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BEFORE THE 20TH CENTURY: In the cradle

The roots of rocketry lie so deep in the history of human civilization that it is believed to be impossible to mark the exact birth date of these ancient machines. Apparently, the first rockets owe their origin to the invention of gunpowder in China around the 10th Century AD. The earliest historical records testify that in 1232 AD, during the siege of Beijing (according to another source: town of Kai-fung-fu) by the Mongols, the city's defenders fired missiles.

It is believed that around the 13th Century, knowledge of rocketry reached Italy and France.

The use of rockets near the Ukrainian city of Belgorod is recorded in 1516 and the first appearance of rockets in the Russian city of Ustuyg dates from around 1675. Following the development and use of military missiles in Europe, the "Rocket Enterprise" (Raketnoe Zavedenie) was founded in Moscow around 1680.

A signaling rocket developed in Russia in 1717 could reportedly reach an altitude of several hundreds meters.

According to Russian archival records, in 1732, the St Petersburg-based Arsenal artillery enterprise originally founded by Peter the Great in 1711, produced 20 rocket-launching devices for the Russian border fortress of Brest.

In 1814, I. Kartmazov, a member of the Military-Scientific Committee, reportedly tested battlefield missiles.

In 1815, Russian artillery engineer Alexander Zasyadko (1779-1837) started the development of battlefield missiles for the Russian army. Zasyadko conducted numerous test firings of experimental missiles, developed techniques for mass production of rockets and led the formation of the first missile unit in the Russian army around 1827. Three types of battlefield missiles (2-, 2.5- and 4-inch caliber) developed by Zasayadko had a range of between 1,600 and 2,700 meters. Zasyadko's written work, dated 1817, became the first Russian production and application manual for battlefield missiles. The Russian army employed Zasyadko's missiles for the first time during the Russo-Turkish war of 1825. It is known that in 1828-29, Russian soldiers bombarded with missiles the Turkish stronghold in Varna, Bulgaria.

In 1849, another artillery engineer -- Konstantin Konstantinov -- took charge of the St. Petersburg-based "Rocket Enterprise" founded along with several similar European organizations in 1820s. Rockets developed by Konstantinov had a range of 4-5 kilometers. Konstantinov also proposed to use rockets to shoot harpoons in whaling.

After 1861, Konstantinov led the foundation of the Nikolaev rocket-production plant, which became operational in 1867. In 1870, Russian artillery engineer Ivanin reportedly proposed a winged missile. However, advances in artillery, which took place in European armies by the 1860s, undermined the military applications of rocketry and led to the almost total extinction of battlefield missiles.

In 1881, during his 17-day incarceration in the Petrapavloskaya Fortress, St. Petersburg, where he was waiting for his execution for his part in the assassination of Emperor Alexander II, Kibalchich sketched and described a manned flight vehicle propelled by a solid-fuel engine.

THE 20TH CENTURY: The Space Age

Since around 1895, Konstantin Tsiolkovskiy (born in 1857) works on the idea of a rocket-propelled spaceship. In May 1903 a Russian magazine publishes "The Exploration of the World's Space with Reactive Instruments" by Tsiolkovsky.

March 1, 1921 - Tikhomirov's rocket development lab is established in Moscow.

June 20, 1924 - The Society for Studies of the Interplanetary Travel is founded in Moscow. Also, in 1924 Tsiolkovskiy's book "Cosmic Rocket Trains" describes multi-stage rockets. Tsiolkovskiy, Tsander and Kondratyuk propose the use of the atmosphere as a breaking medium for the spaceships returning to Earth.

1930 - Glushko develops the first Soviet liquid-fuel engine, ORM-1.

1931 - Group for Study of Rocket Propultion, GRID is first established in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and then in Moscow under auspices of the Osoaviakhim.

1932 - Sergei Korolev leads the tests of rocket-propelled glider.

