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A Date with Space

This card-based activity allows students to discover the sequence of important events in the history of space exploration.

Space exploration has come a long way. Now it’s possible to be a space tourist and there is a permanent crew of researchers on the International Space Station. But how did we get to where we are now? 

Student will need to consider the progression of  technological advances to be able to match up important historical events with their corresponding dates. 

This activity can be done alone, in pairs or in groups. Different types of games can be played depending on how you copy and print the event and date cards.

To play matching games, photocopy the cards single sided to create separate event and date cards. To play a chronological history game, photocopy the cards double-sided with corresponding dates and events on each card. (Use heavy card stock so you can't see through the card to the answer!)


  • Identify, order and discuss some of the most important events in space history.


Key Questions

  • Which of the events in the game do you think must have happened first?
  • Which event has happened within very recent history?
  • Have you heard about any of these events?
  • Who would have been sent to space first, fruit flies or a dog?
  • Are there other pairs or groups of events you can put into order based on logic?
  • Which of these events are very famous? Do you know when they happened? Can you think of a way to order other events in relation to these ones?
  • Is it more difficult to conduct a flyby mission or a probe mission? Which would have happened first?

What To Do

Copy enough sets of double-sided cards for each student, pair of students or small group.


  1. Spread the cards on a table with the event side up and try to put the events in order.
  2. Flip the cards over to see the real order of events. Which groups were close in their guess? Why? What clues did they use to help them arrange their events?


  1. Copy single-sided event and date cards.
  2. Post the date cards along a wall in chronological order.
  3. Hand out one of each event card to students (students can pair up if there are more students than events).


  1. Read your event and stand under the date you think it happened. Since there is only one event per date, speak to other students to compare their events and agree on an order.
  2. Discuss in small groups and as a class to come up with the best guess at the order of events.
  3. Compare the best guess of the class against actual event history and discuss any differences.


  1. Copy and cut enough single-sided event cards so that each student receives one event or date card and will be able to find its match in the class.
  2. Hand out date cards and event cards at random.


  1. Walk around the room and find the date or event that best matches your card.

Hint: Everyone will have one matching partner, so you may need to discuss with other pairs whether anyone needs to switch or not.

  1. Work together as a class to put each event-date pair in order, making one long line of historical events.
  2. Read out your events and dates. Check with the leader to compare your collaborative guess with what actually happened


  • Find out about other events to create a more detailed timeline of space history. What are other important achievements you can find? What makes them important?
  • Choose one of the events and find out as much as you can about it. Who was involved and why was it an important event? How did it set the stage for new advancements in space exploration? Share your newfound knowledge with your class.
  • What kinds of advances in technology would you need to progress from one event to the next? Make a guess and then do some research to see if you were right.

Other Resources

NASA | History Division

NASA | Book | Origins of 21st-Century Space Travel by Glen R. Asner and Stephen J.Garber

NASA | Timeline: Brief History of Rocketry