NASA History Division
1 Oct. 1958 On this date the National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration began operation. At the time it consisted of onlyabout 8,000 employees and an annual budget of $100 million. Inaddition to a small headquarters staff in Washington that directedoperations, NASA had at the time three major research laboratoriesinherited from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics-theLangley Aeronautical Laboratory established in 1918, the AmesAeronautical Laboratory activated near San Francisco in 1940,and the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory built at Cleveland,Ohio, in 1941-and two small test facilities, one for high-speedflight research at Muroc Dry Lake in the high desert of Californiaand one for sounding rockets at Wallops Island, Virginia. It soonadded several other government research organizations.
11 Oct. 1958 Pioneer I: First NASA launch.
7 Nov. 1958 NASA research pilot John McKay made the lastflight in the X-1E, the final model flown of the X-1 series. Thevarious models of the X-1, together with the D-558-I and -II,the X-2, X-3, X-4, X-5, and XF-92A, provided data to correlatetest results from the slotted throat wind tunnel at the LangleyAeronautical Laboratory (now NASA's Langley Research Center) withactual flight values. Together, results of flight research andwind tunnel testing enabled the U.S. aeronautical community tosolve many of the problems that occur in the transonic speed range(0.7 to 1.3 times the speed of sound). The flight research investigatedflight loads, buffeting, aeroelastic effects, pitch-up, instability,longitudinal control, and the effects of wing sweep, contributingto design principles that enabled reliable and routine flightof such aircraft as the century series of fighters (F-100, F-102,F-104, etc.). It contributed equally to the development of allcommercial transport aircraft from the mid-1950s to the present.
6 Dec. 1958 The United States launched Pioneer 3,the first U.S. satellite to ascend to an altitude of 63,580 miles.
18 Dec. 1958 An Air Force Atlas booster placed into orbita communications relay satellite, PROJECT SCORE or the "talkingatlas." A total of 8,750 pounds was placed in orbit, of which150 pounds was the payload. On 19 Dec. President Eisenhower'sChristmas message was beamed from the PROJECT SCORE satellitein orbit, the first voice sent from space.
17 Feb. 1959 The United States launched Vanguard 2,the first successful launch of this principal IGY scientific satellite.
28 Feb. 1959 The liquid-hydrogen Thor first stage, andan Agena upper stage, both originally developed by the U.S. AirForce, were used by NASA to launch Discoverer 1, a reconnaissancesatellite for the Air Force on 28 Feb.
3 Mar. 1959 The United States sent Pioneer 4 tothe Moon, successfully making the first U.S. lunar flyby.
9 Apr. 1959 After a two month selection process, on thisdate NASA unveiled the Mercury astronaut corps. NASA AdministratorT. Keith Glennan publicly introduced the astronauts in a pressconference in Washington. The seven men-from the Marine Corps,Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr. (1921- ); from the Navy, Lt. Cdr.Walter M. Schirra, Jr. (1923- ), Lt. Cdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr.(1923- ), and Lt. M. Scott Carpenter (1925- ); and from the AirForce, Capt. L. Gordon Cooper (1927- ), Capt. Virgil I. "Gus"Grissom (1926-1967), and Capt. Donald K. Slayton (1924-1993)-becameheroes in the eyes of the American public almost immediately.
28 May 1959 The United States launches and recovers twomonkeys, Able and Baker, after launch in Jupiter nosecone duringa suborbital flight. The flight is successful, testing the capabilityto launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and to recover spacecraftin the Atlantic Ocean, but Able later died.
8 Jun. 1959 North American Aviation, Inc. research pilotScott Crossfield made the first unpowered glide flight in thejoint X-15 hypersonic research program NASA conducted with theAir Force, the Navy, and North American. The program completedits 199th and final flight on 24 October 1968 in what many considerto have been the most successful flight research effort in history.It resulted in more than 765 research reports and provided significantdata in a variety of hypersonic disciplines ranging from aircraftperformance, stability and control, aerodynamic heating, the useof heat-resistant materials, shock interaction, and use of reactioncontrols. This data led to improved design tools for future hypersonicvehicles and contributed in important ways to the developmentof the Space Shuttle, including information from flights to theedge of space and back in 1961-1963. Data from these flights wereimportant in designing the Shuttle's reentry flight profile. Alsoinvolved in the X-15 research was the development of energy managementtechniques for the return of the vehicle to its landing site thatwere essential for the future reentry and horizontal landing ofthe Shuttle and all future reusable launch vehicles.
1 Apr. 1960 The United States launched TIROS 1,the first successful meteorological satellite, observing Earth'sweather.
13 Apr. 1960 The United States launched Transit1B, the first experimental orbital navigation system.
1 Jul. 1960 The first launch of the Scout launch vehicletook place on this date. The Scout's four-stage booster couldplace a 330 pound satellite into orbit, and it quickly becamea workhorse in orbiting scientific payloads during the 1960s.
1 Jul. 1960 On this date the Army Ballistic Missile Agencyof the Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama, formally becamea part of NASA and was renamed the George C. Marshall Space FlightCenter. This organization included the German "rocket team"led by Wernher von Braun that came to the United States at theconclusion of World War II. This group had been instrumental inbuilding the V-2 rocket, the world's first operational long-rangeballistic missile.
12 Aug. 1960 NASA successfully orbited Echo 1, a100-foot inflatable, aluminized balloon passive communicationssatellite. The objective was to bounce radio beams off the satelliteas a means of long-distance communications. This effort, thoughsuccessful, was quickly superseded be active-repeater communicationssatellites such as Telstar.
19 Dec. 1960 NASA launched Mercury 1, the firstMercury-Redstone capsule-launch vehicle combination. This wasan unoccupied test flight.
31 Jan. 1961 NASA launched Mercury 2, a test missionof the Mercury-Redstone capsule-launch vehicle combination withthe chimpanzee Ham aboard during a 16 1/2 minute flight in suborbitalspace. Ham and his capsule is successfully recovered.
5 May 1961 Freedom 7, the first piloted Mercuryspacecraft (No. 7) carrying Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., waslaunched from Cape Canaveral by MercuryRedstone (MR3)launch vehicle, to an altitude of 115 nautical miles and a rangeof 302 miles. It was the first American space flight involvinghuman beings, and during his 15-minute suborbital flight, Shepardrode a Redstone booster to a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.Shepard demonstrated that individuals can control a vehicle duringweightlessness and high G stresses, and significant scientificbiomedical data were acquired. He reached a speed of 5,100 milesper hour and his flight lasted 14.8 minutes. Shepard was the secondhuman and the first American to fly in space.
25 May 1961 President John F. Kennedy unveiled the commitmentto execute Project Apollo on this date in a speech on "UrgentNational Needs," billed as a second State of the Union message.He told Congress that the U.S. faced extraordinary challengesand needed to respond extraordinarily. In announcing the lunarlanding commitment he said: "I believe this Nation shouldcommitment itself to achieving the goal, before this decade isout, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely toearth. No single space project in this period will be more impressiveto mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration ofspace; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
21 Jul. 1961 The second piloted flight of a Mercury spacecrafttook place on this date when astronaut "Gus" Grissomundertook a sub-orbital mission. The flight had problems. Thehatch blew off prematurely from the Mercury capsule, LibertyBell 7, and it sank into the Atlantic Ocean before it couldbe recovered. In the process the astronaut nearly drowned beforebeing hoisted to safety in a helicopter. These suborbital flights,however, proved valuable for NASA technicians who found ways tosolve or work around literally thousands of obstacles to successfulspace flight.
23 Aug. 1961 NASA launched Ranger 1 on this date,with the mission of photographing and mapping part of the Moon'ssurface, but it failed to achieve its planned orbit.
19 Sep. 1961 NASA Administrator James E. Webb announcedon this date that the site of the NASA center dedicated to humanspace flight would be Houston, Texas. This became the Manned SpacecraftCenter, renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973.
25 Oct. 1961 On this date NASA announced the establishmenton a deep south bayou the Mississippi Test Facility, renamed theJohn C. Stennis Space Center in 1988. This installation becamethe test site for the large Saturn boosters developed for ProjectApollo.
27 Oct. 1961 NASA accomplished the first successful testof the Saturn I rocket.
21 Nov. 1961 On this date the Air Force launched a TitanICBM from Cape Canaveral carrying target nose cone to be usedin NikeZeus antimissilemissile tests. This was firstTitan ICBM to be fired from Cape Canaveral by a military crew,the 6555th Aerospace Test Wing. The Titan rocket became a standardlaunch vehicle for the United States in the years that followed,going through several modifications to make it more reliable andcapable.
20 Feb. 1962 John Glenn became the first American to circlethe Earth, making three orbits in his Friendship 7 Mercuryspacecraft. Despite some problems with spacecraft-Glenn flew partsof the last two orbits manually because of an autopilot failureand left his normally jettisoned retrorocket pack attached tohis capsule during reentry because of a loose heat shield-thisflight was enormously successful. The public, more than celebratingthe technological success, embraced Glenn as a personificationof heroism and dignity. Among other engagements, Glenn addresseda joint session of Congress and participated in several ticker-tapeparades around the country.
