- First Earth photo from satellite. (Vanguard II)
- First successful weather satellite. (TIROS I)
- First passive communications satellites. (Echo I/II)
- First Earth-orbiting spacecraft launched by an all-solid rocket. (Explorer 9, Scout rocket)
- First privately-built communications satellite. (Telstar I)
- First international satellite. (Ariel 1)
- First geosynchronous communications satellite. (Syncom I)
- First operational trans-Atlantic communications satellite, for Comsat Corp. (Intelsat I)
- First satellite launch from mobile sea-based platform. (San Marco II)
- First gravity gradient satellite control system. (ATS II)
- First pictures of the Sun in UV wavelengths. (OSO-IV)
- First X-ray satellite. (Explorer 42) Explorer 42 was one of three Small Astronomy Satellites that provided the first X-ray maps. Launched Dec. 12, 1970, Explorer 42 catalogued more than 200 X-ray sources and found the first evidence for a black hole.
- First geostationary weather satellite. (SMS A)
- First Earth Resources Technology (remote sensing- Landsat) satellite. (ERTS A)
- Pioneered Get-Away Special low-cost Shuttle experiment concept. (STS-4 1982)
- First satellite repaired in space. (SMM 1984)
- First space-based observations of ozone layer/hole. (Nimbus 7)
- Pioneered satellite-based tracking and data relay system. (TDRSS)
- First satellite to observe cosmic background radiation from early universe. (confirm big bang theory) (COBE)
- Pioneered SMEX satellite concept
- First image of the global biosphere, to include ocean phytoplankton and land vegetation. (SeaWifs 1998)
- First celestial survey in the Extreme Ultraviolet portion of the spectrum. (EUVE)
- First satellite to explore very rapid changes in x-rays from pulsars to black holes. (RXTE)
- First use of satellite tracking data to improve our knowledge of Earth's gravity field, learning we have a pear shaped world. (Minitrack on Vanguard l)
- First transfer of a liquid cryogen in space. (SHOOT, 1993, demonstrated the feasibility of on-orbit replenishment of stored cryogens such as liquid oxygen)
- First measurement of the global ozone amount from space. (BUV, Nimbus)
- First measurements of aerosols from space. (TOMS, 1979)
- First detection of volcanic SO2 from space. (El Chichon, TOMS, 1982)
- First space mission dedicated to observing and understanding tropical rainfall, more than 2/3's of all rainfall on Earth. (TRMM)
- First three axis stabilized Geostationary Weather satellite. (GOES l)
- First to use a Lagrangian point orbit: the International Sun-EarthExplorer-3 halo orbit about the L1 Lagrangian point of the sun-earth system (1978). The SOHO and ACE spacecraft are currently using such orbits.
- First spacecraft to encounter a comet: the International Cometary Explorer intercepted Comet Giacobini-Zinner on September 11, 1985, following a lunar-swingby within 80 miles of the lunar surface.
- First observations of the Earth's magnetic fields.
- First electrically neutralized spacecraft (POLAR) equipped to observe the Earth's polar cap and lobe plasma environments.
- First spacecraft (POLAR) making simultaneous images of the earth's auroral zones.
- ATS-6 provided first satellite communications with aircraft. (PLACE experiment).
- ATS-6 provided first satellite television communications for teaching college courses.
- ATS-6 provided first satellite television communications for medical treatment in remote locations (medical treatment of Eskimos in Alaska).
- ATS-3 demonstrated first satellite supported communications with ships at sea. (GE experiments with ships).
- The first satellite to provide everyday coverage of Earth's radiation environment for more than 25 years. (IMP 8)
- First satellite in lunar orbit. (Explore 35)
- First radio astronomy spacecraft. (RAE)
- Largest antenna erected in space, 460 meters tip-to-tip. (RAE)
- First use of multiple spacecraft to track solar disturbances traveling through interplanetary space. (ISEE-3, Ulysses, WIND).
