Monday, January 18, 2010

This Month in Exploration - January

Visit "This Month in Exploration" every month to find out how aviation and space exploration have changed throughout the years, improving life for humans on Earth and in space. While reflecting on the events that led to NASA's formation and its rich history of accomplishments, "This Month in Exploration" will reveal where the agency is leading us -- to the moon, Mars and beyond.

225 Years Ago

January 7, 1785: Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries flew across the English Channel from Dover, England to a forest near Calais, France in their hydrogen balloon. At first the journey went well. But once over the Channel the balloon lost altitude and the pair had to toss ballast and other items overboard to remain aloft. About two hours after takeoff, they crossed the French coast clad only in their underwear and the cork life jackets they brought in case they landed in the water. It was the first time the channel was traversed by air.

105 Years Ago

January 3, 1905: Wilbur Wright met with U.S. Rep. Robert M. Nevin in an effort to interest the U.S. government in the use of airplanes for the military. Although the congressman submitted and endorsed a letter from Wright to President William Howard Taft and the secretary of war, the army declined the proposal.

90 Years Ago

January 2, 1920: Isaac Asimov, one of the most popular and prolific writers of science fiction, was born. Asimov’s three laws of robotics, introduced in his 1950 novel "I, Robot," have influenced work in robotics across the globe. The first law prohibits robots from injuring humans or allowing humans to come to harm.

January 29, 1920: President Woodrow Wilson appointed Orville Wright to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), a small committee of unpaid, appointed scientists and engineers dedicated to aerodynamics research. aerodynamics. Wright would remain with the NACA until his death in 1948.

75 Years Ago

January 11, 1935: Amelia Earhart became the first woman pilot to fly solo between Hawaii and mainland United States. She flew her Lockheed Vega from Wheeler Field in Honolulu on the island of Oahu across the eastern Pacific to Oakland, Calif. and landed after 18 hours and 15 minutes. The flight occurred in adverse weather conditions and demonstrated Earhart's courage as well as her stubbornness.

Amelia Earhart. Credit: NASA

65 Years Ago

January 8, 1945: The Mitsubishi J8M1 rocket-interceptor "Sword Stroke" made its first test flight in Japan. The fighter’s unique “tailless” design was tested by towing it into the air and letting it glide back down. The rocket motors were added and tested later that summer.

50 Years Ago

January 14, 1960: President Eisenhower directed the transfer of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Development Operations Division to NASA, creating the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntstville, Ala. The head of ABMA, Dr. Wernher von Braun, remained as director of the new center.

January 21, 1960: Little Joe 1B was launched at 7:00 p.m. EST from Wallops Island, Va. with one crew member aboard—a Rhesus monkey called "Miss Sam." The mission tested the launch and abort systems of the Mercury spacecraft.

45 Years Ago

January 19, 1965: NASA launched the Gemini-2 spacecraft using the Titan 2 launch vehicle at 9:04 a.m. EST from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. after delays caused by two hurricanes and technical problems with hydraulic pressure. The mission was an unmanned test of the launch vehicle and the Gemini spacecraft. It was completed successfully.

40 Years Ago

January 23, 1970: NASA launched the ITOS 1/OSCAR 5 satellites via a Delta rocket at 6:34 a.m. EST from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The OSCAR 5 (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio), built primarily by students at the University of Melbourne in Australia, was the first amateur satellite to be remotely controlled. The University compiled hundreds of tracking reports from stations in 27 countries.

35 Years Ago

January 16, 1975: The U.S. Air Force set new climb-time records with the McDonnell Douglas F-15A aircraft, operating from Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. A modified F-15 was stripped of its gun, its radar, some avionics, the tail hook, one generator, part of the hydraulic system, actuators and 40 pounds of external paint. During Operation Streak Eagle, the aircraft broke all existing time-to-altitude records.

The F-15A aircraft in flight. Credit: NASA

30 Years Ago

January 7, 1980: A single-engine Mooney 231 flew non-stop, coast-to coast— using only 105 gallons of fuel. This set a non-stop record of just over eight hours.

25 Years Ago

January 7, 1985: Japan launched Sakigake from Uchinoura Space Center as the country’s first interplanetary mission. The probe was essentially a test mission prior to launching another probe, Suisei, designed as part of an international effort to study Halley’s comet. Sakigake means ‘pioneer’ in Japanese.

20 Years Ago

January 9, 1990: The space shuttle Columbia (STS-32) launched from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. at 7:35 a.m. EST and deployed the Syncom IV-5 satellite. Columbia’s crew also retrieved the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) on January 11. The spacecraft landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California at 1:35 a.m. PST on January 20.

10 Years Ago

January 3, 2000: The Galileo probe flew by Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Launched in October of 1989, the spacecraft reached Jupiter in December of 1995. Its mission was to conduct detailed studies of the giant planet and its largest moons, which it did until 2003 when the probe disintegrated in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Information about Europa returned by Galileo led scientists to speculate about liquid water oceans and the possibility of life beneath the moon’s icy surface.

5 Years Ago

January12, 2005: NASA launched its Deep Impact spacecraft by a Delta 2 rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. at 1:47 p.m. EST. Its mission, the first of its kind, was to fly by Comet Tempel 1 and eject an impactor into the comet, releasing debris for scientific study. The successful impact and observation revealed answers to questions regarding the exterior and interior structure of a comet.

Present Day

Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. Credit: NASA

January 20, 2010: Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., will celebrate his eightieth birthday this year. Aldrin, a U.S. astronaut and Apollo 11 crewmember, was one of the first two humans (along with Neil Armstrong) to set foot on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission. He developed spacecraft docking and rendezvous techniques, as well as underwater training techniques for space walks that are still in use today.

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