7 Jun. 1962 At an all-day meeting at the Marshall SpaceFlight Center, NASA leaders met to hash out differences over themethod of going to the Moon with Project Apollo, with the debategetting heated at times. The contention was essentially betweenEarth-orbit versus lunar-orbit rendezvous. After more than sixhours of discussion those in favor of Earth-orbit rendezvous finallygave in to the lunar-orbit rendezvous mode, saying that its advocateshad demonstrated adequately its feasibility and that any furthercontention would jeopardize the president's timetable. This clearedthe path for the development of the hardware necessary to accomplishthe president's goal.
10 Jul. 1962 Telstar l: NASA launch of the firstprivately built satellite (for communications). First telephoneand television signals carried via satellite.
3 Oct. 1962 On this date astronaut Wally Schirra flew sixorbits in the Mercury spacecraft Sigma 7.
14 Dec. 1962 Mariner 2: First successful planetaryflyby (Venus).
15-16 May 1963 The capstone of Project Mercury took placeon this date with the flight of astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, whocircled the Earth 22 times in 34 hours aboard the Mercury capsuleFaith 7.
22 Aug. 1963 Experimental aircraft X-15 sets altitude recordof 354,200 feet (67 miles).
29 Jan. 1964 NASA's largest launch vehicle, Saturn SA-5,sends a record of 19 tons into orbit during a test flight.
8 Apr. 1964 The first American Gemini flight took placeon this date, an unpiloted test that made four orbits and wassuccessfully recovered.
28 May 1964 The United States placed the first Apollo CommandModule (CM) in orbit. This Apollo capsule was launched duringan automated test flight atop a Saturn I in preparation of thelunar landing program.
28 Jul. 1964 The United States' Ranger 7 sends backto Earth 4,300 close-up images of the Moon before it impacts onthe surface.
30 Oct. 1964 NASA pilot Joseph Walker conducted the firstflight in the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV), known forits unusual shape as the "Flying Bedstead." Two LLRVsand three Lunar Landing Training Vehicles developed from themprovided realistic simulation that was critical for landing aspacecraft on the Moon in the Apollo program. The LLRVs also providedthe controls design data base for the lunar module.
23 Mar. 1965 Following two unoccupied test flights, thefirst operational mission-Gemini III-of Project Geminitook place. Former Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom commanded themission, with John W. Young, a Naval aviator chosen as an astronautin 1962, accompanying him.
6 Apr. 1965 The United States launched Intelsat I,the first commercial satellite (communications), into geostationaryorbit.
3-7 Jun. 1965 The second piloted Gemini mission, GeminiIV, stayed aloft for four days and astronaut Edward H. WhiteII performed the first EVA or spacewalk by an American. This wasa critical task that would have to be mastered before landingon the Moon.
14 Jul. 1965 An American space probe, Mariner 4,flies within 6,118 miles of Mars after an eight month journey.This mission provided the first close-up images of the red planet.The mission had been launched 28 Nov. 1964.
21-29 Aug. 1965 During the flight of Gemini V, Americanastronauts Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad set record with an eightday orbital flight.
4-18 Dec. 1965 During the flight of Gemini VII,American astronauts Frank Borman and James A. Lovell set a durationrecord of fourteen days in Earth-orbit that holds for five years.
15-16 Dec. 1965 During Gemini VI, U.S. astronautsWally Schirra and Thomas P. Stafford complete the first true spacerendezvous by flying within a few feet of Gemini VII.
16 Mar. 1966 During Gemini VIII American astronautsNeil A. Armstrong and David Scott performed the first orbitaldocking their spacecraft to an Agena target vehicle, becomingthe first coupling of two spacecraft. This was a critical taskto master before attempting to land on the Moon, a mission thatrequired several dockings and undockings of spacecraft.
3 Apr. 1966 On this date the Soviet Union achieved lunarorbit with its Luna 10 space probe, the first such vehicleto do so. This robotic flight had been launched on 31 Mar. 1966and it provided scientific data about the Moon to Earth for severalweeks.
2 Jun. 1966 On this date Surveyor 1 landed on theMoon and transmitted more than 10,000 high-quality photographsof the surface. This was the first American spacecraft to soft-landon the Moon. It had been launch on 30 May, and it touched downon the "Ocean of Storms," a possible site for the Apollolandings.
3-6 Jul. 1966 During the flight of Gemini IX onthis date, American astronauts Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernanmake a two-hour EVA.
18-21 Jul. 1966 During Gemini X American astronautsMike Collins and John Young make two rendezvous and docking maneuverswith Agena target vehicles, plus complete a complex EVA.
10 Aug. 1966-1 Aug. 1967 The Lunar Orbiter project wasconducted for a year between these dates. This project, originallynot intended to support Apollo, was reconfigured in 1962 and 1963to further the Kennedy mandate more specifically by mapping thesurface. In addition to a powerful camera that could send photographsto Earth tracking stations, it carried three scientific experiments-selnodesy(the lunar equivalent of geodesy), meteoroid detection, and radiationmeasurement. While the returns from these instruments interestedscientists in and of themselves, they were critical to Apollo.NASA launched five Lunar Orbiter satellites, all successfullyachieving their objectives.
11-15 Nov. 1966 The last Gemini flight, Gemini XII,was launched on this date. During this mission, American astronautsJim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin completed three EVAs and a dockingwith an Agena target vehicle.
27 Jan. 1967 At 6:31 p.m. on this date, during a simulationaboard Apollo-Saturn (AS) 204 on the launch pad at Kennedy SpaceCenter, Florida, after several hours of work, a flash fire brokeout in the pure oxygen atmosphere of the capsule and flames engulfedthe capsule and the three astronauts aboard-Gus Grissom, Ed White,and Roger Chaffee-died of asphyxiation. Although three other astronautshad been killed before this time-all in plane crashes-these werethe first deaths directly attributable to the U.S. space program.As a result of this accident the Apollo program went into hiatusuntil the spacecraft could be redesigned. The program returnedto flight status during Apollo 7 in October 1968.
25 Apr. 1967 Air Force Col. Joseph Cotton and NASA researchpilot Fitzhugh Fulton made the first NASA flight in the XB-70A.The 23 NASA flights in the 129-flight joint program with the AirForce investigated the stability and handling qualities of large,delta-wing aircraft flying at high supersonic speeds. Togetherthese flights contributed data for designing future supersonicaircraft in such areas as environmental noise (including sonicbooms), potential flight corridors, flight control, operationalproblems, and clear-air turbulence. It also validated wind tunneldata and revealed drag components not consistent with or not simulatedby wind tunnel testing.
3 Oct. 1967 The X-15 experimental rocket plane set a speedrecord for piloted vehicles by reaching 4,534 mph (mach 6.72)at a 99,000 feet altitude over the Mojave Desert in California.Piloted by Maj. William J. Knight, USAF, the X-15 no. 2 flightundertook experiments to: (1) test Martin ablative coating andramjet local flow; (2) check out stability and control with dummyramjets and characteristics of external tank separation; and (3)conduct fluidic temperature probes. The previous space recordof 4,250 mph (mach 6.33) had been set by Maj. Knight on 18 Nov.1966.
9 Nov. 1967 During Apollo 4, an unpiloted test ofthe launcher and spacecraft, NASA proves that the combinationcould safely reach the Moon.
22 Jan. 1968 In Apollo 5, NASA made the first flighttest of the propulsion systems of the Lunar Module ascent/descentcapability.
14 Sep. 1968 In a significant first, the Soviet Union sentits Zond 5, lunar mission capsule around the Moon and broughtit back safely to Earth. This was an unpiloted test of the system.
11-22 Oct. 1968 The first piloted flight of the Apollospacecraft, Apollo 7, and Saturn IB launch vehicle, thisflight involved astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn F. Eisele, andWalter Cunningham who tested hardware in Earth orbit.
21-27 Dec. 1968 On 21 Dec. 1968, Apollo 8 took offatop a Saturn V booster from the Kennedy Space Center with threeastronauts aboard-Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and WilliamA. Anders-for a historic mission to orbit the Moon. At first itwas planned as a mission to test Apollo hardware in the relativelysafe confines of low Earth orbit, but senior engineer George M.Low of the Manned Spacecraft Center at Houston, Texas (renamedthe Johnson Space Center in 1973), and Samuel C. Phillips, ApolloProgram Manager at NASA headquarters, pressed for approval tomake it a circumlunar flight. The advantages of this could beimportant, both in technical and scientific knowledge gained aswell as in a public demonstration of what the U.S. could achieve.In the summer of 1968 Low broached the idea to Phillips, who thencarried it to the administrator, and in Nov. the agency reconfiguredthe mission for a lunar trip. After Apollo 8 made one and a halfEarth orbits its third stage began a burn to put the spacecrafton a lunar trajectory. As it traveled outward the crew focuseda portable television camera on Earth and for the first time humanitysaw its home from afar, a tiny, lovely, and fragile "bluemarble" hanging in the blackness of space. When it arrivedat the Moon on Christmas Eve this image of Earth was even morestrongly reinforced when the crew sent images of the planet backwhile reading the first part of the Bible-"God created theheavens and the Earth, and the Earth was without form and void"-beforesending Christmas greetings to humanity. The next day they firedthe boosters for a return flight and "splashed down"in the Pacific Ocean on 27 Dec. It was an enormously significantaccomplishment coming at a time when American society was in crisisover Vietnam, race relations, urban problems, and a host of otherdifficulties. And if only for a few moments the nation unitedas one to focus on this epochal event. Two more Apollo missionsoccurred before the climax of the program, but they did littlemore than confirm that the time had come for a lunar landing.
