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

100 Years Ago

Portrait of Charles Voisin February 28, 1907: Aviation pioneer Charles Voisin started testing the performance of his powered airplane in France. Voisin did not complete his first powered flight until March 16, 1907. Prior to this flight, Voisin and his brother, Gabriel, had extensive experience building and flying gliders.

Image right: Charles Voisin, Aviation Pioneer. Credit: R. Naughton/R. Cooper

75 Years Ago

February 14, 1932: Ruth Nichols successfully flew her Lockheed Vega aircraft at almost 20,000 feet, setting a new altitude record for airplanes powered by diesel. Nichols set several records throughout her career, flew every type of available aircraft, and was a founding member of the organization for female pilots called "The Ninety Nines."

50 Years Ago

February 24, 1957: Scandinavian Airlines System started the first airline route from Europe to the Far East, flying directly over the North Pole. The airline is based in Sweden and also serves Denmark and Norway for air travel.

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45 Years Ago

February 20, 1962: John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth when NASA launched him into space aboard Friendship 7 on the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission. The purpose of the mission was to analyze the effects of space on the human body as Glenn completed three full orbits around the planet.

John Glenn Image right: Double image of John Glenn at the beginning of his career and after his mission in 1998. Credit: NASA

30 Years Ago

February 18, 1977: Space Shuttle Enterprise completed its first flight test while attached to a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The Enterprise is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

25 Years Ago

February 25, 1982: NASA launched the Westar IV, a communications satellite for Western Union, using a Delta 160 launch vehicle.

20 Years Ago

February 5, 1987: The USSR launched the Soyuz TM-2 spacecraft, which connected to Russia’s Mir Space Station. This mission marked the second expedition to Mir and lasted 174 days.

15 Years Ago

February 23, 1992: NASA launched Navstar 2A-03 to establish the Global Positioning System (GPS), which is used by the military, industry and the general public for reliable navigation around the globe. The GPS uses 24 spacecraft: six satellites in each of the four orbit planes.

10 Years Ago

February 11, 1997: NASA launched Space Shuttle Discovery to begin the STS-82 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope for the second time. The crew members enhanced Hubble's capabilities by replacing two scientific instruments and upgrading other hardware.

HESSI Observatory Image left: Artist's depiction of HESSI over Earth. Credit: Spectrum Astro Inc.

Five Years Ago

February 5, 2002: NASA launched the High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI) solar flare observatory, which was later renamed the Reuven Ramaty HESSI. This spacecraft is used to study the behavior of solar flares, including their energy release and particle acceleration.

Present Day

February 16, 2007: NASA launched the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions During Substorms (THEMIS) spacecraft on a Delta II rocket. THEMIS is composed of five satellites -- the largest number of satellites to be launched by one rocket in NASA's history. On its two-year mission, it will study the color changes of the aurora borealis and aurora australis at the North and South Poles.

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