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This Month in Exploration - April
04.01.09
Visit "This Month in Exploration" every month to find out how aviation and space exploration have changed throughout the years, improving life for humans on Earth and in space. While reflecting on the events that led to NASA's formation and its rich history of accomplishments, "This Month in Exploration" will reveal where the agency is leading us -- to the moon, Mars and beyond.

NASA's Mercury 7 AstronautsThe Mercury 7 Astronauts. Credit: NASA 100 Years Ago

April 6, 1909: The first airplane designed completely by aircraft pioneer Henri Farman, flew. The Henri Farman III was the first aircraft with ailerons incorporated into its wings. These hinged control surfaces attached to the trailing edge of the wing are used to control the aircraft in roll. They are one of the three primary control surfaces that affect the maneuverability of an aircraft. The other two devices are the elevator and the rudder.

80 Years Ago

April 3, 1929: Orville and Wilbur Wright received their first official recognition by the state of Ohio as co-inventors of the heavier-than-air flying machine at a ceremony in Columbus, Ohio.

75 Years Ago

April 11, 1934: Commander Renato Donati established an altitude record of 47,352 feet in a Caproni aircraft in Rome. Donati used an oxygen mask to overcome the oxygen deprivation pilots experience when they fly higher than 40,000 feet.

NASA Gravity Probe-BAn artist's concept of Gravity Probe B orbiting Earth to measure space-time. Credit: NASA 50 Years Ago

April 9, 1959: NASA announced the selection of the first American astronauts, the Mercury Seven. Project Mercury's objectives were to send a person into Earth orbit aboard a spacecraft, to observe that person's reaction to spaceflight and to bring him and the spacecraft home safely.

45 Years Ago

April 8, 1964: NASA launched Gemini 1, an unpiloted test flight of the agency's second human spaceflight program. The mission formally ended after Gemini 1 orbited Earth three times, proving the Titan II launch vehicle. Four days later, it burned up as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

40 Years Ago

April 14, 1969: NASA launched Nimbus 3 from the Western Space Missile Center. Nimbus were weather research satellites designed to test advanced meteorological equipment. Nimbus 3 was the first American weather satellite to take global measurements of day and night temperatures at various levels in the atmosphere.

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25 Years Ago

April 6, 1984: The crew of space shuttle Challenger's STS-41C mission performed the first on-orbit satellite repair. Using the manned maneuvering unit, astronauts replaced the altitude control system and an electronics box on the Solar Max satellite while it remained in orbit.

15 Years Ago

April 9, 1994: Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on the STS-59 mission carrying the first Hispanic shuttle commander, Sidney M. Gutierrez. The mission marked the first flight of Toughened Uni-Piece Fibrous Insulation, an improved thermal protection tile. STS-59 lasted 11 days, 5 hours, and 49 minutes.

10 Years Ago

April 16, 1999: The Russian expendable freighter spacecraft, Progress M-41, carried Sputnik Jr. 3 to the Russian Space Station Mir where the crew pushed it out. Sputnik Jr. 3 was a micro-satellite that carried tape-recorded voices of the children in Russia and France who built it.

A Boeing Delta IV rocket launching GOES-N satellite into space.A Boeing Delta IV rocket roars off the launchpad to lift the GOES-N satellite into space. Credit: NASA Five Years Ago

April 20, 2004: NASA launched Gravity Probe-B using a Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The mission aims to test two predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity. For fifteen months, it collected data, which scientists continue to diligently analyze.

Present Day

April 28: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will launch the GOES-O satellite via the United Launch Alliance Delta IV from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. GOES satellites provide the weather pictures often seen on television news programs.

Lee A. Jackson (Analex Corporation)

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