3-13 Mar. 1969 In Apollo 9, astronauts James McDivitt,David Scott, and Russell Schweickart orbit the Earth and testall of the hardware needed for a lunar landing.
18-26 May 1969 In Apollo 10, Eugene Cernan, JohnYoung, and Tom Stafford run the last dress rehearsal for the Moonlanding. They take the Lunar Module (LM) for a test run within10 miles of the lunar surface.
16-24 Jul. 1969 The first lunar landing mission, Apollo11 lifted off on 16 Jul. 1969, and after confirming that thehardware was working well began the three day trip to the Moon.At 4:18 p.m. EST on 20 Jul. 1969 the LM-with astronauts Neil A.Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin-landed on the lunar surface whileMichael Collins orbited overhead in the Apollo command module.After checkout, Armstrong set foot on the surface, telling themillions of listeners that it was "one small step for man-onegiant leap for mankind." Aldrin soon followed him out andthe two plodded around the landing site in the 1/6 lunar gravity,planted an American flag but omitted claiming the land for theU.S. as had routinely been done during European exploration ofthe Americas, collected soil and rock samples, and set up someexperiments. After more than 21 hours on the lunar surface, theyreturned to Collins on board "Columbia," bringing 20.87kilograms of lunar samples with them. The two Moonwalkershad left behind scientific instruments, an American flag and othermementos, including a plaque bearing the inscription: "HereMen From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon. Jul. 1969A.D. We came in Peace For All Mankind." The next day theybegan the return trip to Earth, "splashing down" inthe Pacific on 24 Jul.
15 Sep. 1969 The presidentially-appointed Space Task Groupissued its report on the post-Apollo space program on this date.Chartered on 13 Feb. 1969 under the chairmanship of Vice PresidentSpiro T. Agnew, this group met throughout the spring and summerto plot a course for the space program. The politics of this effortwas intense. NASA lobbied hard with the Group and especially itschair for a far-reaching post-Apollo space program that includeddevelopment of a space station, a reusable Space Shuttle, a Moonbase, and a human expedition to Mars. The NASA position was wellreflected in the group's Sep. report, but Nixon did not act onthe Group's recommendations. Instead, he was silent on the futureof the U.S. space program until a Mar. 1970 statement that said"we must also recognize that many critical problems hereon this planet make high priority demands on our attention andour resources."
14-24 Nov. 1969 In Apollo 12 U.S. astronauts CharlesConrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean go to the Moon for secondmanned landing. They landed near the Surveyor 3 landingsight on 18 Nov. They spend 7.5 hours walking on the surface,including an inspection of the Surveyor probe.
5 Mar. 1970 First NASA flight in a YF-12A with FitzhughFulton as pilot. In a joint program with the Air Force, two YF-12Asand a YF-12C were flown 296 times over nine years to explore high-speed,high-altitude flight. The program yielded a wealth of informationon thermal stress, aerodynamics, the high-altitude environment,propulsion (including mixed compression inlet research), precisionmeasurement of gust velocity, and flight control systems thatwill still be useful for designing future vehicles that will flyat three times the speed of sound or faster. It complemented theX-15 program in that it yielded information about sustained flightat Mach 3, whereas the much faster X-15 could only fly for comparativelyshort periods of time. Since 1990, SR-71 Blackbirds have donefollow-on research to the work done by the XB-70 and YF-12s insupport of NASA's High Speed Research program. (The SR-71s aresimilar to the YF-12s but improved by an integrated propulsion/flightcontrol system developed in 1978 on the YF-12 to reduce the occurrenceof inlet unstarts.)
11-17 Apr. 1970 The flight of Apollo 13 was oneof the near disasters of the Apollo program. At 56 hours intothe flight, an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module rupturedand damaged several of the power, electrical, and life supportsystems. People throughout the world watched and waited and hopedas NASA personnel on the ground and the crew, well on their wayto the Moon and with no way of returning until they went aroundit, worked together to find a way safely home. While NASA engineersquickly determined that sufficient air, water, and electricitydid not exist in the Apollo capsule to sustain the three astronautsuntil they could return to Earth, they found that the LM-a self-containedspacecraft unaffected by the accident-could be used as a "lifeboat"to provide austere life support for the return trip. It was aclose-run thing, but the crew returned safely on 17 Apr. 1970.The near disaster served several important purposes for the civilspace program-especially prompting reconsideration of the proprietyof the whole effort while also solidifying in the popular mindNASA's technological genius.
31 Jan.-9 Feb. 1971 Apollo 14 was the third U.S.lunar landing mission, and the first since the near disaster ofApollo 13. Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell went to theMoon while Stuart Roosa piloted the CM. They perform nine hoursof moonwalks and brought back 98 pounds of lunar material.
9 Mar. 1971 NASA research pilot Thomas McMurtry completedthe first flight in an F-8A modified with Langley researcher RichardWhitcomb's supercritical wing. The flight research program, whichlasted until 1973, demonstrated that Whitcombís designreduced drag and therefore increased the fuel efficiency of anairplane flying in the transonic speed range. The concept is nowwidely used on commercial and military aircraft throughout theworld. Follow-on research with the F-111 Transonic Aircraft Technology(TACT), Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT), AdvancedFighter Technology Integration F-16, and X-29 aircraft throughthe year 1988 has demonstrated the effects of various planformsand sweeps of the supercritical airfoil.
26 Jul.-7 Aug. 1971 The first of the longer, expedition-stylelunar landing missions, Apollo 15 was the first to includethe lunar rover to extend the range of the astronauts on the Moon.They brought back 173 pounds of moon rocks, including one of theprize artifacts of the Apollo program, a sample of ancient lunarcrust called the "Genesis Rock."
13 Nov. 1971 Mariner 9: The first mission to orbitanother planet (Mars).
5 Jan. 1972 NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher met withPresident Richard M. Nixon at the "Western White House"in San Clemente, California, to discuss the future of the spaceprogram and then issued a statement to the media announcing thedecision to "proceed at once with the development of an entirelynew type of space transportation system designed to help transformthe space frontier of the 1970s into familiar territory, easilyaccessible for human endeavor in the 1980s and '90s." Thisbecame the Space Shuttle, first flown in space on 12-14 Apr. 1981.
3 Mar. 1972-Present To prepare the way for a possible missionto the four giant planets of the outer Solar System, Pioneer10 and Pioneer 11 were launched to Jupiter. Both weresmall, nuclearpowered, spinstabilized spacecraft thatAtlasCentaur launched. The first of these was launched on3 Mar. 1972, traveled outward to Jupiter, and in May 1991 wasabout 52 Astronautical Units (AU), roughly twice the distancefrom Jupiter to the Sun, and still transmitting data. In 1973,NASA launched Pioneer 11, providing scientists with theirclosest view of Jupiter, from 26,600 miles above the cloud topsin Dec. 1974.
16-27 Apr. 1972 During Apollo 16 astronauts JohnYoung, Thomas Mattingly II, and Charles Duke make the fifth Americanlanding on the Moon. Young and Duke spend 3 days with the lunarrover near the Descartes crater
25 May 1972 NASA research pilot Gary Krier flew an F-8Cmodified with an all-electric, digital-fly-by-wire flight controlsystem, kicking off the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) programthat demonstrated its effectiveness by operating the aircraftwithout a mechanical back-up system. The F-8 DFBW laid the groundworkfor and proved the concept of digital fly-by-wire that is nowused in a variety of airplanes ranging from the F/A-18 to theBoeing 777 and the Space Shuttle. More advanced versions of DFBWwere also used in the flight control systems of both the X-29and X-31 research aircraft, which would have been uncontrollablewithout them.
23 Jul. 1972-Present Landsat 1 was launched fromKennedy Space Center, to perform an Earth resource mapping mission.Initially called the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS)and later renamed, Landsat 1 changed the way in which Americanslooked at the planet. It provided data on vegetation, insect infestations,crop growth, and associated landuse information. Two moreLandsat vehicles were launched in Jan. 1975 and Mar. 1978, performedtheir missions and exited service in the 1980s. Landsat 4,launched 16 Jul. 1982, and Landsat 5, launched 1 Mar. 1984,were "second generation" spacecraft, with greater capabilitiesto produce more detailed land-use data. The system enhanced theability to develop a worldwide crop forecasting system,to devise a strategy for deploying equipment to contain oil spills,to aid navigation, to monitor pollution, to assist in water management,to site new power plants and pipelines, and to aid in agriculturaldevelopment.
7-19 Dec. 1972 Apollo 17 was the last of the sixApollo missions to the Moon, and the only one to include a scientist-astronaut/geologistHarrison Schmitt-as a member of the crew. Schmitt and Eugene Cernan,had extended EVAs on the Moon, 22 hours, 4 minutes for each. RonaldEvans piloted the CM.
