1957: The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) selected six people from among 3,000 candidates to receive training as its first astronauts.
April 12, 1961: The USSR launched Vostok 1, the world's first manned spacecraft. With Yuri Gagarin on board, Vostok 1 orbited the Earth, encircling it in 108 minutes and returning to ground safely. Gagarin thus became the world's first outer space astronaut. The United States began its Apollo program soon afterwards.
July 16, 1969: The United States launched its manned Apollo 11 spacecraft, with three astronauts on board. After flying for 75 hours and 50 minutes, Apollo 11 entered the Moon's orbit. At 2:56 GMT July 21, with his left foot first touching the Moon's surface, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person in the world to land on the Moon. Apollo 11 returned to Earth on July 24.
April 24, 1970: China successfully launched its first manmade satellite, Dongfanghong 1, atop the Long March 1 carrier rocket, marking the beginning of China's space era.
January 28, 1986: The U.S. Challenger space shuttle exploded 72 seconds after it blasted off into space, causing the deaths of seven astronauts.
January 1992: The Chinese Government approved the manned space program, entitled Project 921. The Chinese Academy of Space Science and Technology undertook development of manned spacecraft.
By the end of 1997: the United States had made 118 launches of manned spacecraft, sending 537 astronauts into space, and Russia (including the former USSR) had made 85 launches, sending 191 astronauts into space.
November 20, 1999: At 6:30, China's first unmanned Shenzhou 1 blasted off into space and landed accurately and safely on the predetermined landing field at 3:41 on November 21.
January 10, 2001: At one o'clock sharp, China's Shenzhou 2 was launched into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, and entered its predetermined orbit 10 minutes later. Shenzhou 2 returned to ground at 19:22 January 16 after encircling the Earth 108 times in seven days and nights.
August 2001: Chinese American astronaut Edward Tsang Lu walked 30.58 meters from the Atlantis spaceship to the International Space Station, creating a world record for the length of a space walk. Lu was the third Chinese scientist to enter space. Prior to him were Taylor Wang, a payload specialist who went into space onboard the Challenger space shuttle in 1985, and Cleave Chang-Diaz, who had been into space six limes.