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This Month in Exploration - January
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.

Henri Farman French aviator Henri Farman. Credit: D. Lam/R. Cooper
100 Years Ago

January 13, 1908: French aviator Henri Farman became the first person to fly 1 kilometer in a circle, which earned him the 50,000-franc Deutsch-Archdeacon prize. At that time, airplanes were flying about 30 to 40 miles per hour.

75 Years Ago

January 2, 1933: Aviation pioneer Orville Wright received the first Honorary Fellowship of the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. In 1963, this organization joined the American Rocket Society to form the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

50 Years Ago

January 31, 1958: The U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency launched Explorer-1, the first U.S. satellite, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., using a Jupiter-C rocket. This satellite later discovered the Van Allen Belts, a significant discovery of the International Geophysical Year.

40 Years Ago

January 22, 1968: NASA launched Apollo 5 → via a Saturn-1B rocket and successfully performed the first Earth orbital test of Lunar Module ascent and descent propulsion systems. This unmanned flight also evaluated the performance of the guidance system for the second stage of the Saturn-1B rocket. Explorer-1 satelliteExplorer-1 in flight. Credit: NASA

30 Years Ago

January 16, 1978: NASA introduced its first female astronauts when it named the eighth class of astronaut candidates. This class of 35 included six women: Anna Fisher, Shannon Lucid, Judith Resnik, Sally Ride, Rhea Seddon and Kathryn Sullivan. All six eventually flew on the space shuttle. And Shannon Lucid set an endurance record for American astronauts with a six-month stay on Russia's Mir space station.

25 Years Ago

January 25, 1983: NASA launched the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), a collaborative effort with the Netherlands Space Agency and the Science and Engineering Research Council in the United Kingdom. This unique telescope system was used to survey the sky for infrared radiation and generate a collection of sky maps. Among its many discoveries, IRAS revealed the core of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

female astronautsThe six female members of the eighth astronaut candidate class from left to right: Lucid, Seddon, Sullivan, Resnik, Fisher, Ride. Credit: NASA
15 Years Ago

January 13, 1993: NASA launched Space Shuttle Endeavour to begin the six-day STS-54 mission. The primary goal of this mission was to deploy the fifth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, which is used for space communication. Endeavour also carried several microgravity science experiments and a Hitchhiker → experiment called the Diffuse X-ray Spectrometer.

10 Years Ago

January 6, 1998: NASA launched the Lunar Prospector Orbiter →, a spacecraft designed to study the moon in a low-altitude polar orbit. The Lunar Prospector analyzed the composition of the lunar surface and measured magnetic and gravity fields on the moon using six experimental instruments. At the end of the mission, the Lunar Prospector was crashed into a crater near the lunar south pole.

IRAS satelliteInfrared Astronomical Satellite. Credit: NASA
Five Years Ago

January 16, 2003: NASA launched Space Shuttle Columbia to begin STS-107. During this 16-day research mission, the crew performed several experiments and sent much of the data to the ground by downlink. During re-entry on February 1, the shuttle and crew were lost over Texas just 16 minutes before their scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center.

Present Day

Mid-January 2008: The European Space Agency plans to launch Jules Verne, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) from Kourou, French Guiana. After a 12- to 15-day journey, it is scheduled to automatically dock with the International Space Station to deliver refueling propellant, air, water and experiments.
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Emily Owens (Analex Corporation)

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