25 May-22 Jun. 1973 Following the launch of the UnitedStates' orbital workshop, Skylab 1, on 14 May 1973, theSkylab 2 mission began in which astronauts aboard Apollospacecraft rendezvoused and docked with the orbital workshop.The workshop had developed technical problems due to vibrationsduring liftoff and the meteoroid shield-designed also toshade Skylab's workshop from the Sun's rays-ripped off, takingwith it one of the spacecraft's two solar panels, and anotherpiece wrapped around the other panel keeping it from properlydeploying. In spite of this, the space station achieved a nearcircularorbit at the desired altitude of 270 miles. While NASA techniciansworked on a solution to the problem, an intensive tendayperiod followed before the Skylab 2 crew launched to repairthe workshop. This crew carried a parasol, tools, and replacementfilm to repair the orbital workshop. After substantial repairsrequiring extravehicular activity (EVA), including deploymentof a parasol sunshade that cooled the inside temperatures to 75degrees Fahrenheit on 4 Jun., by the workshop was habitable. Duringa 7 Jun. EVA the crew freed the jammed solar array and increasedpower to the workshop. In orbit the crew conducted solar astronomyand Earth resources experiments, medical studies, and five studentexperiments. This crew made 404 orbits and carried out experimentsfor 392 hours, in the process making three EVAs totalling sixhours and 20 minutes. The first group of astronauts returned toEarth on 22 Jun. 1973, and two other Skylab missions followed.The first of these, Skylab 3, was launched using Apollohardware on 28 Jul. 1973 and its mission lasted 59 days. Skylab4, the last mission on the workshop was launched on 16 Nov.1973 and remained in orbit for 84 days. At the conclusion of Skylab4 the orbital workshop was powered down for four years.
3 Dec. 1973 Pioneer 10: The first flyby of Jupiter.
17 May 1974 SMS-A: The launch of the first geosynchronousweather satellite.
1 Sep. 1974 The interplanetary scientific probe Pioneer11, launched 5 April 1973, began an encounter with Jupiterthat brought it to within three times closer than sister spaceprobe, Pioneer 10, visiting the planet a year earlier.It also sent back the first polar images of the planet. Becauseof the successful earlier Pioneer 10 mission, NASA wasable to attempt a somewhat more risky approach with this spaceprobe, a clockwise trajectory by the south polar region and thenstraight back up through the intense inner radiation belt by theequator and back out over Jupiter's north pole. Pioneer 11closed to its closest point with Jupiter on 3 December, comingwithin 42,000 km of the surface at a speed of 171,000 kph. Thismission gathered data on the planet's magnetic field, measureddistributions of high-energy electrons and protons in the radiationbelts; measured planetary geophysical characteristics, and studiedgravity and atmosphere. It then headed on toward a September 1979encounter with Saturn and eventual departure from the Solar System.
15-24 Jul. 1975 The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was the firstinternational human space flight, taking place at the height ofthe détente between the United States and the Soviet Unionduring the mid-1970s. It was specifically designed to test thecompatibility of rendezvous and docking systems for American andSoviet spacecraft, and to open the way for international spacerescue as well as future joint missions. To carry out this missionexisting American Apollo and Soviet Soyuz spacecraft were used.The Apollo spacecraft was nearly identical to the one that orbitedthe Moon and later carried astronauts to Skylab, while the Soyuzcraft was the primary Soviet vehicle used for cosmonaut flightsince its introduction in 1967. A universal docking module wasdesigned and constructed by NASA to serve as an airlock and transfercorridor between the two craft. Astronauts Tom Stafford, VanceD. Brand, and Donald K. Slayton took off from Kennedy Space Centeron 15 Jul., to meet the already orbiting Soyuz spacecraft. Some45 hours later the two craft rendezvoused and docked, and thenApollo and Soyuz crews conducted a variety of experiments overa twoday period. The two spacecraft remained docked for44 hours, separated, then redocked, separating finally a few hourslater. After separation, the Apollo vehicle remained in spacean additional six days while Soyuz returned to Earth approximately43 hours after separation. The flight was more a symbol of thelessening of tensions between the two superpowers than a significantscientific endeavor, a sharp contrast with the competition forinternational prestige that had fueled much of the space activitiesof both nations since the late 1950s. This was the last Apollospacecraft to be flown.
5 Aug. 1975 NASA research pilot John Manke landed the X-24Blifting body on the Edwards Air Force Base runway, demonstratingthat a Space Shuttle-like vehicle could be landed safely withouta separate power source for landings on a designated runway afterreturning from orbit. Lasting from 1963 to 1975, the lifting-bodyprogram included the M2-F1, M2-F2, M2-F3, HL-10, X-24A, and X-24Bwingless lifting vehicles and served as a precursor not only tothe Space Shuttle but to the X-33 technology demonstrator fornext-generation reusable space vehicles and the X-38 prototypefor a crew return vehicle from the international space station.
20 Aug. 1975-21 May 1983 Viking 1 was launched fromthe Kennedy Space Center, on a trip to Mars. The probe landedon 20 Jul. 1976, on the Chryse Planitia (Golden Plains). Viking2 was launched for Mars on 9 Nov. 1975 and landed on 3 Sep.1976. The Viking project's primary mission ended on 15 Nov. 1976,11 days before Mars' superior conjunction (its passage behindthe Sun), although the Viking spacecraft continued to operatefor six years after first reaching Mars. Its last transmissionreached Earth on 11 Nov. 1982. Controllers at NASA's Jet PropulsionLaboratory tried unsuccessfully for another six and onehalfmonths to regain contact with the lander, but finally closed downthe overall mission on 21 May 1983.
20 Jul. 1976 The Viking 1 planetary lander toucheddown on this date on the Chryse Planitia (Golden Plains) of Marsafter a voyage of nearly one year. The Viking project's primarymission ended on 15 Nov. 1976, although the Viking spacecraftcontinued to transmit to Earth for six years after first reachingMars.
18 Feb. 1977 The first Space Shuttle orbiter, Enterprise(OV101)-named for the spacecraft made famous in the "StarTrek" television series after a promotional campaign by "trekkers"such as had never been seen before in space program history-wasfirst flown in flight tests atop the Boeing 747 ferrying aircraftat NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California.The Enterprise also made its first free flight test atDryden on 12 August 1977. The fifth and last free test flightof the Enterprise took place on 26 October 1977 with NASAastronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton at the controls. Thecaptive and free-flight tests demonstrated that the Shuttle couldfly attached to the 747, which has served since 1981 as the ShuttleCarrier Aircraft to ferry the Orbiters from Dryden, where theylanded for many years, to NASA's launch location at the KennedySpace Center. The free-flight tests demonstrated that the Shuttlecould glide to a landing on a runway, and the last landing uncovereda time delay problem with the Shuttle's flight control systemthat was corrected in a research program using NASA's F-8 DigitalFly-By-Wire aircraft between 1977 and 1981.
20 Aug. 1977-Present During the latter 1960s NASA scientistsfound that once every 176 years both the Earth and all the giantplanets of the Solar System gather on one side of the Sun. Thisgeometric line-up made possible closeup observation of allthe planets in the outer solar system (with the exception of Pluto)in a single flight, the "Grand Tour." NASA launchedtwo of these from Cape Canaveral, Florida: Voyager 2 liftingoff on 20 Aug. 1977 and Voyager 1 entering space on a faster,shorter trajectory on 5 Sep. 1977. Both spacecraft were deliveredto space aboard TitanCentaur expendable rockets. On Feb.1979 Voyager 1 entered the Jovian system, its primary objective,yet it took until 5 Mar. 1979 to arc in to the closest point whereit could explore the moons Io and Europa. In Jul. 1979 Voyager2 its sister probe and explored Jupiter's moons. The spacecraftthen traveled on to Saturn and in Jul. 1981 Voyager 2 beganreturning data from Saturn. A critical part of this encountertook place on 26 Aug. 1981 when Voyager 2 emerged frombehind Saturn only to find the aiming mechanism was jammed, causingthe instruments to be pointed out into space. This was correctedand Voyager 2 remained responsive to Earth-bound controller.Not so Voyager 1. It went up over the Saturn's orbitalplane, never to be seen again. In Sep. 1981 Voyager 2 leftSaturn behind. As the mission progressed, with the successfulachievement of all its objectives at Jupiter and Saturn in Dec.1980, additional flybys by Voyager 2 of the two outermostgiant planets, Uranus and Neptune, proved possible. In Jan. 1986Voyager 2 encountered Uranus and in 1989 it encounteredNeptune. Eventually, between them, Voyager 1 and Voyager2 explored all the giant outer planets, 48 of their moons,and the unique systems of rings and magnetic fields those planetspossess. In 1993 Voyager 2 also provided the first directevidence of the long-sought after heliopause-the boundary betweenour Solar System and interstellar space.
26 Oct. 1977 The fifth and last free test flight of theSpace Shuttle Enterprise took place. In that flight theEnterprise encountered control problems at touchdown. Whiletrying to slow the spacecraft for landing the pilot experienceda left roll, corrected for it, and touched down too hard. TheShuttle bounced once and eventually settled down to a longer landingthan expected. This "Pilot Induced Oscillation," asit was called, was occasioned by the pilot taking over from anautomated system too late and not allowing himself sufficienttime to get the "feel" of the craft. It was, fortunately,self-correcting when the pilot relaxed the controls, and the positiveresult led to a decision to take the Enterprise on to theMarshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for a seriesof ground vibration tests.
