45 Moments in NASA History - History

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The “X”-Program
The U.S. X-Plane Program began with the rocket-powered X-1, the first airplane to break the sound barrier (on October 14, 1947) and has involved to include over 50 different major research designs.

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Explorer 1
Explorer 1 was the first successful American satellite launch, sent into orbit on January 31, 1958 by the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency, under the direction of Dr. Wernher von Braun. It discovered radiation belts around Earth, which were named the Van Allen Belts after the scientist who led the research.

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Creation Of NASA
October 1, 1958 marked the beginning of a rich history of unique scientific and technological achievements in human space flight, aeronautics, space science, and space applications.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) emerged as a result of the crisis of confidence sparked by the Soviet launch of Sputnik a year earlier. The new agency inherited the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), with its 8,000 employees, an annual budget of $100 million and three major research laboratories -- Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory. The organization almost immediately began working on options for human space flight.

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Original Astronaut Corps
After a two-month selection process, NASA selected its first group of astronauts in 1959, and they quickly became known as the Mercury Seven -- Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Donald K. "Deke" Slayton

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X-15
The X-15 hypersonic research aircraft flew for nearly 10 years – from June 1959 to October 1968 – and contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, as well as the shuttle program.

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Communication Satellites
NASA has been helping the world communicate since its earliest days, when the experimental Echo project used large metallic balloons to bounce signals from one point on the Earth to another. Telstar 1 followed in 1962, and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) has been tracking spacecraft since 1983.

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First Primate In Space

On January 31, 1961 NASA launched a Mercury Redstone rocket with Ham the chimpanzee on board. The capsule traveled 157 miles before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Race To The Moon: The Mercury Program
Astronaut Allan Shepard made history as the first American in space with a suborbital flight in May of 1961 aboard his Mercury spacecraft, Freedom 7.

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Dedication Of The Johnson Space Center
In 1961, NASA Administrator James E. Webb announced that Houston, Texas, would be the site of the center dedicated to human spaceflight – the place now known to the public as "mission control." Originally named the Manned Spacecraft Center, it was re-named the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973.

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The Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS)
The TIROS satellite began continuous coverage of the Earth's weather in 1962, and provided the first accurate weather forecasts based on data from space.

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Aeronautics Research
The Dryden Flight Research Center has led key research on both Lunar Landing Research Vehicles and a fleet of "lifting bodies," wingless vehicles designed to fly back to Earth from space and land like aircraft.

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Race To The Moon: Gemini
The Gemini program served as a stepping-stone to the Moon, testing astronauts' endurance, and the rendezvous and docking maneuvers that would be needed for a lunar mission. Commander Gus Grissom and pilot John Young were on the first Gemini mission, launched on March 23, 1965.

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First American To Walk In Space
Astronaut Ed White became the first American to walk in space on June 3, 1965. Since White’s historic EVA (Extravehicular Activity), astronauts have used spacewalks to retrieve satellites, repair the Hubble space telescope, and assemble portions of the International Space Station.

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The Landsat Program
In its more than 30 year history, the Landsat Program has provided millions of images of the Earth, giving scientists a unique resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, geology, forestry, regional planning, education and national security.

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The Loss Of Apollo 1
NASA suffered its first fatal accident on January 27, 1967 during a launch pad test at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Apollo 1 crew Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed when a flash fire broke out in the pure oxygen atmosphere of the capsule.

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Race To The Moon: Apollo Program
The whole world was riveted on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar lander Eagle and took man's first steps on the lunar surface, proclaiming a "giant leap for mankind." After President Kennedy's call for human exploration of the Moon, nearly all of NASA's efforts in space had been turned toward the goal of a lunar landing.

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Apollo 13
A potential disaster turned into NASA's "successful failure" in April of 1970, when the crew of Apollo 13 used the Lunar Module as a lifeboat to return to Earth. An explosion in the craft's oxygen tanks had crippled the Command Module, preventing a landing on the Moon.

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The Pioneer Program
Launched on March 2, 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Pioneer 10 is now coasting silently through deep space toward the red star Aldebarran, a journey of over 2 million years.

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Skylab
Skylab, America's first experimental space station launched in 1973 and soon hosted its first crew, which conducted solar astronomy and earth resources experiments, medical studies, and five student experiments. Two other crews followed later that year.

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The Apollo Soyuz Test Program
In the world's first international manned spaceflight, an Apollo spacecraft docked with a Russian Soyuz in orbit in July 1975. The mission was designed to test compatibility of the U.S. and Russian systems, clearing the way for space rescue and future joint missions.

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Flight Of Enterprise
Though it never flew in space, the first space shuttle orbiter, Enterprise, was first flight-tested atop a Boeing 747 ferrying aircraft at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in February 1977.

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Voyager Program
Of all the NASA missions, none has visited as many planets, rings, and satellites, as the twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. Voyager 1, more than twice as distant as Pluto, is farther from Earth than any other human-made object

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SEASAT

In 1978, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory built an experimental satellite called SEASAT to test a variety of oceanographic sensors including imaging radar, altimeters, radiometers and scatterometers. These instruments measured wind speed and direction and sea surface temperature, as well as identifying cloud, land, and water features

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The Shuttle Program Lifts Off
Columbia roared into the skies above Florida's Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 1981, kicking off the shuttle program with astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen at the controls.

