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Planetary flybys for gravitational assists are a stable of deep space missions. When did the following things happen?

  1. First documented realization that gravitational assists in spaceflight were possible and useful
  2. First formal mathematical demonstration that gravitational assists were possible and useful
  3. First formal mission plan using a gravitational assist
  4. First execution of a gravitational assist by a spacecraft

It is possible and likely that one or more of these is also covered by another answer, in that case feel free to link to it and quote a few key parts if that's more convenient. This way several related good answers to different questions can all be cross-referenced in a single location here.

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  • $\begingroup$ This might be a candidate for a community wiki answer $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 3 at 3:34
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    $\begingroup$ presuming that it is accurate, I think that wikipedia answers a few of these questions: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity_assist#Historical_origins. The answer to the first two questions appear to be "1919", and the fourth question appears to be Luna 3 in 1959. $\endgroup$ – Michael Stachowsky Oct 3 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelStachowsky thanks; Wikipedia is incorrect or insufficient relatively often, so I think a proper Stack Exchange answer by someone knowledgable with supporting references is best in this case. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 4 at 1:42

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