20 May 1978-9 May 1979 The United States undertook a pugnaciousmission to Venus that was intended to capitalize on scientificknowledge gained from the earlier Soviet Venera 9 and Venera10 probes. It launched Pioneer Venus Orbiter on a missionto Venus on 20 May 1978 and Pioneer Venus 2 on 8 Aug. 1978.The latter mission was to plunge into the atmosphere and returnscientific data about the planet before destruction of the vehicle.On 14 Dec. 1978 the Pioneer Venus Orbiter went into orbitaround Venus and relayed data until its systems failed. On 9 May1979 Pioneer Venus 2 sent five separate parts into theatmosphere of Venus at an average speed of 26,100 mph. Beforetheir destruction they relayed scientific data on the climate,chemical makeup, and atmospheric conditions of the planet.
26 Jun. 1978 Seasat-A was launched from VandenbergAir Force Base, California, by an Atlas-Agena launch vehicle onthis date. It was the first satellite to make global observationsof the Earth's oceans. Attached to the Atlas-Agena launch vehiclewas a sensor module which carried the payload of five microwaveinstruments and their antennas. The modules were about 21 meterslong with a maximum diameter of 1.5 m without appendages deployedand weighed 2,300 kg. In orbit the satellite appeared to standon end with the sensor and communications antennas pointing towardEarth and the Agena rocket nozzle and solar panels pointing towardspace. Seasat-A was stabilized by a momentum wheel/horizon sensingsystem. The satellite was designed to demonstrate techniques forglobal monitoring of oceanographic phenomena and features, toprovide oceanographic data, and to determine key features of anoperational ocean-dynamics monitoring system. The major differencebetween Seasat-A and previous Earth observation satellites wasthe use of active and passive microwave sensors to achieve anall-weather capability. After 106 days of returning data, contactwith Seasat-A was lost when a short circuit drained all powerfrom its batteries.
14 Aug. 1978 NASA research pilot William Dana flew thefirst of 27 data flights in an F-15 equipped with a 10-degreecone in an experiment to improve predictions based on wind-tunneldata. This flight research was sponsored by the USAF Arnold EngineeringDevelopment Center (AEDC) and conducted by NASA's Dryden FlightResearch Center in cooperation with the AEDC. Researchers acquireddata on the cone, using the same instrumentation and techniqueover a wide range of speeds and Reynolds numbers (for scalingof model-test measurements to full-scale vehicles in flight) in23 wind tunnels and in the F-15. This experiment provided an assessmentof flow quality in each of the tunnels as compared to free flight.Thus, it yielded valuable insights for interpreting data frommodels in individual tunnels and for choosing which tunnels shouldbe used for particular transonic and supersonic tests.
24 Oct. 1978 Nimbus 7: Launched environmental researchsatellite with multiple instruments, one that provided the globalevidence of Antarctic ozone depletion in the 1980s.
9 May 1979 The United States undertook a pugnacious missionto Venus that was intended to capitalize on scientific knowledgegained from the earlier Soviet Venera 9 and Venera 10probes. It launched Pioneer Venus Orbiter on a missionto Venus on 20 May 1978 and Pioneer Venus 2 on 8 August1978. The latter mission was to plunge into the atmosphere andreturn scientific data about the planet before destruction ofthe vehicle. On 14 December 1978 the Pioneer Venus Orbiterwent into orbit around Venus and relayed data until its systemsfailed. On 9 May 1979 Pioneer Venus 2 sent five separateparts into the atmosphere of Venus at an average speed of 26,100mph. Before their destruction they relayed scientific data onthe climate, chemical makeup, and atmospheric conditions of theplanet.
11 Jul. 1979 Following the final occupied phase of theSkylab mission in 1974, NASA controllers performed some engineeringtests of certain Skylab systems, positioned Skylab into a stableattitude and shut down its systems. In the fall of 1977 agencyofficials determined that Skylab had entered a rapidly decayingorbit-resulting from greater than predicted solar activity-andthat it would reenter the Earth's atmosphere within two years.They steered the orbital workshop as best they could so that debrisfrom reentry would fall over oceans and unpopulated areas of theplanet. On 11 Jul. 1979, Skylab finally impacted the Earth's surface.The debris dispersion area stretched from the Southeastern IndianOcean across a sparsely populated section of Western Australia.
24 Jul. 1979 NASA research pilot Thomas McMurtry conductedthe first flight of a KC-135 jet cargo/tanker aircraft modifiedwith winglets developed by NASA Langley Research Center's RichardT. Whitcomb. In a joint program with the Air Force, NASA and AFpilots flew the KC-135 to demonstrate fuel efficiencies that couldresult from the use of the winglets. Whitcomb had tested severaldesigns in Langley's wind tunnels before selecting roughly nine-footlong vertical fins tapering from about two to six feet in widthfrom their tips to the base where they were attached to the airplane'swingtips. The program showed that, as Whitcomb had anticipated,the winglets helped produce a forward thrust in the vortices thattypically swirl off the end of the wing, thereby reducing drag.This increased an aircraft's range by as much as seven percentat cruise speeds, resulting in the adoption of the concept bymany transport and business aircraft such as the Gulfstream IIIand IV, the Boeing 747-400, the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing)MD-11 and C-17.
14 Feb. 1980 Solar Maximum Mission: The first launch/missionto study the Sun in detail, over the course of heavy sunspot activity.
7 Mar. 1980 Research pilot John Manke made several testflights in the Gossamer Albatross, part of a joint Dryden FlightResearch Center/Langley Research Center project using humanpoweredaircraft to collect data on large lightweight craft. Manke's flightswere propelled by pedals on a bicycle-like arrangement that turnedthe propeller. Manke researched an altitude of 20 feet, and reportedthat the Albatross was like nothing he had ever flown before.
12 Apr. 1981 Astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippinflew Space Shuttle Columbia on the first flight of theSpace Transportation System (STS-1). Columbia, which takesits name from three famous vessels including one of the firstU.S. Navy ships to circumnavigate the globe, became the firstairplane-like craft to land from orbit for reuse when it toucheddown at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California at approximately10:21 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on 14 Apr. after a flight of2 days, 6 hours and almost 21 minutes. The mission also was thefirst to employ both liquid- and solid-propellant rocket enginesfor the launch of a spacecraft carrying humans.
Jun. 1981-Feb. 1983 NASA's Ames-Dryden Flight ResearchFacility performed flight research in an F-15 jet aircraft withan advanced, digitally controlled engine designed by Pratt &Whitney. Flight evaluation at Dryden and engine tests at NASA'sLewis Research Center led to significant improvements in the operabilityand performance of the engine. The Digital Electronic Engine Controlprogram demonstrated that the engine achieved stall-free performancethroughout the entire F-15 flight envelope, faster throttle response,improved airstart capability, and an increase of 10,000 feet ofaltitude in afterburner capability. The system also eliminatedthe need to trim the engine periodically, which would translateto fuel savings and longer life for the engine. The results wereimpressive enough that the Air Force committed to full-scale developmentand production of what became the F-100-PW-220/229 engines. Ina follow-on program, the Flight Research Facility conceived andtested active engine stall margin control in 1986-1987 on theF-15 Highly Integrated Digital Electronic Control program, leadingto engine and airplane performance improvements without addingweight that were used on the F-15E and F-22 airplanes.
11-16 Nov. 1982 The United States launched STS-5, the SpaceShuttle Columbia. The highlight of this mission was thatthe four astronauts aboard deployed two commercial communicationssatellites.
4-9 Apr. 1983 The United States flew STS-6, the Space ShuttleChallenger. During this mission, the crew deployed thefirst of three new shuttle launch Tracking and Data Relay Satellites(TDRSS) into geostationary orbit.
18-24 Jun. 1983 Astronauts Robert L. Crippin and FrederickH. Hauck piloted Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-7) on amission to launch two communications satellites and the reusableShuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS 01). Sally K. Ride, one of threemission specialists on the first Shuttle flight with five crewmembers,became the first woman astronaut. Challenger was namedafter the HMS Challenger, an English research vessel operatingfrom 1872 to 1876.
30 Aug. 1983 Astronauts Richard H. Truly and Daniel C.Brandstein piloted Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-8) onanother historic mission, carrying the first black American astronaut,Guion S. Bluford, into space as a mission specialist. The astronautslaunched communications satellite Insat 1B into orbit.
28 Nov. 1983 Astronauts John W. Young and Brewster W. Shawpiloted Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-9) on a mission thatcarried the first non-U.S. astronaut to fly in the U.S. spaceprogram, West German Ulf Merbold. Columbia also transportedSpacelab 1, the first flight of this laboratory in space,carrying more than 70 experiments in 5 areas of scientific research:astronomy and solar physics, space plasma physics, atmosphericphysics and Earth observations, life sciences, and materials science.
25 Jan. 1984 President Ronald Reagan made an Apollo-likeannouncement to build a Space Station within a decade as partof the State of the Union Address before Congress. Reagan's decisioncame after a long internal discussion as to the viability of thestation in the national space program.
3-10 Feb. 1984 The flight of STS-41B, the Space ShuttleChallenger, took place. During this mission on 4 Feb. thefirst unteathered flights by American astronauts took place wearingthe Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).
6 Apr. 1984 STS-41C: First on-orbit satellite repair mission(Solar Maximum Mission aboard Space Shuttle Challenger); Crippen,Dick Scobee, Terry Hart, George Nelson, James Von Hoften).
