts. Image at Left: The first astronauts, the Mercury Seven, were (left to right) Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, John H. Glenn, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Walter H. Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepherd Jr., and Donald K. Slayton. Image credit: NASA

But how about these space-age firsts:

1. First astronaut to eat in space
2. First civilian astronaut to fly in space
3. First crew to drink coffee in space
4. First crew to spend Christmas in space
5. First crew to shave in space
6. First meal eaten on the moon
7. First astronaut to hit a golf ball on the moon
8. First piece of sculpture on the moon
9. First scientist astronaut in space
10. First haircut in space

First space shuttle launch. The Space Shuttle Takes Flight and the International Space Station is Born

Living and working in space brought many new firsts as crews flew aboard the space shuttle and worked to build the space station.

Image at Right: The first space shuttle lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 1981. Image credit: NASA

1. First reuse of a crew-assisted space vehicle
2. First night launch and landing of a space shuttle
3. First non-American astronaut to fly on the space shuttle
4. First untethered spacewalks using the manned maneuvering unit
5. First landing at Kennedy Space Center
6. First American woman to walk in space
7. First flight of animals aboard the space shuttle
8. First married couple to fly in space together
9. First female resident on the International Space Station
10. First American to launch and land on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft

International Space Station. Image at Left: This photo, taken Dec. 9, 2000, is the first image of the entire International Space Station after the deployment of its solar array panels. Image credit: NASA

And then there are some firsts in a league of their own:

Who was the first astronaut in space during the birth of his child on Earth?

As NASA looks forward to new firsts in exploration to come, there's no doubt future astronauts will look back and pay homage to those who brought us the many 'firsts' during the first 50 years of the Space Age.

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Cheryl L. Mansfield
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center