In 2011, we celebrate four major anniversaries in the era of human space flight:

This Earth Current special reviews these milestones and provides resources on the history of humans in space.

Vostok 1 | Freedom 7 | Kennedy Speech | Columbia | Human Space Flight Overview | U.S. Programs
Russian Programs | Chinese Programs | International Space Station | SpaceShipOne | Future of Spaceflight

50th Anniversary of Vostok 1 Launch (April 12, 1961)

Current News
What Yuri Gagarin Saw on First Space Flight (National Geographic News, Apr. 12)
Gagarin Revisited (New York Times, Apr. 12)
Space leaders, crew mark Gagarin anniversary (CNET, Apr. 12)
'The main thing is that there is sausage': Yuri Gagarin's extraordinary last words before making history with first manned space flight 50 years ago today (Mail Online, Apr. 12)
London statue to celebrate Gagarin (BBC News, Apr. 5)
'Yuri Gagarin' blasts off to ISS (Register, Apr. 5)
It's a golden year in space history (MSNBC, Apr. 4)
Why the world still remembers its first spaceman (MSNBC, Apr. 4)
Soviet Union lied about 1961 Yuri Gagarin space mission (Telegraph, Mar. 30)
Beginning Of Era Of Manned Spaceflight (Space Travel/SPX, Mar. 25)
Movie Shot From Space Celebrates 50 Years Since Gagarin's Orbit (Time, Mar. 24)
Google News search

Vostok 1 - The First Manned Space Flight (BBC)
Vostok 1 (Encyclopedia Astronautica)
Yuri Gagarin: First Man in Space (NASA)
Translations of contemporary Russian radio and press reports (NASA)
Vostok: Dawn of Human Space Flight (Russian Space Web)

Archival Gagarin video (NASA)
Yuri Gagarin: First Human Space Flight in Pictures (National Geographic)
Yuri Gagarin, First Man in Space (
Yuri Gagarin: His Life in Pictures (Russian Archives Online)


50th Anniversary of Freedom 7 Launch (May 5, 1961)

Mercury MR-3 (Encyclopedia Astronautica)
Alan B. Shepard, Jr. (NASA)
Freedom 7 MR-3 (18) (NASA)
Mercury Redstone 3 (NASA)
Mercury-Redstone 3-Freedom 7 press kit (NASA)
Mission: Freedom 7 (NASA)
Proceedings of a Conference on Results of the First U.S. Manned Suborbital Space Flight (NASA)
Who Was Alan Shepard? (NASA)

Freedom 7 50th Anniversary Facebook page
Mercury-Redstone 3 (Apollo Explorer)
Freedom 7 video (NASA)
MR3 images (NASA)
Freedom 7 Wallpaper (National Geographic)

50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's Speech Urging Moon Landing (May 25, 1961)

Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25, 1961 (JFK Presidential Library & Museum)
JFK in History: The Space Program (JFK Presidential Library & Museum)
The Decision to Go to the Moon (NASA)

Audio of address (JFK Presidential Library & Museum)
Video of address (World News Network)


30th Anniversary of First Space Shuttle Launch (April 12, 1981)

Current News
Space Shuttle's 1st Pilot: Q&A With Former NASA Astronaut Bob Crippen (, Apr. 12)
NASA announces new homes for retiring space shuttles (CNN, Apr. 12)
Astronauts Celebrate Space Shuttle's 30th Anniversary (ABC News, Apr. 12)
The Space Shuttle's final countdown (Telegraph, Apr. 11)
Memories of the space shuttle's launch debut (USA Today, Apr. 11)
Google News search

STS-1 (Encyclopedia Astronautica)
The Boldest Test Flight in History (NASA)
Columbia (OV-102) (NASA)
The Flight of STS-1 (NASA)
Mission Archives: STS-1 (NASA)
STS-1 Crew and the 'Infinitely Smarter' Flight (NASA)
Space Shuttle's 1st Pilot: Q&A With Former NASA Astronaut Bob Crippen (

30 Years Of Space Shuttle Missions (ABC News)
Nasa shuttle: 30 years since first flight (BBC News)
STS-1 Crew Commander John Young and Pilot Robert Crippen share their experiences (NASA)
A New Era: The Space Shuttle (NASA)
STS-001 image directory (NASA)
Space Shuttle Columbia wallpaper (National Geographic)
Photos: NASA's First Space Shuttle Flight: STS-1 (
Space Shuttle's Maiden Launch and Landing (


Human Space Flight: General/Overview

NASA Human Space Flight
Air & Space: Space Exploration (Smithsonian)
Encyclopedia Astronautica
50 Years of Humans in Space (European Space Agency)
Gagarin's Great Feat: 50 Space-Race Highs and Lows (Time)
Human Spaceflight & Exploration (European Space Agency)
National Air & Space Museum (Smithsonian)
Space Exploration Time Line (National Geographic)
Space Race: The Untold Story (National Geographic Channel)


Major U.S. Missions/Programs

Program Overview (NASA)
Project Mercury: A Chronology (NASA)
Encyclopedia Astronautica: Mercury
National Geographic Index search

Program Overview (NASA)
Encyclopedia Astronautica: Gemini
National Geographic Index search

Program Overview (NASA)
Encyclopedia Astronautica: Apollo
Apollo-Soyuz Program Overview (NASA)
Earth Current: Apollo 11 40th Anniversary
National Geographic Index search

Program Overview (NASA)
Encyclopedia Astronautica: Skylab
National Geographic Index search

Space Shuttle
Program Overview (NASA)
History of Shuttle-Mir (NASA)
The Shuttle (NASA)
Encyclopedia Astronautica: Shuttle
Space Shuttle Mission Chronology: 1981-1999 (NASA)
Space Shuttle Program (National Geographic)
Space Shuttle Timeline (MSNBC)
National Geographic Index search


Major Soviet/Russian Missions/Programs

Encyclopedia Astronautica: Vostok
Russian Space Web: Russia's Early Manned Space Flight Projects

Encyclopedia Astronautica: Voskhod
Russian Space Web: Russia's Early Manned Space Flight Projects

Encyclopedia Astronautica: Soyuz
Russian Space Web: Soyuz Spacecraft

Encyclopedia Astronautica: Mir
Russian Space Web: Mir Space Station

Chinese Programs

Chinese National Space Administration
Encyclopedia Astronautica: Shenzhou
China Targets More Space Program Firsts (


International Space Station

International Space Station History (NASA)
National Geographic Index search
Russian Space Web: International Space Station



The first privately built manned spacecraft; launched in 2004
SpaceShipOne (Encyclopedia Astronautica)
SpaceShipOne Wins X-Prize (NASA)
Flying High—Private Space Flight (National Geographic)
SpaceShipOne Burns Rubber, Laughing Gas—More Fun Facts (National Geographic)
SpaceShipOne, Rocket for the Rest of Us, Multimedia (National Geographic)
SpaceShipOne, Rocket for the Rest of Us, Photo Gallery (National Geographic)
5 Years After SpaceShipOne: Commercial Spaceflight Ready for 'Go' (


Future of Human Spaceflight

NASA's Future Missions
Whither Human Spaceflight at the Start of the Second Decade of the 21st Century? (Smithsonian)
Is Manned Spaceflight Obsolete? (New York Times, Feb. 9, 2010)
8 Experts Weigh in on the Future of Human Spaceflight (Popular Mechanics, Oct. 11, 2009)
NASA Ponders Future Of Manned Spaceflight (Space Travel/SPX, Aug. 17, 2009)

Photo credits: Gagarin by SOVFOTO; all others from NASA.