30 Aug. 1984 STS-41D: First flight of Space Shuttle Discovery.
15 Dec. 1984-Mar. 1986 An international armada of spacecraftencounter the Comet Halley during its nearest approach to theEarth in 76 years. The Soviet Union launched Vega 1 (14Dec. 1984) and Vega 2 (21 Dec. 1984), both probes thatwould encounter Venus and deploy landers on their way to theirprimary target, Halley's Comet. In 1985 the European Space Agencylaunched the Giotto probe to intercept Halley's Comet.Vega 1 deployed a lander to Venus on 11 Jun. 1985. Itslander released a balloon as it descended, taking measurements.On 15 Jun. 1985 Vega 2 performed the released a similarballoon. Both Soviet spacecraft continued on their way to Halley'sComet. Vega 1 had its closet encounter with the comet on6 Mar. 1986, closing to within a distance of 5,525 miles. Threedays later, 9 Mar., Vega 2 approached to within 4,991 milesof Halley's Comet. Finally, on 13-14 Mar. 1986 Giotto approachedHalley's Comet at about 360 miles.
8 Aug. 1985 STS-51J: First flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis.
3-7 Oct. 1985 In the first Department of Defense-dedicatedmission, the Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-51J) deployeda classified satellite.
24 Jan. 1986-25 Aug. 1989 Voyager 2 encountersUranus and Neptune.
28 Jan. 1986 The Space Shuttle Challenger, STS-51L, wasdestroyed and its crew of seven-Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, MichaelJ. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka,Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe-was killed, during itslaunch from the Kennedy Space Center about 11:40 a.m. The explosionoccurred 73 seconds into the flight as a result of a leak in oneof two Solid Rocket Boosters that ignited the main liquid fueltank. The crewmembers of the Challenger represented a cross-sectionof the American population in terms of race, gender, geography,background, and religion. The explosion became one of the mostsignificant events of the 1980s, as billions around the worldsaw the accident on television and empathized with any one ofthe seven crewmembers killed. With this accident the Space Shuttleprogram went into hiatus as investigations, restructuring of management,and technical alterations to systems took place. On 12 May 1986James C. Fletcher became the NASA Administrator for a second time,having previously served between 1971 and 1977, with the explicittask of overseeing the Agency's recovery from the accident. On6 June 1986 the Report of the Presidential Commission on the SpaceShuttle Challenger Accident was issued. The White House-appointedcommission, chaired by former Secretary of State William P. Rogers,was deliberate and thorough and its findings gave as much emphasisto the accident's managerial as to its technical origins. AstronautRichard H. Truly became the head of NASA's Shuttle program anddirected much of the recovery effort. NASA also created the Officeof Safety, Reliability, Maintainability, and Quality Assurancein response to findings from the teams investigating the Challengeraccident. The return to flight came on 29 September 1988 whenSTS-26, Discovery, was launched.
15 Aug. 1986 President Ronald Reagan announced that NASAwould no longer launch commercial satellites, except those thatwere shuttle-unique or have national security o foreign policyimplications.
15 Aug. 1986 NASA secured Presidential and Congressionalsupport for the acquisition of a replacement orbiter for Challenger.This would enable the Agency to continue its efforts to buildthe international Space Station.
14 Jul. 1987 NASA submitted to President Ronald Reagana report on the agency's implementation of the recommendationsof the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle ChallengerAccident.
Dec. 1987 The NASA Lewis Research Center's Advanced TurbopropProject (1976-1987) received the Robert Collier Trophy for outstandingresearch and development in aerospace activities. It was an ambitiousproject to return to fuel saving, propeller-driven aircraft. Atits height it involved over 40 industrial contracts, 15 universitygrants, and contracts with all four NASA research centers, Lewis,Langley, Dryden, and Ames. The progress of the advanced turbopropdevelopment seemed to foreshadow its future dominance of commercialflight. The project had four technical stages: "concept development"from 1976 to 1978; "enabling technology" from 1978 to1980; "large scale integration" from 1981 to 1987; andfinally "flight research" in 1987. During each of thesestages NASA's engineers confronted and solved specific technicalproblems that were necessary for the advanced turboprop projectto meet the defined government objectives concerning safety, efficiency,and environmental protection. NASA Lewis marshaled the resourcesand support of the United States aeronautical community to bringthe development of the new technology to the point of successfulflight testing.
29 Sep.-3 Oct. 1988 The twenty-sixth shuttle flight, thisone by Discovery, represented the return to flight forthe Space Shuttle. During this mission the crew launched the TDRS3 satellite.
4 May 1989-1993 The highly successful Magellan missionto Venus began on this date following launch on STS-30. The Magellanspacecraft set out for Venus to map the surface from orbit withimaging radar. The probe arrived at Venus in Sep. 1990 and mapped99 percent of the surface at high resolution, parts of it in stereo.The amount of digital imaging data the spacecraft returned wasmore than twice the sum of all returns from previous missions.This data provided some surprises: among them the discovery thatplate tectonics was at work on Venus and that lava flows showedclearly the evidence of volcanic activity. In 1993, at the endof its mission, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shut down themajor functions of the Magellan spacecraft and scientiststurned their attention to a detailed analysis of its data.
18 Oct. 1989-Present The Galileo spacecraft waslaunched from STS-34 on this date and began a gravityassistedjourney to Jupiter, where it would send a probe into the atmosphereand observe the planet and its satellites for two years beginningin 1995. On the way to Jupiter Galileo encountered bothVenus and the Earth and made the first close flyby of asteroidGaspra in 1991, providing scientific data on all. But soon afterdeployment from the Space Shuttle, NASA engineers learned thatGalileo's umbrellalike, highgain antenna couldnot be fully deployed. Without this antenna, communication withthe spacecraft was both more difficult and time-consuming, anddata transmission was greatly hampered. The engineering team workingon the project tried a series of cooling exercises designed toshrink the antenna central tower and enable its deployment. Overa period of several months they worked on this maneuver repeatedly,but were unable to free the antenna.
24 Apr. 1990-Present Launch of the Hubble Space Telescopefrom the Space Shuttle after more than a decade of puritanically-fundedbut productive research and development on the project in the1970s and early 1980s. Soon after launch, controllers found thatthe telescope was flawed by a "spherical aberration,"a mirror defect only 1/25th the width of a human hair, that preventedHubble from focusing all light to a single point. At first manybelieved that the spherical aberration would cripple the 43foot-longtelescope, and NASA received considerable negative publicity,but soon scientists found a way with computer enhancement to workaround the abnormality and engineers planned a Shuttle repairmission to fully correct it with an additional instrument. Evenwith the aberration, Hubble has made many important astronomicaldiscoveries, including striking images of galaxy M87, providingevidence of a potentially massive black hole.
17 Dec. 1990 Because of the difficulties NASA encounteredin its major programs at the end of the 1980s, as well as theneed periodically to review status and chart the course for thefuture, in 1990 President George Bush chartered an Advisory Committeeon the Future of the U.S. Space Program under the leadership ofNorman Augustine, chief executive officer of Martin Marietta.On this date Augustine submitted his commission's report, delineatingthe chief objectives of the agency and recommending several keyactions. All of these related to the need to create a balancedspace program-one that included human space flight, robotic probes,space science, applications, and exploration-within a tightlyconstrained budget.
15 Jul. 1991 In a joint program involving NASA's Ames,Dryden, Langley, and Lewis research centers, research pilot EdwardSchneider flew the F/A-18 High Angle-of-Attack Research Vehicle(HARV) for the first time with thrust-vectoring paddles engagedto enhance control and maneuvering at high angles of attack (anglesat which the wind in the aircraft's flight path hit the wing).This research was important because the tendency of airplanesto stall at low speeds and high angles of attack severely limitedtheir ability to maneuver. The HARV vehicle had begun controlflights without the paddles to study airflow at up to 55 degreesangle of attack in 1987. Then in the five years after 1991, theHARV reached a controllable angle of attack of 70 degrees andalso explored the maneuverability and control benefits of thrustvectoring. Together with related programs in the X-31 and F-15ACTIVE (Advanced Controls for Integrated Vehicles), the HARV demonstrateda significant enhancement of high angle-of-attack agility andmaneuverability. In addition, the HARV made a significant contributionto the applicability of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tohigh angle-of-attack flows by providing a comparison of CFD, wind-tunnel,and flight data at the same scale.
2-16 May 1992 STS-49: First flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour,including the first three-person spacewalk, which captured a privatesatellite for repair and reboost.
25 Sep. 1992-29 Oct. 1993 The Mars Observer waslaunched for an epic-making flight to the Red Planet. The spacecraftwas to provide the most detailed data available about Mars asit orbited the planet since what had been collected by the Vikingprobes of the mid-1970s. The mission was progressing smoothlyuntil about 9 p.m. on Saturday, 21 Aug. 1993, three days beforethe spacecraft's entry into orbit around Mars, when controllerslost contact with it. The engineering team working on the projectat the Jet Propulsion Laboratory responded with a series of commandsto turn on the spacecraft's transmitter and to point the spacecraft'santennas toward Earth. No signal from the spacecraft, however;the Mars Observer was not heard from again, probably becauseof an explosion in the propulsion system's tanks as they werepressurized. With no response from the Mars Observer, on29 Oct. 1993, flight controllers concluded scheduled operations.
