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After Project Mercury (flights 1961-63) showed that humans could survive in space, NASA conducted Project Gemini (flights 1965-66) to practice rendezvous, docking, and spacewalks. NASA then used those experiences in Project Apollo (flights 1968-72) to explore the Moon with six successful manned lunar landings. In the Skylab program (1973), three 3-man crews spent up to 84 days in space. In 1975, NASA cooperated with the Soviet Union to achieve the first international human spaceflight with the Apollo-Soyuz Project, successfully testing joint rendezvous and docking procedures.
After a few years with no human spaceflights, NASA launched the first space shuttle in 1981. On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch, killing all seven crew members. This grounded the shuttle program for more than two years, while NASA worked to increase safety. Through mid-1998, NASA had safely launched 65 shuttle missions since the return to flight.
From 1994 to 1998, the Shuttle-Mir Program made true space partners out of the U.S. and Russia. Beginning in 1998, NASA and Russia began launching the first components of the 16-nation International Space Station.
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Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty