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This Month in Exploration - May
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

May 22: The Wright Brothers were granted U.S. Patent No. 821,393, which they first applied for in 1903. The patent protected the wing-warping control system of their airplane.

75 Years Ago

May 27: The first full-scale wind tunnel for aviation testing was unveiled at Langley Field, Va. Langley Research Center used the 30-by-60-foot wind tunnel to test stationary flight models and aircraft until the tunnel was closed in 1995.

GOES Satellite Image 50 Years Ago

Throughout the month of May, the first swept-wing rocket plane, known as the X-2, completed four manned flights, reaching mach 2.53, or 2.53 times the speed of sound.

Image right: GOES-5 Satellite image of the U.S. The GOES-5 was launched on May 22, 1981. Credit: NASA

45 Years Ago

May 5: Alan Shepard became the first American in space on Freedom 7. In just 15 minutes, his flight took him 116 miles into space and returned him to Earth in the Atlantic where his spacecraft was recovered. His first post-spaceflight words were: "Boy, what a ride!"

25 Years Ago

May 22: The second geostationary weather satellite, GOES-5, was successfully launched. This satellite continuously monitored the temperature, clouds and moisture levels in the atmosphere until it was deactivated in the summer of 1990.

20 Years Ago

The National Commission on Space published a report on the U.S. space program called "Pioneering the Space Frontier: An Exciting Vision of Our Next Fifty Years in Space." This report emphasized the space program's determined efforts to explore and eventually colonize the moon and other planets in deep space.

10 Years Ago

May 19: Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-77) began a 10-day mission that included the release of an inflatable antenna, a platform called Spartan 20 and an experimental minispacecraft.

XM-1 Spacecraft LaunchFive Years Ago

May 8: Sea Launch Company launched the second XM satellite radio spacecraft, XM-1, with a Zenit rocket. The satellite provides subscribers with 100 digital music and entertainment channels.

Image left: Zenit Rocket Launch of XM-1 Spacecraft. Credit: Sea Launch

Present Day

The Expedition 13 crew has been working on the International Space Station since they arrived in March 2006. Pavel Vinogradov is the Expedition 13 Commander and Jeff Williams is the Flight Engineer. They were accompanied by Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes who returned to Earth with the Expedition 12 crew in early April.

10 Years From Now

The first Earth Departure Stage may be turned over to NASA for processing in the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV)/Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) Assembly Building. Two months of inspection and documentation review should ensure that the stage meets the requirements to boost the CEV out of Earth orbit and towards the moon.

20 Years From Now

The new Martian CEV could be installed on the launch pad for a launch simulation test. This vehicle could accommodate a crew of six for a multi-year journey to Mars and back. The current schedule estimates a launch date of September 2026.

Emily Groh (Analex Corporation)
NASA's Glenn Research Center

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