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This Month in Exploration - March
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.

Sikorsky s-42 Flying BoatThe Sikorsky S-42 flying Boat. Credit: NASA 100 Years Ago

March 19, 1909: The first International Aero and Motor Boat Exhibition opened in London. Exhibits included a Wright airplane for sale at $7,000.

March 24, 1909: The Wright brothers founded a school in Montgomery, Ala., to train pilots for exhibition flights. The first pupil was their childhood friend Walter Brookins from Dayton, Ohio.

75 Years Ago

March 30, 1934: The first of the famous Pan American Airways Clippers, the Sikorsky S-42 flying boat, flew for the first time. Considered the first American seaplane, it carried up to 32 passengers and could fly as many as 1,200 miles at 190 miles per hour.

50 Years Ago

March 3, 1959: Pioneer 4 became the first American spacecraft to escape Earth's gravitational pull and fly by the moon. It passed within 37,000 miles of the lunar surface, returning data on the radiation in the moon's environment.

Astronaut Russell Schweickart during the Apollo 9 missionAstronaut Russell Schweickart, lunar module pilot, stands on the module's deck during his spacewalk on the fourth day of the Apollo 9 mission. This photograph was taken from inside the lunar module "Spider" by mission commander James McDivitt. Credit NASA 40 Years Ago

Mar 3-13, 1969: Apollo 9 blasted off at 11 a.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center, sending astronauts James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott and Russell L. Schweickart into Earth orbit. This historic mission marked a long list of firsts. Most notably, it was the first flight of the entire Apollo spacecraft, including the Saturn V rocket, command module, service module and lunar module. It was also the first docking of two manned American spacecraft.

35 Years Ago

March 5, 1974: Pilot John A. Manke flew the first X-24B → supersonic flight, taking off from the NASA Flight Research Center (now NASA Dryden) in Edwards, Calif. The X-24 was a lifting body aircraft tested by Dryden in a joint program with the U.S. Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base. These wingless research vehicles were designed to return astronauts from space and land like airplanes. The space shuttle orbiter design is based on lifting bodies.

30 Years Ago

March 5, 1979: After 18 months of space travel, NASA's Voyager l → encountered Jupiter at a distance of 172,750 miles from the planet's atmosphere. Real-time images and live programming through Comsat I continued for about two hours. During this encounter, scientists discovered Jupiter's rings.

25 Years Ago

March 1, 1984: The fifth satellite in the Landsat → program, Landsat 5, launched from the Western Space and Missile Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif. The Landsat program consisted of seven satellites designed to take digital photos of Earth's continents and coastal regions so scientists can study changes in the environment. Landsat 5 and 7 are still operating. x-24B aircraftThe X-24B aircraft. Credit: NASA

20 Years Ago

March 6, 1989: After several delays, the European Space Agency launched the Ariane 4 launch vehicle from the Kourou launch center in French Guiana. The 195-foot Ariane 4 carried Japan's first commercial communications satellite and a European weather station into low Earth orbit. This was the third launch of the Ariane 4, which had one of the most powerful boosters available for commercial satellite launches.

15 Years Ago

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March 4, 1994: NASA launched space shuttle Columbia beginning the STS-62 → mission. The crew included astronauts John H. Casper, Andrew M. Allen, Pierre J. Thuot, Charles D. Gemar and Marsha S. Ivins. The shuttle carried two primary payloads: USMP-2 consisted of materials and crystal growth experiments, and OAST-2 included space technology and spaceflight experiments.

Ten Years Ago

March 21, 1999: Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones completed the first non-stop balloon voyage around the world. They started in Switzerland and landed in Egypt.

March 28, 1999: Sea Launch, a company that launches commercial communication satellites, launched its first demo satellite from a 4,000-ton floating platform on the Pacific Ocean.

artist's conception of Kepler spacecraftArtist's rendition of the Kepler spacecraft. Credit: NASA Five Years Ago

March 2, 2004: The European Space Agency launched the cometary probe Rosetta on an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou in French Guiana. In 2014, it will orbit around a comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after releasing a lander named Philae.

Present Day

March 6, 2009: NASA will launch the Kepler → spacecraft via the United Launch Alliance Delta II from Canaveral Air Force Station. The Kepler Mission, a NASA Discovery mission, will survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to study hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets that orbit sun-like stars in a warm zone where water could exist.

Lee A. Jackson (Analex Corporation)

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