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This Month in Exploration - February
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.

Bell X-1A Aircraft X-1A rocketplane. Credit: NASA
100 Years Ago

February 8, 1908: The U.S. War Department informed the Wright brothers that their proposal to build a heavier-than-air flying machine for $25,000 had been accepted. The performance of the Wright brothers’ Army Flyer exceeded expectations so much that the War Department paid them $30,000, which included bonus money, for their efforts.

75 Years Ago

February 25, 1933: The U.S. Navy launched the Ranger (CV-4), the first aircraft carrier designed from the keel up. The ship was sponsored by Herbert Hoover’s wife Lou Henry Hoover and began air operations off Cape Henry in August 1934.

55 Years Ago

February 21, 1953: The Bell X-1A → made its first powered flight. American test pilot Jean Ziegler flew the rocketplane, which was intended to fly at speeds above Mach 2.

50 Years Ago

February 11, 1958: The most spectacular display of the rarest Aurora Borealis was observed throughout North America. The Great Red Aurora caused an intense red light in the sky that even made the snow appear red in Alaska. It was so intense that it disrupted radio communication between the U.S. and the rest of the world.

auroraGreat Red Aurora. Courtesy of Windows to the Universe →. Copyright Bert Vorchheimer.
45 Years Ago

February 9, 1963: The Boeing 727 jet began its maiden flight as it took off from Renton Airport in Washington. The aircraft had three engines -- two rear-mounted external engines and a third central engine.

February 14, 1963: NASA launched Syncom 1 →, the first communication satellite intended for geosynchronous orbit. After about five hours of flight, NASA lost contact with the satellite and could not re-establish it.

30 Years Ago

February 9, 1978: The U.S. Navy launched FLTSATCOM 1 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. using an Atlas Centaur rocket. It was the first member of the Fleet Satellite Communication System and the first satellite designed for worldwide military communications.

25 Years Ago

February 20, 1983: Japan launched the Tenma (meaning “Pegasus”) satellite from Kagoshima Space Center via an M-3S-3 rocket. Scientists used the satellite to study x-ray sources, including stars, galaxies and gamma-ray bursts.

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15 Years Ago

February 7, 1993: Dr. Lonnie Reid, from Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center), was inducted into the Ohio Science, Technology and Industry Hall of Fame. Honored for his pioneering work in fluid dynamics, he was the first NASA researcher to be inducted. Reid joined the ranks of other accomplished Ohioans, including the Wright brothers, Granville Woods and Thomas Edison.

10 Years Ago

February 1998: The United States, Europe, Japan and Russia put a total of 21 satellites → into orbit during the month of February. Among these satellites was Celestis -02, a burial satellite launched by Orbital Sciences Corporation. As part of a memorial service, the company scatters portions of the departed's remains in space.

Tenma SatelliteTenma x-ray astronomy satellite. Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Five Years Ago

February 1, 2003: After a 16-day mission, Space Shuttle Columbia and the STS-107 crew were lost over Texas. Following an extensive investigation, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board identified the primary reason for the accident: damage to Columbia’s left wing caused by a piece of insulating foam. Since this tragedy, NASA has worked hard to improve the safety of shuttle missions. The agency successfully returned to flight July 26, 2005 with STS-114.

Present Day

February 7, 2008: NASA will begin STS-122, the 24th mission to the International Space Station. STS-122 will deliver the European Space Agency's Columbus Laboratory to the station as well as exchange European astronaut Léopold Eyharts for NASA Flight Engineer Daniel Tani.

Emily Owens (Analex Corporation)

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