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Sally Ride
Astronaut Sally K. Ride became the first American woman in space on June 18, 1983, lifting off on the space shuttle Challenger.

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Guy Bluford
Astronaut Guy Bluford became the first African-American in space in August of 1983, on a mission which also saw the first nighttime launch and landing of a shuttle.

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Spacelab
A modular scientific laboratory developed by the European Space Agency in collaboration with NASA, Spacelab was launched aboard the shuttle Columbia in November 1983. Designed to fit in the shuttle's cargo bay, the lab provided a "shirtsleeve" workplace for astronaut-scientists.


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Challenger Tragedy
On January 28, 1986 the space shuttle Challenger was destroyed and its crew of seven were killed in an explosion just 73 seconds into the flight. Investigators found the explosion was caused by a leak in one of two Solid Rocket Boosters, which ignited the main liquid fuel tank.

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First Flight Of The F-18
In 1991, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center used an F-18 HARV (High Alpha Research Vehicle) to study airflow, aircraft control and engine performance at steep flight angles by using spoon-shaped paddles on the rear of the engine.

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The Galileo Project
The Galileo spacecraft, launched in 1989 aboard the space shuttle Atlantis, studied Jupiter and its moons, finding warm ice, water and icebergs on the moon Europa before ending its mission in 2003.

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Hubble Space Telescope
Not since Galileo turned his telescope towards the heavens in 1610 has an event so changed our understanding of the universe as the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990 onboard Space Shuttle Discovery and orbits 600 kilometers (375 miles) above Earth, working around the clock to unlock the secrets of the universe. It uses excellent pointing precision, powerful optics, and state-of-the-art instruments to provide stunning views of the universe that cannot be made using ground-based telescopes or other satellites.

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First Flight Of Endeavor
The space shuttle Endeavour made its debut in space on May 7, 1992. The record-setting mission included four spacewalks, including the first by three astronauts. It was also the first shuttle mission requiring three rendezvous with an orbiting spacecraft, and the first use of a drag chute during a shuttle landing.

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First Russian Cosmonaut
Mission Specialist Sergei K. Krikalev became the first Russian cosmonaut to fly on a U.S. mission in space, on a 1994 flight of space shuttle Discovery.

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The Shuttle-Mir Experience
From 1995 to 1998, NASA shuttles made 11 flights to the Russian space station Mir, and American astronauts spent seven residencies onboard. Shuttles also conducted crew exchanges and delivered supplies and equipment, setting the stage for the cooperation that would build the International Space Station.

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Norm Thagard
In 1995, Norm Thagard became the first American astronaut to train in Russia, launch into space on a Russian Soyuz, and the first to complete a residency aboard Mir, setting an American space endurance record of 115 days in orbit.

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Solar Research: An Uninterrupted View Of The Sun
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory or “SOHO” was launched on December 2, 1995.
SOHO is designed to study the internal structure of the sun, its extensive outer atmosphere and the origin of the solar wind, the stream of highly ionized gas that blows continuously outward through the solar system.

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The Longest Stay In Space
When Shannon Lucid launched from the Kennedy Space Center on March 22, 1996 she had no idea that she'd be making history. By the time she returned from a 188 day stint on the Russian space station Mir, Lucid had set a new record for an American living in space and broke the world's record for a woman living in space.

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Mars Pathfinder
The Mars Pathfinder arrived at the red planet on July 4, 1997. It eventually sent back 2.6 billion bits of data, including 16,000 lander images and 550 images from the rover, Sojourner.

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Cassini: The Long Way To Saturn
Launched in 1997, the Cassini spacecraft, along with the European Space Agency’s “Huygens probe” will arrive at Saturn in the summer of 2004. The best-instrumented spacecraft ever sent to another planet, Cassini-Huygens will investigate Saturn's rings, atmosphere and magnetic field as well as the moon Titan and other small, icy moons.

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John Glenn’s Return To Space
The first American to orbit the Earth returned to space in 1998 aboard the shuttle Discovery.
John Glenn, a former U.S. senator and one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, served as a test subject for experiments on the effects of aging.


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Development Of The International Space Station
The International Space Station is the largest and most complex international scientific project in history. Led by the United States, the station draws upon the scientific and technological resources of 16 nations: Canada, Japan, Russia, 11 nations of the European Space Agency and Brazil. Construction began in 1998 and crews have staffed the station since 2000.

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Solar Power Flight: Pathfinder Plus/ Helios
The Pathfinder-Plus solar powered aircraft set a new altitude record of 80,201 feet in 1998. Another unique solar-powered flying wing called Helios soared to 96,863 feet in 2001.

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Airplane Crash Test Research
In 1999, researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia dropped a small airplane more than 150 feet to test whether design changes could help pilots and passengers better survive accidents.

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Largest Ever Ozone Hole
On September 3, 2000 a NASA spectrometer detected an Antarctic ozone "hole" three times larger than the entire land mass of the United States -- the largest such area ever. The "hole" had expanded to approximately 11 million square miles beating the previous record of approximately 10.5 million square miles measured in September 1998.

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Columbia Loss
The Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts were lost on February 1, 2003 when the orbiter broke up over north central Texas during reentry. Columbia was returning from a 16-day scientific research mission, and was 16 minutes from landing at the Kennedy Space Center when flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston lost contact with the vehicle.

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