2 Dec. 1993 Astronauts Richard O. Covey and Kenneth D.Bowersox piloted Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-61) on ahighly successful mission to repair the optics of the Hubble SpaceTelescope (HST) and perform routine servicing on the orbitingobservatory. Following a precise and flawless rendezvous, grapple,and berthing of the telescope in the cargo bay of the Shuttle,the Endeavour flight crew, in concert with controllersat Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, and Goddard Space FlightCenter, Greenbelt, Maryland, completed all eleven planned servicingtasks during five extravehicular activities for full accomplishmentof all STS-61 servicing objectives. This included installationof a new Wide Field & Planetary Camera and sets of correctiveoptics for all the other instruments, as well as replacement offaulty solar arrays, gyroscopes, magnetometers, and electricalcomponents to restore the reliability of the observatory subsystem.The Endeavour then provided HST with a reboost into a 321-nautical-mile,nearly circular orbit. Re-deployment of a healthy HST back intoorbit using the shuttle robotic arm occurred at 5:26 a.m. ESTon 10 Dec., and the telescope was once again a fully operational,free-flying spacecraft with vastly improved optics. Orbital verificationof HST's improved capabilities occurred in early Jan., well aheadof the March schedule. Endeavour, the newest of the orbiters,was named after the 18th century vessel captained by British explorerCapt. James Cook. The new Shuttle craft took its maiden voyagein May 1992.
25 Jan.-3 May 1994 After launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida,the joint Department of Defense/NASA Clementine missionmapped most of the lunar surface at a number of resolutions andwavelengths from Ultra Violet to Infrared. The spacecraft waslaunched on 25 Jan., at 16:34 local time, and the nominal lunarmission lasted until the spacecraft left lunar orbit on 3 May.A malfunction in one of the on-board computers on 7 May at 14:39UTC (9:39 AM EST) caused a thruster to fire until it had usedup all of its fuel, leaving the spacecraft spinning at about 80RPM with no spin control. The spacecraft remained in geocentricorbit and continued testing the spacecraft components until theend of mission. Perhaps the most important scientific findingof the mission was the possibility of an abundant supply of wateron the Moon that would make establishment of a self-sustaininglunar colony much more feasible and less expensive than presentlythought. Study of lunar samples revealed that the interior ofthe Moon is essentially devoid of water, so no underground suppliescould be used by lunar inhabitants. However, the lunar surfaceis bombarded with water-rich objects such as comets, and scientistshave suspected that some of the water in these objects could migrateto permanently dark areas at the lunar poles, perhaps accumulatingto useable quantities. Analysis of data returned from a radio-waveexperiment performed by Clementine revealed that depositsof ice exist in permanently dark regions near the south pole ofthe Moon. Initial estimates suggested that the volume of a smalllake exists, 1 billion cubic meters.
3-11 Feb. 1994 Astronauts Charles F. Bolden and KennethS. Reightler, Jr., flew Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-60)on a historic mission featuring the first Russian cosmonaut tofly on a U.S. mission in space, Mission Specialist Sergei K. Krikalev,veteran of two lengthy stays aboard the Russian Mir Space Station.This mission underlined the newly inaugurated cooperation in spacebetween Russia and the U.S., featuring Russia's becoming an internationalpartner in the international space station effort involving theU.S. and its international partners.
3-11 Feb. 1995 Exactly one year after a major cooperativeflight with the Russians in STS-60, NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery,this time STS-63, flew another historic mission featuring theflyby of the Russian Mir Space Station. It also featuredthe first time that a woman pilot, Eileen M. Collins, flew theSpace Shuttle. Vladimir Titov is also aboard, the first Russianto be launched aboard a U.S. spacecraft.
27 Jun.-7 Jul. 1995 Twenty years after the world's twogreatest spacefaring nations and Cold War rivals staged a dramaticlinkup between piloted spacecraft in the Apollo-Soyuz TestProject during the summer of 1975, the space programs of the UnitedStates and Russia again met in Earth orbit when the Space ShuttleAtlantis docked to the Mir Space Station. The STS71mission by Atlantis was the first of seven planned shuttle/Mirlinkups between 1995 and 1997, including rendezvous, docking,and crew transfers. Atlantis docked with Mir on29 Jul., and the combine crew of astronauts and cosmonauts performedseveral experiments. At the end of joint docked activities on4 Jul., two Russian cosmonauts lifted to the Mir by theshuttle, assumed responsibility for operations of the Mirstation. At the same time, the Mir18 crew, who hadbeen aboard the station since 16 Mar. 1995-Commander VladimirDezhurov, Flight Engineer Gennady Strekalov, and American astronautNorm Thagard-joined the STS71 crew for the return trip toEarth. Thagard returned home with the American record for a singlespace flight with more than 100 days in space. The previous recordhad been held by the Skylab4 crew with 84 days in19731974. Thagard broke that record on 6 Jun. 1995.
11-20 Nov. 1995 This mission by the Space Shuttle Atlantiscarried up and attached a Russian-built docking port and orbiterdocking system to the Mir space station for use in futureshuttle dockings.
28 Nov. 1995 A McDonnell-Douglas MD-11-equipped with apropulsion controlled aircraft (PCA) system developed by NASA'sDryden Flight Research Center, McDonnell Douglas Aerospace, Pratt& Whitney Aircraft, and Honeywell, Inc.-made the first-eversafe, fully automated landing of a transport aircraft using onlyengine thrust for control. NASA Dryden engineers and pilots begandeveloping the system in the wake of a long series of failuresof hydraulic flight control systems in the 1970s, three of whichresulted in crashes claiming the lives of over 1,200 people. Thesystem evolved through landings by NASA research pilot GordonFullerton of a NASA F-15 research aircraft using a similar systemin April 1993 and of the MD-11 in August 1995 with a prototypesystem that required him to use cockpit knobs and thumbwheelsaided by a still-developing software system. The system used forlandings on 28 and 30 November 1995 relieved the pilot of virtuallyall manual manipulation beyond engaging the auto-land system.The PCA system has the potential of providing aircraft a back-upsystem to enable safe landings in the event the airplane losesits hydraulic controls.
7 Dec. 1995 Galileo: Probe released into Jupiter'satmosphere.
22-31 Mar. 1996 In this Atlantis shuttle missionto dock with the Russian space station Mir, the UnitedStates left astronaut Shannon Lucid, the first U.S. woman to flyon the station, aboard for a total of five months.
7 Aug. 1996 NASA announced that a team of its scientistshad uncovered evidence, however not conclusive proof, that microscopiclife may have once existed on Mars. The team of scientists recountedthe meteor's history, found in Antarctica in 1984 and why theysuspect it is from Mars. The 4.2 pound, potato-sized rock, identifiedas ALH84001, is approximately the same age as the Red Planet.When ALH84001 formed as an igneous rock about 4.5 billion yearsago, Mars was much warmer and probably contained oceans hospitableto life. Then, about 15 million years ago, a large asteroid hitthe Red Planet and jettisoned the rock into space where it remaineduntil it crashed into Antarctica about 11,000 B.C. The nine-memberteam of NASA and Stanford University scientists, led by JohnsonSpace Center scientists David S. McKay and Everett K. Gibson,Jr., presented three compelling, but not conclusive, pieces ofevidence that suggest that fossil-like remains of Martian microorganisms,which date back 3.6 billion years, are present in ALH84001. Duringtheir two-and-a-half year investigation, the JSC team found traceminerals in the meteor that are usually associated with microscopicorganisms. They also used a newly developed electron microscopeto uncover possible microfossils that measure between 1/100 to1/1000 the diameter of a human hair. Finally, discovered organicmolecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in ALH84001,usually resulting when microorganisms die and their complex organicmolecules breakdown. They called for additional research fromother scientists either to confirm or refute these findings.
13 Aug. 1996 Data from NASA's Galileo probe at Jupiterrevealed that the gas giant's moon, Europa, may harbor "warmice" or even liquid water-key elements in life-sustainingenvironments. Many scientists and science fiction writers havespeculated that Europa-in addition to Mars and Saturn's moon Titan-isone of the three planetary bodies in this Solar System that mightpossess, or may have possessed, an environment where primitivelife can exist. Galileo's photos of Europa were taken during aflyby of Ganymede some 96,000 miles away from Europa. They revealwhat look like ice floes similar to those seen in Earth's polarregions. The pictures also reveal what look like giant cracksin Europa's ice where warm water "environmental niches"may exist. Although NASA officials stressed that the photos donot conclusively prove anything, they do think that the imagesare exciting, compelling, and suggestive.
16-26 Sep. 1996 The Atlantis docked with Mirand retrieved Shannon Lucid and left John Blaha for continuedjoint operations aboard the Russian station. Astronaut Lucid seta new record for an American living in space and broke the world'srecord for a woman living in space by spending 181 days aboardthe Russian Mir Space Station. President Clinton presented Lucid,who conducted microgravity and life sciences experiments aboardthe Mir, with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor inan early December ceremony, citing Lucid "for her contributionsto international cooperation in space...Shannon Lucid is an explorerin the best tradition of those who dare to challenge the unknown."
