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Landmarks of Russian space exploration

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The first-ever manned space flight of April 12, 1961 by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was indeed an event that heralded a new era and shaped the modern world.

The Soviet Union tested its first jet engine as far back as 1939, orbiting the first artificial satellite in 1957 and making the first steps in manned space activities with Gagarin's Vostok and more advanced Voskhods, all inspired and created by Sergei Korolyov, the head of the Soviet space industry.

In 1963, Soviet Valentina Tereshkova became the first female cosmonaut. Two years later, Alexei Leonov performed the first session of extravehicular activities ever.

The 1970s were marked with extensive lunar research. The Proton-K launch vehicle orbited the Luna-17 automatic station with the Lunokhod-1 moon rover. The 1975 joint program by Soviet Soyuz-19 (commander Alexei Leonov) and American Apollo (commander Thomas P. Stafford) spacecraft,, , , the first attempt to pool international efforts in space, successfully performed rendezvous and docking in orbit with crew meeting.

The 1990s were marked by the overwhelming success of the Soviet-built Mir orbiter, the third-generation manned spacecraft designed by Energia Rocket and Space Corporation and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center. During its 5,510 days in orbit (from 1986 till 2001), the $3-billion orbiter contributed to 23 international projects involving 27 countries, and hosted cosmonauts and astronauts from Russia, Germany, France, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Austria, Japan, Syria, Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and member states of the European Space Agency.

The Soviet Union and Russia have been cooperating actively with Austria since the Mir became operational. In 1990, two Soviet-Austrian crews were preparing for a Mir mission, and on October 2, 1991, Alexander Volkov and Franz Viehboeck blasted off from the Baikonur space center onboard Soyuz TM-13.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed an agreement on the International Space Station with Russian, European, and Canadian space agencies on January 29, 1998 in Washington, D.C. Ten months later, this agreement led to the first commercial ISS launch, the Russian Khrunichev-designed Zarya module, which became the first element of what is now Earth's largest space site. This heralded the second stage of assembling the largest space station to date. The Russian ISS segment currently includes the Zarya and Zvezda modules, the Pirs docking module, Soyuz TMA manned and Progress M1 cargo vehicles.

Russia is going further in the development of space technology for long-haul missions, which promises lunar and Martian missions soon. The multiple-use spacecraft Kliper is projected to take to the air in 2012.

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