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

100 Years Ago

Vuia 2 airship March 27, 1907: Romanian flight pioneer Trajan Vuia successfully tested his third airplane, the Vuia 2, by flying 33 feet in France.

Image right: Vuia 2 with unfolded wings. Credit: Jean-Pierre Lauwers

92 Years Ago

March 3, 1915: The U.S. established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to "supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical solution." (Source: history.nasa.gov) In 1958, the committee became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

75 Years Ago

March 20, 1932: Luftschiffbau Zeppelin, a German producer of rigid airships, started flight service from Germany to Brazil via the Graf Zeppelin. This 776-foot airship completed 590 flights in its lifetime. By 1936, airships were flying at about 80 miles per hour.

Graf Zeppelin airship 50 Years Ago

March 10, 1957: Scientists at the NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory (now NASA's Glenn Research Center) began conducting ion engine research. These fuel-efficient engines provide low thrust, but gradually accelerate to high speeds over time. By 1964, Lewis produced two ion engines for testing.

Image left: Graf Zeppelin rigid airship. Credit: DJAirships.net

March 4 - 15, 1957: A Navy airship, called the ZPB-2, set an endurance record by flying 264 hours and 14 minutes without refueling. Meanwhile, on March 11, a Boeing Dash 80 set its own record -- for speed. This jet carried 42 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours.

35 Years Ago

Pioneer 10 March 2, 1972: NASA launched the Pioneer 10 space probe, the first spacecraft to capture close-range images of Jupiter and the first to travel outside our solar system. It carried a plaque with a coded message that any scientifically educated society would be able to translate. Its final signal was sent to Earth in January 2003, and it is currently more than 8 billion miles away from Earth.

Image right: Launch of Pioneer 10. Credit: NASA

30 Years Ago

March 10, 1977: As Uranus passed in front of a star, James Elliot and his team of astronomers from MIT discovered that the planet has at least eleven rings.

25 Years Ago

March 4, 1982: NASA launched the Intelsat V F-4 communications satellite using an Atlas Centaur rocket. This satellite was used to enhance telecommunications for Intelsat's network.

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20 Years Ago

March 20, 1987: NASA launched the Palapa-B2-P communications satellite for Indonesia. As part of the Palapa B series, this satellite helped expand Indonesia's communication network to include the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.

15 Years Ago

March 24, 1992: NASA launched Space Shuttle Atlantis to begin the 46th shuttle flight and the STS-45 mission. This mission sent the first Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS-1) on Spacelab pallets into space. The ATLAS-1 equipment included 12 instruments, contributed by members of the European Space Agency, used to study atmospheric chemistry, solar radiation, space plasma physics and ultraviolet astronomy.

10 Years Ago

March 28, 1997: NASA's Comet Hale-Bopp home page received 1.2 million hits, which made it the first NASA web page to receive more than a million hits in one day.

Uranus Image right: Enhanced image of Uranus, highlighting its most prominent ring. Credit: NASA

Five Years Ago

March 1, 2002: NASA launched Space Shuttle Columbia to begin the STS-109 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope by adding new instruments and boosting it to a higher orbit.

Present Day

March 3, 2007: The first total lunar eclipse of the year will be partly visible from every continent in the world.

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