1933 - A Soviet rocket with the hybrid engine (GIRD-09) is launched. GIRD and GDL officially merge to create Moscow-based Scientific Research Institute for Jet Propulsion (RNII).

1935 - Sergei Korolev's work "Rocket Flight in Stratosphere" is published.

1937 - Stalin's repression at its worst: Kleimenov and Langemak, the leaders of RNII, arrested and executed by Stalin's henchmen. In 1938, Korolev and Glushko are also arrested and imprisoned.

1940 - The RP-318-1 rocket-powered glider, originally designed by Korolev, is tested in flight.

1941 - RUS-1 and RUS-2 air-defence radar start operations. In the fall Russian aviation institutions urgently evacuate to the eastern regions of the USSR in the face of German advance toward Moscow.

1947 - The russian version of a German A-4 rocket is launched from Kapustin Yar.

1950 - Sergei Korolev officially becomes a chief designer of OKB-1, the developer of the Soviet long-range ballistic missiles. Within R-3 ballistic missile program, Korolev team studies a multistage version of the rocket capable of launching a satellite.

1951 - The first launch of the "geophysical" rocket carrying live animals onboard.

October 4, 1957 -- Sputnik destroyed U.S. complacency 1957 - R-7 ICBM completes the first successful test flight.On October 4th the world's first artificial satellite is launched. November 2nd: Sputnik-2, carrying dog Laika, is launched.

1959 - January 1-2: Luna-1, the first spacecraft to escape Earth orbit, is launched. September 12: Luna-2 the first man-made object to impact the Moon. October 3: Luna-3 photographs far side of the Moon.

1960 - August 19: Two dogs, Belka and Strelka, landed onboard the prototype of the Vostok spacecraft (Korabl Sputnik-5), becoming first animals returning from orbit.

1961 - April 12: Yuri Gagarin completes world's first manned spaceflight onboard Vostok spacecraft.

1963 - June 16-19: Valentina Tereshkova, the world's first woman in space completed orbital flight onboard Vostok-6 spacecraft.

1965 - March 18: Alexei Leonov conducts world's first spacewalk during the Voskhod-2 mission.

1971 - April 19: The Salyut-1, the first orbital station is launched. Its crew of three dies on landing.

1975 - The Soviet Soyuz and US Apollo spacecraft dock in space.

1986 - February 20: The core module of the Mir space station is launched. Its first expedition shuttles between Mir and Salyut-7.

1987 - The Energia super-heavy-lift booster flies its first mission.

1988 - The Energia booster launches unmanned Buran reusable shuttle, which lands automatically after two orbits.

1991 - The first commercial passenger, British citizen Helen Sharman, visits Mir.

1993 - Russia joins the International Space Station program.

1994 - January 8: Valery Polyakov boards Mir starting world's longest (year-and-a-half) spaceflight.

1995 - Mir is reconfigured to receive the US Space Shuttle. June 27-July 7: The US Space Shuttle (STS-71) docks to the Mir space station for the first time.

1998 - November 20: The Zarya/FGB control module, the first element of the International Space Station blasts off from Baikonur (Mission 1R).

1999 - The Russian government stops funding for Mir.

THE 21TH CENTURY: At the crossroads

2001 - Mir space station is deorbited after 15 years in orbit.

2002 - Russia introduces the Soyuz TMA spacecraft, launching a taxi crew to the ISS, which included an ESA researcher from Belgium.

2003 - The Russian Soyuz FG/Fregat booster launched Mars Express probe, Europe's first spacecraft to explore the Red Planet.

...and the future holds...

2005 - November: Russian launcher to send ESA's Venus Express toward Venus.

2007 - The Russian Soyuz rocket to fly its first mission from Kourou, French Guiana.

2009 - Russia to launch spacecraft to study Mars and its Moon Phobos.

2010 - Russia to introduce Kliper spacecraft to replace Soyuz (Date announced in February 2004).

2012 - A Russian rocket to launch European BepiColombo probe toward Mercury.

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