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This Month in Exploration - February
02.02.09
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.

A NACA cowling airfoil being tested.The Lockheed Air Express, with NACA cowling. Credit: NASA 100 Years Ago

February 23, 1909: Canadian John McCurdy → made the first powered flight in the British Empire in the Silver Dart at Baddeck Bay, Nova Scotia. He flew nearly a half a mile and landed safely on the ice.

95 Years Ago

February 11, 1914: H. Berliner set a distance record for balloons over land by flying 1,890 miles from Bitterfeldt, Germany to Kirgischano, Russia.

February 14, 1914: Lt. Townsend Dodd and Sgt. Herbert Marcus flew the U.S. Signal Corps' Burgess H tractor biplane 244.8 miles in 4 hours 43 minutes, establishing an official American nonstop duration and distance record. The flight not only set a record for two people in one airplane, but also exceeded the previous single-seat record.

90 Years Ago

February 21, 1919: The prototype of Boeing's Thomas-Morse MB-3, the first US-designed fighter to enter large-scale production, made its maiden flight.

80 Years Ago

February 4-5, 1929: Capt. Frank Hawks and O. E. Grubb established a new West-East nonstop transcontinental record of 18 hours, 22 minutes in a single-engine Lockheed Air Express. It was the first practical application of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' (NACA) cowling→, an aerodynamic cover for radial engines. The NACA cowling enhanced speed and increased fuel efficiency by reducing drag.

75 Years Ago

February 19, 1934: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an Executive Order canceling existing airmail contracts because of fraud and collusion. He designated the Army Air Corps to temporarily take over airmail operations →.

Vanguard 2 satelliteVanguard 2 Satellite. Credit NASA 60 Years Ago

February 4, 1949: The Civil Aviation Authority authorized the use of ground control approach landing aids. These systems used radar to help air traffic controllers direct pilots while landing in fog or bad weather.

50 Years Ago

February 17, 1959: The Navy launched the principal International Geophysical Year scientific satellite, Vanguard 2. This Earth-orbiting satellite measured cloud cover.

45 Years Ago

February 26, 1964: The Sonny Liston vs. Cassius Clay Championship fight was the first visual telecast via communications satellite. The telecast used the Relay 2 satellite. Before the fight, Clay, now known as Muhammad Ali, predicted his win by writing a poem that included the line "Who on Earth thought, when they came to the fight, that they would witness the launching of a human satellite."

35 Years Ago

February 11, 1974: The first Titan-Centaur lifted off from Cape Kennedy Air Force Station. The Range Safety Officer destroyed it when the Centaur stage failed to ignite. The launch was a proof-of-concept flight designed to prepare for twin Viking launches to Mars in 1975 and other missions involving heavy payloads.

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30 Years Ago

February 6, 1979: Japan launched the experimental communications satellite called Ayame, from Tanegashima Space Center on an N-1 rocket. Ayame was designed for communications tests at very high frequencies.

February 25, 1979: The Soviet Union launched Soyuz 32 from Baykonur. It carried a two-man crew to occupy the orbiting Sulyut 6 space station. Lt. Col. Vladimir Lyakhov, acting as commander on his first flight, and flight engineer Valery Ryumin, manned Soyuz 32.

25 Years Ago

February 4, 1984: American astronauts performed the first untethered excursions wearing the Manned Maneuvering Unit, a rocket propelled backpack. During the space shuttle Challenger's STS-41B mission, Bruce McCandless II flew 320 feet away from the orbiter -- further away from the safety of a ship than any previous astronaut had ever been.

20 Years Ago

February 10, 1989: The Soviet Union launched a cluster of six Cosmos satellites aboard a Cyclone launch vehicle. Included was the Cosmos 2000 satellite, an Antarctic observer spacecraft that was placed into near-polar orbit to photograph unexplored regions of central Antarctica.

untethered astronaut on EVAAstronaut McCandless II "free-flying" 320 feet away from the orbiter. Credit: NASA 15 Years Ago

February 3, 1994: The space shuttle Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center carrying the Spacehab pressurized module. The crew included Sergei Krikalev, the first Russian cosmonaut to fly aboard the space shuttle.

10 Years Ago

February 9, 1999: The Stardust probe launched atop a Delta II rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Station, becoming the first U.S. mission destined for a comet and the first-ever spacecraft sent to bring a comet sample back to Earth.

Five Years Ago

February 26, 2004: The Expedition 8 crew conducted the first two-person spacewalk at the International Space Station. It was the first time a spacewalk occurred without a human crewmember inside the space station.

Present Day

February 4, 2009: NASA will launch NOAA-N Prime, the latest polar-orbiting satellite developed by NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA-N Prime will collect information about Earth's atmosphere and environment to improve weather prediction and climate research.

February 12, 2009: NASA will launch space shuttle Discovery from its Kennedy Space Center, beginning the STS-119 mission. Discovery will deliver the fourth starboard truss segment to the International Space Station.

February 23, 2009: NASA will launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory aboard the Orbital Sciences Taurus Rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The observatory is a new Earth orbiting mission designed to help scientists understand the sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Lee A. Jackson (Analex Corporation)

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