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This Month in Exploration - April
04.02.07
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 also reveal where the agency is leading us -- to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Louis Bleriot 100 Years Ago

April 5, 1907: Aviation pioneer Louis Blériot completed his first flight using his tailless pusher monoplane in Bagatelle, France. Named the Canard, his monoplane was powered by a 24-horsepower Antoinette engine. It crashed on April 19.

Image right: Photo of Louis Blériot from 1909. Credit: Jean-Pierre Lauwers/R. Cooper

75 Years Ago

April 19, 1932: Dr. Robert Goddard successfully launched the first rocket controlled by a gyroscope to stabilize the flight. Goddard also developed the first rocket propelled by liquid fuel in 1926.

50 Years Ago

April 11, 1957: The U.S. Navy launched a Vanguard rocket 126 miles into the air to test onboard U.S. IGY (International Geophysical Year) satellite equipment for the first time above the Earth. The instruments included a radio transmitter and devices for measuring temperature, pressure and cosmic rays.

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April 1957 was a busy month for engineers testing research vehicles. On April 11, the Ryan X-13 jet plane successfully demonstrated its ability to takeoff and land vertically for the first time. On April 24, the Lockheed X-17 rocket achieved a top speed of 9,000 miles per hour. And on April 30, the Aerobee-Hi 41 sounding rocket reached a maximum altitude of 193 miles and traveled nearly 5,000 miles per hour.

On April 19, however, the Air Force's first ballistic missile, the Thor Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile, was destroyed 35 seconds after launch. The Thor rocket would not achieve a successful launch until September 1957. Known today as Delta rockets, derivatives of Thor were used to launch early satellites and space probes.

ESA_GEOS 1 Satellite Image left: ESA-GEOS 1 Satellite. Credit: NASA Goddard

30 Years Ago

April 20, 1977: Using a Delta rocket, NASA launched the ESA-GEOS 1 satellite for the European Space Agency. It was the first satellite dedicated to exploring and studying the Earth's magnetosphere.

25 Years Ago

April 10, 1982: NASA launched the Indian National Satellite 1A, which enabled telecommunication, direct television broadcast and a weather service to all of India. The weather service was especially important because it alerted Indian communities of imminent natural disasters such as monsoons, floods and storms.

20 Years Ago

April 1987: NASA began flight testing the F-18 High Angle-of-Attack (Alpha) Research Vehicle. The aircraft completed three phases of testing, which included 385 flights that successfully demonstrated angles of attack between 65 and 70 degrees.

F-18 Research Vehicle Image right: F-18 High Angle-of-Attack (Alpha) Research Vehicle. Credit: NASA

10 Years Ago

April 4, 1997: NASA launched Space Shuttle Columbia to begin the STS-83 mission to deliver the Microgravity Science Laboratory to the International Space Station. The laboratory included 19 microgravity experiments contained inside of a European Spacelab Long Module.

Five Years Ago

April 8, 2002: NASA launched Space Shuttle Atlantis to begin the STS-110 mission to transport the S-0 Truss to the International Space Station. The crew installed the 44-foot long truss to serve as the central backbone of the space station.

Present Day

April 23, 2007: NASA's Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) satellites have provided the first three-dimensional images of the sun. For the first time, scientists are able to see structures in the sun's atmosphere in three dimensions.

April 25, 2007: NASA will launch the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere satellite using a Pegasus rocket. The satellite will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to explore the formation of Polar Mesospheric Clouds and their surrounding environment.

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