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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 also reveal where the agency is leading us -- to the moon, Mars and beyond.

100 Years Ago

XFF-1 Aircraft December 1906: England's Brooklands Automobile Racing Club Committee offered a $4,800 reward to the first person to fly around the Track at Weybridge by the end of 1907. This announcement prompted A.V. Roe to build his own airplane in Brooklands and attempt to win the prize. Though he missed the deadline, Roe became the first man in Britain to successfully fly an aircraft of his own design in 1908.

Image right: The XFF-1 in front of Grumman's Curtiss Field facility. Credit: Cradle of Aviation Museum

75 Years Ago

December 29, 1931: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation successfully flight tested its two-seat biplane fighter called the XFF-1. This unique airplane was the first Navy fighter plane with retractable landing gear and a fully enclosed cockpit.

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50 Years Ago

December 1956: A team from NASA, the Air Force, the Navy, and North American Aviation, Inc. completed a mock-up of the X-15. Until its last flight in 1968, this hypersonic research rocket set several speed and altitude records while providing valuable data on hypersonic control, stability, air flow, speeds and more.

30 Years Ago

December 2, 1976: The Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) began flight testing to prepare for carrying the Space Shuttle from landing sites back to the Kennedy Space Center. A critical design review of the Shuttle's Main Engine was completed in September of the same year, which prompted additional testing procedures.

25 Years Ago

December 15, 1981: Using NASA's largest expendable launch vehicle, an Atlas-Centaur, NASA launched the Intelsat V F-3 communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit to increase the telecommunication capability of Intelsat's global network.

Mars Pathfinder Image left: Mars Pathfinder Lander. Credit: NASA

20 Years Ago

December 4, 1986: NASA successfully launched the Fleetsatcom 7 communications satellite for the Navy to maintain high-priority, worldwide communications among military aircraft, ships, submarines and ground stations.

10 Years Ago

December 4, 1996: NASA launched the Mars Pathfinder, which delivered the rover called Sojourner to the Martian surface to perform experiments that analyzed the Mars environment. The lander arrived at its destination on July 4, 1997.

Five Years Ago

December 7, 2001: NASA launched the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) research satellite to study the impact that humans and the sun have on Earth's Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere and Ionosphere.

Present Day

December 9, 2006: Seven astronauts launched aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, beginning the 20th mission (STS-116) to the International Space Station. The crew transported supplies contained in the SPACEHAB module, rewired the space station electrical system, and delivered a third truss segment and other important components.

Emily Groh (Analex Corporation)

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