13 Jan. 1997 NASA scientists announced the discovery ofthree black holes in three normal galaxies, suggesting that nearlyall galaxies may harbor supermassive black holes which once poweredquasars (extremely luminous nuclei of galaxies), but now are quiescent.This conclusion was based on a census of 27 nearby galaxies carriedout by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based telescopesin Hawaii, which were used to conduct a spectroscopic and photometricsurvey of galaxies to find black holes which have consumed themass of millions of Sun-like stars. The key results are: (1) supermassiveblack holes are so common that nearly every large galaxy has one,(2) a black hole's mass is proportional to the mass of the hostgalaxy, so that, for example, a galaxy twice as massive as anotherwould have a black hole that is also twice as massive, (3) thenumber and masses of the black holes found are consistent withwhat would have been required to power the quasars.
11-21 Feb. 1997 In a record five extravehicular activity(EVA) operations, astronauts from the shuttle Discoveryperformed the second Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission.This mission replaced the near-infra red camera (NICMOS) and thetwo-dimensional spectrograph and repaired insulation on the telescope.
20 Feb. 1997 The space probe Galileo exploring Jupiterand its moons discovered Icebergs on Europa. Images captured duringGalileo's closest flyby of Europa showed features of theJovian moon, lending credence to the possibility of hidden, subsurfaceoceans. The findings generated new questions about the possibilityof life on Europa.
1-7 May 1997 A fleet of spacecraft with the InternationalSolar Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) program watched for a break inComet Hale-Bopp's plasma ion tail. Amateur astronomers aroundthe world were also put on watch the first week of May 1997 whenspace scientists predicted based on earlier data from ISTP spacecraftestimated that Comet Hale-Bopp's ion tail likely would be disruptedwhen it enters a region around the Sun known as the "currentsheet." Scientists explained that the disruption was a complicatedinteraction between the comet and the Sun's influence and magneticfields. The comet first appeared in the spring and excited astronomersfor its high visibility and ready analysis.
4 Jul. 1997 The inexpensive Mars Pathfinder (costingonly $267 million) landed on Mars, after its launch in December1996. A small, 23-pound robotic rover, named Sojourner,departed the main lander and began to record weather patterns,atmospheric opacity, and the chemical composition of rocks washeddown into the Ares Vallis flood plain, an ancient outflow channelin Mars' northern hemisphere. This vehicle completed its projectedmilestone 30-day mission on 3 Aug. 1997, capturing far more dataon the atmosphere, weather, and geology of Mars than scientistshad expected. In all, the Pathfinder mission returned morethan 1.2 gigabits (1.2 billion bits) of data and over 10,000 tantalizingpictures of the Martian landscape. The images from both craftwere posted to the Internet, to which individuals turned for informationabout the mission more than 500 million times through the endof July.
25 Aug. 1997-Present Real-time data from NASA's AdvancedComposition Explorer were incorporated into the daily weatherforecasting system by the end of the year. NOAA's Space EnvironmentCenter in Boulder, Colorado, used data from this system to tracksolar disturbances. Positioned between the Sun and the Earth,the spacecraft intercepts solar winds and geomagnetic activityand allows forecasters to warn users such as satellite operators,power control centers, and others of the threat to their electronicsystems resulting from sudden fluctuations in solar energy reachingEarth.
11 Sep. 1997 The Mars Global Surveyor space probe,launched in December 1996, entered orbit at the red planet. Thespacecraft's magnetometer, detected a magnetic field on 15 Sep.The existence of a planetary magnetic field has important implicationsfor the geological history of Mars and for the possible developmentand continued existence of life on Mars. The magnetic field hadimportant implications for the evolution of Mars. Planets likeEarth, Jupiter, and Saturn generate their magnetic fields by meansof a dynamo made up of moving molten metal at the core. This metalis a very good conductor of electricity, and the rotation of theplanet creates electrical currents deep within the planet thatgive rise to the magnetic field. A molten interior suggests theexistence of internal heat sources, which could give rise to volcanoesand a flowing crust responsible for moving continents over geologictime periods.
25 Sep.-6 Oct. 1997 In this seventh docking mission withthe Russian space station Mir, the shuttle Atlantisdelivered three Russian air tanks and nine Mir batteries(170 pounds each). It also delivered a Spektor module repairkit (500 pounds), which enabled the station crew to begin seriousrepairs damaged in the Progress collision of 25 Jun. Themission also delivered 1,400 pounds of water; 1,033 pounds ofU.S. science items; and 3,000 pounds of Russian supplies. Duringthis mission Russian cosmonauts Parazynski and Titov conduct anEVA to retrieve four environmental effects space exposure experiments(MEEPS) on Mir's module. Atlantis also flew aroundMir to assess the damage to the station. The astronautMichael Foale also departed for Earth after a stay of nearly fivemonths and was replaced by astronaut David Wolf.
15 Oct. 1997 The international Cassini space probemission left Earth bound for Saturn atop an Air Force Titan IV-B/Centaurrocket in a picture-perfect launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida.With the European Space Agency's Huygens probe and a high-gainantenna provided by the Italian Space Agency, Cassini willarrive at Saturn on 1 July 2004.
Dec. 1997 Scientists using the joint European Space Agency/NASASolar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft have discovered"jet streams" or "rivers" of hot, electricallycharged plasma flowing beneath the surface of the Sun. Thesenew findings will help scientists understand the famous 11-yearsunspot cycle and associated increases in solar activity thatcan disrupt the Earth's power and communications systems.
6 Jan. 1998 Lunar Prospector was launched on thisdate for a one-year polar mission to explore the Moon, especiallywhether or not water ice is buried inside the lunar crust. Developedas part of the Discovery program of frequent, low-cost missions,Lunar Prospector carried a small payload of only five instruments.Besides water, Lunar Prospector was also to look for othernatural resources, such as minerals and gases, that could be usedto build and sustain a future human lunar base or in manufacturingfuel for launching spacecraft from the Moon to the rest of theSolar System. The spacecraft's Gamma Ray Spectrometer will alsocollect a large amount of scientific data about chemical compositionof the lunar surface and will measure the Moon's magnetic andgravitational fields. Its Alpha Particle Spectrometer will sniffout small quantities of gases that leak out from the lunar interior.Collectively, the scientific data that Prospector willsend back to Earth will help researchers construct a more completeand detailed map of the Moon. In Mar. 1998 Lunar Prospectordetected the presence of water ice at both lunar poles, usingdata from the spacecraft's neutron spectrometer instrument. Thelunar water ice is estimated at an overall range of eleven millionto 330 million tons of lunar water ice dispersed over 3,600 to18,000 square miles of water ice-bearing deposits across the northernpole, and an additional 1,800 to 7,200 square miles across thesouthern polar region. Furthermore, twice as much of the waterice mixture was detected by Lunar Prospector at the Moon'snorth pole as at the south.
29 Jan. 1998 An International Space Station agreement among15 countries met in Washington to sign agreements to establishthe framework for cooperation among the partners on the design,development, operation, and utilization of the Space Station.Acting Secretary of State Strobe Talbott signed the 1998 IntergovernmentalAgreement on Space Station Cooperation, along with representativesof Russia, Japan, Canada and participating countries of the EuropeanSpace Agency (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands,Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). Threebilateral memoranda of understanding were also signed by NASAAdministrator Daniel S. Goldin separately with his counterparts:Russian Space Agency General Director Yuri Koptev, ESA DirectorGeneral Antonio Rodota and Canadian Space Agency President William(Mac) Evans.
12 Mar. 1998 Development of the X-38, a spacecraft designplanned for use as a future International Space Station emergencycrew return "lifeboat," passed a major milestone todaywith a successful first unpiloted flight test. The first X-38atmospheric test vehicle was dropped from under the wing of NASA'sB-52 aircraft at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA,at 11:30 a.m. EST and completed a descent from a 23,000 foot altitudeat 11:38 a.m. EST. The test focused on the use of the X-38's parafoilparachute, which deployed as planned within seconds after thevehicle's release from the B-52 and guided the test craft to landing.Atmospheric tests of the X-38 will continue for the next two yearsusing three increasingly complex test vehicles. The drop testswill increase in altitude to a height of 50,000 feet and includelonger flight times for the test craft prior to deployment ofthe parafoil. In 2000, an unpiloted space test vehicle is plannedto be deployed from a Space Shuttle and descend to a landing.The X-38 crew return vehicle is targeted to begin operations aboardthe International Space Station in 2003. Eventually, the X-38will become the first new human spacecraft designed to returnhumans from orbit in more than twenty years, and it is being developedat a fraction of the cost of past human space vehicles. The primaryapplication of the new spacecraft would be as an InternationalSpace Station "lifeboat," but the project also aimsat developing a design that could be easily modified for otheruses, such as a possible joint U.S. and international human spacecraftthat could be launched on expendable rockets as well as the SpaceShuttle.
May 28, 1998 The Hubble Space Telescope gave humanity itsfirst direct image of what is probably a planet outside our solarsystem-one apparently that has been ejected into deep space byits parent stars. Located in a star-forming region in the constellationTaurus, the object called TMR-1C, appears to lie at the end ofa strange filament of light that suggests it has apparently beenflung away from the vicinity of a newly forming pair of binarystars. At a distance of 450 light-years, the same distance asthe newly formed stars, the candidate protoplanet would be tenthousand times less luminous than the Sun. If the object is afew hundred thousand years old, the same age as the newly formedstar system which appears to have ejected it, it was estimatedto be two to three times the mass of Jupiter, the largest gasgiant planet in our Solar System.
Bill Barry, NASA Chief Historian
Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
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