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This Month in Exploration - December
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.

An Aerobee rocket assembly An Aerobee rocket assembly in the shop. Credit: NASA 100 Years Ago

December 5, 1909: George Taylor made the first manned glider flight in Australia in an aircraft that he designed.

80 Years Ago

December 12, 1929: The Smithsonian Institution presented the Langley Medal to Adm. Richard E. Byrd for his flights over the North and South poles and a posthumous Langley Medal to Charles M. Manly for his pioneering development of radial piston airplane engines.

75 Years Ago

December, 1934: December 23: Sylvanus Albert Reed gave an endowment to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences (IAS) to be used for an annual award. The Sylvanus Albert Reed Award is given to individuals whose experimental or theoretical investigations have a beneficial influence on the development of practical aeronautics.

Concorde-The British French Supersonic Transport The Concorde supersonic transport airplane. Credit: NASA 60 Years Ago

December 2, 1949: The United States Air Force first fired the Aerobee research rocket (RTV-A-1a) at Holoman Air Force Base.

50 Years Ago

December 10, 1959: U.S. Ambassador Lodge presented a resolution to the Assembly of the United Nations (U.N.) recommending that an international conference on the peaceful uses of outer space be convened within the next year or two. Two days later, the United Nations created a permanent 24-nation committee for this purpose.

45 Years Ago

December 8, 1964: A United Airlines Caravelle made the U.S.A.’s first computer controlled landing at Dulles International Airport.

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40 Years Ago

December 17, 1969: The U.S. Air Force closed its 22-year investigation into sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), otherwise known as Project Blue Book.

35 Years Ago

Dec 2, 1974: NASA’s Pioneer 11 spacecraft flew by Jupiter, passing 26,725 miles above Jupiter's cloud top. The spacecraft returned dramatic images of Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot and determined the mass of Jupiter's moon, Callisto.

30 Years Ago

December 16, 1979: The British Airways supersonic transport airplane, Concorde, flew from New York to London in just under three hours at an average speed of 1,172 mph.

25 Years Ago

December 27, 1984: Members of the ANSMET (Antarctic Search for Meteorites) Project discovered meteorite ALH 84001 in the Allen Hills region of Antarctica. ALH 84001 is the famous Mars meteorite that sparked excitement in 1996 about past life on Mars.

20 Years Ago

December 26, 1989: A U.S. patent was awarded for the invention and construction method for the Miniature Traveling Wave Tube (TWT). This technology allowed satellites to carry a greater number of messages in a particular radio frequency signal, and resulted in commercial television applications.

The Terra weather satellite The Terra weather satellite undergoing prelaunch testing. Credit: NASA 10 Years Ago

December 18, 1999: NASA launched Terra, a weather satellite project undertaken jointly with Japan and Canada, on an Atlas rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The 4,864 kg spacecraft was part of an international program and was intended to enable new research into the ways that Earth's lands, oceans, air, ice, and life function as a total system.

Present Day

December 14, 2009: NASA will launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) aboard the Delta II 7320 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base between 6:10 – 6:23 a.m. PST. This mission will survey the entire sky in the mid-infrared range, producing over a million images from which hundreds of millions of astronomical objects will be cataloged using far greater sensitivity than any previous mission or program.

Lee A. Jackson (Analex Corporation)

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