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Do you know someone who came in first in a race? Perhaps it was you! Wasn't it neat? NASA has some neat "firsts" too!

Look at the list below. Can you see that they are in date order...meaning that the list goes by the date that the first thing happened?

NASA "First"
Mission Name
First U.S. satellite to orbit Earth January 31, 1958 Explorer 1
First American human in space May 5, 1961 Freedom 7
First American human orbital flight February 20, 1962 Friendship 7
First American space walk June 3, 1965 Gemini 4
First crewed lunar landing July 20, 1969 Apollo 11
First crewed Earth orbiter May 14, 1973 Skylab
First international space flight July 15, 1975 Apollo-Soyus Test Project
First space shuttle mission April 12, 1981 Space Shuttle Columbia
First Earth orbiting observatory April 4, 1990 Hubble space Telescope
First sample return mission of the new millennium mid-2004 Genesis

What was NASA's first "First"? What "Firsts" can you think of for your family? (Hints: when you got or lost your first tooth, your family's first car, who in your family was born first, when your Mom or Dad got their first job, when the first grandchild in your family was born, and any more that you can think of.) Make a list of all these "firsts" you can remember for you and/or your family. You can also add important things, like when you or other family members were born.

What You Need

  • Mission Patches page print out (if your patches are cut off in printing, you can also print them from this pdf file. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat on your computer, you can download it here :) Get Acrobat Reader icon
  • Your own print out
  • Masking tape
  • Construction paper
  • Tape measure
  • Markers, colored pencils, or crayons (optional)

What You Do

  1. Print out the mission patches. Color and cut them out.
  2. Using the masking tape, make a straight line on the wall or floor that is 6 feet long.
  3. Measure the line. Make 6 equal parts, marking each part with a piece of tape. Start at the left side of the tape and move to the right with your marks.
  4. Using the construction paper, make a label for each decade beginning with 1950 and concluding with 2010. Tape the decade labels to the line in order beginning with 1950, on the farthest left side, to the equal parts.
  5. Tape each mission patch on the space where it belongs on the timeline on one side of the line.
  6. Make symbols for things in yours or your family's history and tape them on the other side of the tape.
  7. You've just made a timeline! How do your "firsts" compare with NASA's?

Did you Know?

The Genesis mission sponsored its own patch contest, with entries from all ages and all over the world. View the winning patch entries.

NASA keeps track of its own history by way of a timeline. See a NASA history fact sheet.The Genesis mission timeline marks very important things as a "milestone," like when the spacecraft was built. What additional milestones can you see on the picture below?

NASA history fact sheet

Going Further

Genesis has other mission firsts! The Genesis mission is the:
-First sample return of the new millennium.
-First to use bulk metallic glass as collector material.
-First mission to return from L-1.
-First to use a mid-air recovery for a sample return.
-First NASA mission to develop a class 10 cleanroom (only 10 particles of contaminant per cubic meter).
-First mission to study solar wind in exceptionally accurate analytical mass spectrometer laboratories.
-First mission to partner with education research laboratory (McREL) to provide education and public outreach for a mission.

See the Mission section of the Genesis Web site to learn more about the mission's timeline and its milestones.

Visit the NASA History Web site at to learn more about the history of NASA missions.


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