Sunday, August 08, 2010

This Month in Exploration - August

From the early days of experimental airplanes to NASA’s soaring space shuttles, the evolution of flight has mirrored the evolution of society. The ongoing scientific discoveries that are part of aeronautics and space flight have improved life on Earth and allowed humans to begin investigating the secrets of the universe. “This Month in Exploration” presents the rich history of human flight, contextualizing where we’ve been and examining the exploration history NASA is making today.

100 Years Ago

August 31, 1910: Glenn Curtiss established a record for longest flight over water when he completed a course from Euclid beach in Cleveland, Ohio to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Flying his biplane over Lake Erie parallel to the shore, Curtiss completed the trip in about an hour and fifteen minutes.

A Loening Amphibian aircraft similar to the three used on the MacMillan Arctic Expedition. Credit: NASA

85 Years Ago

August 1, 1925: Under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, a U.S. Naval Air detail began aerial exploration of a 30,000-square-mile area near Etah, North Greenland using three Loening amphibian seaplanes introduced the previous year. The excursion was part of the MacMillan Arctic Expedition, the United States’ contribution to the global race to Earth’s last unexplored frontiers, the North and South Poles.

75 Years Ago

August 28, 1935: The Equipment Laboratory at Wright Field tested automatic radio-navigation equipment, called the Sperry automatic pilot, by mechanically linking it to a standard radio compass.

50 Years Ago

August 12, 1960: NASA launched its first communications satellite, the Echo 1, via a Thor- Delta rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The satellite transmitted a radio message from President Dwight D. Eisenhower across the nation, demonstrating the feasibility of global radio communications via satellites. Echo 1 was the most visible and largest satellite launched at that time. Although the mission was successful, it was quickly superseded by active-repeater communications satellites such as Telstar.

A static inflation test of the 135 foot satellite Echo 1. Credit: NASA

45 Years Ago

August 21-29, 1965: NASA launched the Gemini-V via Titan-II rocket. Several records were set during this eight-day orbital flight, including the single longest manned spaceflight, total U.S. manned hours in space and a new altitude record for an American spacecraft. American astronaut Gordon Cooper was also the first man to make a second orbital flight and achieved the record for the most spaceflight time.

35 Years Ago

August 20, 1975: NASA launched Viking 1 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. It was the first of two spacecraft on the historic mission to the planet Mars. The primary objectives of the Viking mission were to return high-resolution images of the Martian surface, analyze the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface and search for evidence of life on Mars.

25 Years Ago

August 27, 1985: NASA launched space shuttle Discovery (STS-51I) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The shuttle deployed three communications satellites and retrieved, repaired and re-launched the TELSAT-1 Communications Satellite, Syncom IV-3.

10 Years Ago

August 9, 2000: The European Space Agency launched the second pair of Cluster II mission satellites, named Rumba and Tango, aboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Cluster mission used simultaneous measurements from four satellites to provide detailed analysis of the effects of solar wind on Earth’s magnetic field. The mission is still in effect today and has resulted in around 1000 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong in the Lunar Module during the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Credit: NASA

5 Years Ago

August 12, 2005: NASA launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. aboard the first Atlas V rocket used for an interplanetary mission. The ongoing mission was to map the physical features of Mars, including its atmosphere and its subterranean layering.

Present Day

August 5, 2010: Neil A. Armstrong turns 80 this year. Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio in 1930, Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. He is credited with the famous quote: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

August 22, 2010: Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury was born 100 years ago on this day in Waukegan, Ill. He wrote “The Martian Chronicles” published in 1949. Among his poems is one inspired by a trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. where he compared his tour of the Saturn hanger to “walking around inside Shakespeare’s head.”

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