- First measurement of water vapor, Ethane and Methane, in comets. (with NASA's Kuiper Airborne Observatory and Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, HI)
- Discovery of x-ray Emission from Comets (with ROSAT and EUVE satellites)
- First circumnavigation of Antarctica by a balloon in January 1989.
- First use of the internet for real-time science data operations which occurred during the first encounter of a comet by ISEE-3/ICE. (Sept. 1985)
- First images of host galaxies ray bursts. (Hubble Space Telescope/STIS)
- First in-orbit repair of an astronomical optical system. (Hubble Space Telescope)
- First observation of the eerie ultraviolet light from Earth's upper atmosphere. (Sounding Rocket)
- First ultraviolet images of galaxies. (sounding rocket)
- First space observatory for use by all astronomers. (IUE)
- First extremely sharp extreme ultraviolet image of the solar corona. (TRACE)
- First spacecraft to make comprehensive measurements of the Earth's environment of particles, fields and radiation. (OGO I)
- First spacecraft to explore the boundary of Earth's magnetosphere. (Explorer X)
- First spacecraft to explore the Earth's bow shock in the solar wind. (IMP 1)
- First test on ion drive in space. (ATS-6)
- First global image of the Earth's biosphere that includes ocean phytoplankton and land vegetation (SeaWiFS 1998)
- First spacecraft over 35,000 pounds to be taken to space by the space shuttle. (Compton Ray Observatory)
- Nimbus 7: First imagery of the surface of the earth though clouds. (Nimbus 7 SMMR)
- Nimbus 7: First all-weather observations of the amount of sea ice on the polar oceans on a regular basis. This is one of the most reliable indicators of climate change, and will permit us to determine whether or not the climate is warming, cooling, or merely oscillating with a long-term period. (SMMR)
- First tracking and data relay constellation developed and launched by Goddard
- First spacecraft stationed in a libration-point orbit. (International Sun-Earth Explorer-3/ISEE-3)
- First real-time warning system for geomagnetic storms. (ISEE-3)
- First use of multiple lunar swingbys for orbital control in the Earth-Moon System. (ISEE-3)
- First encounter with a comet. (ISEE-3)
- NASA's original Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-1), launched from the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-6) in April 1983, went from almost being "lost in space," to a remarkable example of the agency's "can do, never quit" attitude. On April 4, TDRS-1 celebrates 20 years of outstanding service and "firsts."
- NASA/GSFC Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) Network Firsts
- 1964: First successful demonstration of SLR to Beacon Explorer 22-B satellite at GSFC (3 m ranging)
- 1968-1976: NASA, CNES, and SAO SLR systems carried out first meter level global geodetic and gravity field measurements using reflectors on remote sensing satellites
- 1969: NASA Apollo 11 mission places first retroreflector array on Moon to begin international Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) effort.
- 1975-1976: CNES and NASA launched first passive satellites dedicated to SLR (Starlette and LAGEOS) to begin modern space geodetic era
- 1975-1979: NASA builds up SLR network for POD support of GEOSAT and SEASAT ocean altimetric missions (10 - 20 cm ranging).
- 1979-1993: NASA Crustal Dynamics Project (CDP) provides focus for further technology development (1 cm ranging) and international cooperation in defining contemporary tectonic plate motions, regional crustal deformation, Earth Orientation Parameters, Earth gravity field etc.
- 1992-present: Various US and European remote sensing missions (e.g. ERS-1 & 2, TOPEX/Poseidon, GFO) rely heavily on centimeter orbits provided by SLR. NASA provides the world’s data most precise data and until budget cuts in 2003, provided half of the global
- 1998-present: GSFC selected as the Central Bureau (CB) for the new International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS). The CB is responsible for overseeing global operations of 40 international stations providing cmaccuracy orbits for 20 artificial satellites (and the Moon) and ensuring that all ILRS stations, operations, data, and analysis centers adhere to ILRS standards.
Explorer 42/SAS I