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This Month in Exploration - April
04.06.10
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.

The NACA Official Seal.The NACA official seal. Credit: NASA 95 Years Ago

April 2, 1915: President Woodrow Wilson appointed the first 12 members of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Twenty one days later, on April 23, the Secretary of War called the first meeting in his office. Brig. Gen. George P. Scriven, Chief Signal Officer, was elected temporary chairman, and Dr. Charles D. Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, was elected first chairman of the NACA Executive Committee.

90 Years Ago

April 1, 1920: The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics approved the publication of Technical Report No. 91, "Nomenclature for Aeronautics." The purpose of the document was to promote the use of uniform technical terms and symbols.

85 Years Ago

April 13, 1925: Henry Ford started the first commercial flights that flew on a regular schedule. They flew airmail between Detroit and Chicago. Earlier that year he formed the Ford Air Transport Service and was awarded the Chicago-Detroit and Cleveland-Detroit airmail routes. Ford returned to manufacturing after three years of carrying the mail.

80 Years Ago

April 4, 1930: David Lasser, G. Edward Pendray, Fletcher Pratt and nine others founded The American Interplanetary Society, later the American Rocket Society (ARS), in New York City to promote interest in and work toward interplanetary expeditions and travel.

Engineers making adjustments to the Intelsat I (Early Bird) satellite. Engineers making adjustments to the Intelsat I (Early Bird) satellite. Credit: NASA 75 Years Ago

April 16-23, 1935: Pan American Airways' S-42 Pioneer Clipper flew from California to Honolulu and onward in a preliminary survey flight for a transpacific air route to Asia. By the end of the year, a new historical airmail route was established, heralding a new era of business and travel for Hawaii.

65 Years Ago

April 1, 1945: The U.S. Army fired the first of 17 Jet Propulsion Laboratory Private F rockets at Hueco Range at Fort Bliss, Texas as part of its historic Ordnance/CIT ballistic rocket program.

50 Years Ago

April 4, 1960: Frank D. Drake initiated Project Ozma using the 85-foot Howard E. Tatel Radio Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, W. Va. It was the first systematic attempt to detect artificial radio signal patterns from nearby stars. After 150 hours of listening, the project returned no evidence. However, Project Ozma was the precursor for many more, increasingly sophisticated searches which continue today.

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45 Years Ago

April 6, 1965: The United States launched Intelsat I, the first commercial communications satellite, into geostationary orbit. Also called “Early Bird,” the satellite provided the first scheduled transoceanic television service and was operational for 3.5 years.

40 Years Ago

April 11-17, 1970: NASA launched Apollo 13 via a Saturn-V rocket. About 56 hours into the flight, an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module exploded and damaged several of the systems, including life support. People throughout the world watched, waited and hoped as NASA personnel on the ground and the Apollo crew worked together to find a way safely home. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert used the lunar module as a lifeboat before returning to the control module for reentry. After a dramatic period of innovative recalculation at Mission Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Houston, Texas, the crew returned safely six days later.

30 Years Ago

April 26, 1980: The U.S. Department of Defense launched the NavStar 6 navigation satellite via Atlas F rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The NavStar Global Positioning System (GPS) is a radio-positioning system of satellites that provides navigation and timing information to military and civilian users across the globe.

Mission Control Center during the Apollo 13 emergency return.Mission Control Center during the Apollo 13 emergency return. Credit: NASA 25 Years Ago

April 29, 1985: NASA launched the space shuttle Challenger (STS-51B) from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. It was the first operational flight for the Spacelab orbital laboratory series developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). The orbiter made its first crosswind landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California at the end of this mission.

20 Years Ago

April 24, 1990: NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope on space shuttle Discovery (STS-31). Soon after launch, controllers found that the telescope was flawed by a mirror defect only 1/25th the width of a strand of human hair. Scientists found a way to work around it using computer enhancement, and engineers planned a shuttle repair mission to fully correct it. Hubble has made many important astronomical discoveries, including generating images of galaxy M87 and providing evidence of a potentially massive black hole.

15 Years Ago

April 3, 1995: NASA launched the MicroLab 1 mini-satellite on a Pegasus rocket carried aloft by an L-1011 aircraft flying out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mini-satellite carried meteorological experiments designed to track lightning and to provide detailed temperature and moisture profiles across the globe. Data from this mini-satellite has shown that more than 1.2 billion lightning flashes occur around the world every year, with more lightning strikes occurring over land masses than over the oceans.

10 Years Ago

April 4, 2000: Russia launched Soyuz TM-30 from The Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the last Soyuz mission to the 14 year-old Mir space station. Cosmonauts Zalyotin and Kaleri reactivated the uninhabited station and used two Progress spacecraft to raise the station’s orbit. Prior to this mission, Mir’s orbital plane was only around 120 degrees away from the International Space Station, making transport between the two stations impossible.

5 Years Ago

April 15, 2005: Russia launched Soyuz-TMA 6 from The Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying the Expedition 10 crew to the International Space Station. The crew included three astronauts; Sergei Krikalev (Russian), John Phillips (American) and Robert Vittori (Italian.) During the mission, Krikalev broke the record for total time in space.

Present Day

April 5, 2010: The space shuttle Discovery (Mission STS-131) launched from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. at 6:21 a.m. EDT. Discovery will carry a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module filled with science racks to transfer to laboratories of the International Space Station. STS-131 is the 33rd shuttle mission to the station.

Lee A. Jackson (Analex Corporation)

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