Text Size

This Month in Exploration - July
From the early days of experimental airplanes to NASA’s soaring space shuttles, the evolution of flight has mirrored the evolution of society. The ongoing scientific discoveries that are part of aeronautics and space flight have improved life on Earth and allowed humans to begin investigating the secrets of the universe. “This Month in Exploration” presents the rich history of human flight, contextualizing where we’ve been and examining the exploration history NASA is making today.

Portrait of Galileo.Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Justus Sustermans (1636) 400 Years Ago

July 30, 1610: Astronomer Galileo Galilei became the first person to observe the rings of Saturn.

95 Years Ago

July 10, 1915: After testing a sextant equipped with a pendulum-type artificial horizon, Naval Air Station Pensacola reported that although the pendulum principle was basically unsatisfactory for aircraft use, a sextant using a gyroscopically stabilized artificial horizon might be acceptable for navigation in the air.

80 Years Ago

July 21, 1930: In the longest blind flight to date, Capt. A. H. Page of the U.S. Marine Corps flew a Vought O2U with a sealed hooded cockpit on an instrument flight of nearly 1,000 miles from Omaha, Neb., to Naval Support Facility Anacostia in Washington D.C. via Chicago and Cleveland. Safety pilot Lt. V. M. Guymon took over the controls only for the landings after Capt. Page brought the plane over the fields at 200 feet.

75 Years Ago

July 2, 1935: The Air Defense Research Committee in the United Kingdom heard the first report on radio direction finding (RDF, later called RADAR). The historic development quickly transformed British air defenses in preparation for war.

NASA's Bumper#8 Rocket.Bumper #8, the first rocket launched from NASA 's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Credit: NASA 65 Years Ago

July 13, 1945: An armed forces circular announced the activation of the White Sands Proving Ground. Later known as White Sands Missile Range, the facility was the largest over-land test installation in the western hemisphere and remains the largest today.

60 Years Ago

July 24, 1950: General Electric Co., in cooperation with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Pasadena, Calif. launched the Bumper #8 rocket. It was the first rocket launched from the recently established Long Range Proving Ground at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The purpose of the mission was to test methods of stage separation while a rocket is performing a near-horizontal flight.

50 Years Ago

July 1, 1960: NASA launched the first complete Scout launch vehicle fired from Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va. (part of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.). The rocket quickly became a workhorse in orbiting scientific payloads because Scout's four-stage booster could place a heavy satellite into orbit.

45 Years Ago

July 14, 1965: After a journey of eight months, NASA’s space probe, Mariner 4, flew within 6,118 miles of Mars and provided the first close-up images of the Martian surface.

Get NASA's This Month in Exploration in your inbox every month. Send us an e-mail today.

>  Read More
35 Years Ago

July 15-24, 1975: The United States and the former Soviet Union cooperated for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first joint human space flight mission between the two countries. The mission was specifically designed to test the compatibility of rendezvous and docking systems for American and Soviet spacecraft, and to open the way for international space rescue as well as future cooperative missions.

30 Years Ago

July 18, 1980: The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched the Rohini RS-1 test satellite into Earth orbit from SHAR Centre, Sriharikota, India. It was the first satellite successfully launched by India’s own SLV-3 launch vehicle.

Comet Hale-Bopp.An image of Comet Hale-Bopp over Val Parola Pass, Italy. Credit: NASA 25 Years Ago

July 29, 1985: NASA launched space shuttle Challenger (mission STS-51F) from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. with Spacelab-2 payload in the cargo bay. Spacelab-2 experiments covered life sciences, plasma physics, astronomy, high-energy astrophysics, solar physics, atmospheric physics and technology research.

20 Years Ago

July 25, 1990: NASA launched the Combined Release and Radiation Effects satellite (CRRES) aboard an Atlas 1 rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. to study the ionosphere and magnetosphere. The Air Force Geophysics Laboratory’s SPACERAD (Space Radiation Effects) project, along with other magnetospheric, ionospheric and cosmic ray experiments were included onboard CRRES and supported by NASA or the Office of Naval Research.

15 Years Ago

July 13, 1995: NASA launched space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-70 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The mission lasted just under nine days and included the deployment of the seventh Tracking Data and Relay Satellite (TDRS).

July 23, 1995: Alan Hale in New Mexico and Tom Bopp in Arizona independently discovered Comet Hale-Bopp. The comet was designated C/1995 O1, and was the farthest comet ever discovered by amateurs.

10 Years Ago

July 12, 2000: Russia launched the Zvezda (meaning ‘star’) service module by a Proton-K rocket from Baikonur to dock with the International Space Station. Zvezda had a cylindrical compartment where crews could work and live and three other compartments that included three docking ports.

5 Years Ago

July 9, 2005: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA.) successfully launched Suzaku (formerly Astro-E2) from the Uchinoura Space Center in Japan with the help of a NASA team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Still providing X-ray data today, Suzaku continues to fulfill its mission to fill a gap in our understanding of the X-ray universe.

Present Day

July 10: Russia will launch the U.S. satellite EchoStar-15 via a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The satellite is a new direct broadcast satellite (DBS) that was built for EchoStar Orbital Corporation II, and will provide expanded services and flexibility for the television subscribers of its service company, DISH Network.

Lee A. Jackson (Analex Corporation)

See Past Issues:
>  This Month in Exploration Main