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

John Moore-Brabazon and his Voisin aircraft J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon and his Bird of Passage in Leysdown, Kent, UK, in 1909. 100 Years Ago

May 2, 1909: J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon became the first British man to fly in a British-built aircraft, a Voisin he named the "bird of passage." He flew 500 yards and reached a height of 40 or 50 feet on the grounds of Mussel Manor in Leysdown, Kent, UK.

80 Years Ago

May 8, 1929: Lieutenant Apollo Soucek of the U.S. Navy established a world record by flying at an altitude of 39,140 feet in the Wright Apache airplane over Anacostia, D.C.

75 Years Ago

May 1, 1934: Lieutenant Frank Akers of the U.S. Navy landed a Berliner Joyce OJ-2 while wearing a hood to demonstrate a blind landing system for the Washington Institute of Technology. The flight took place at College Park, Md. Akers later performed other unassisted blind takeoffs and landings between Anacostia and College Park.

60 Years Ago

May 3, 1949: The U.S. Navy launched the first Martin Viking Rocket from the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. It reached an altitude of 51.4 miles and a speed of 2,250 miles per hour.

Wright Apache airplaneThe Wright Apache was capable of flying at high altitudes. Credit: NASA 50 Years Ago

May 28, 1959: Two monkeys, Able and Baker, became the first living beings to survive a trip to outer space. The monkeys were launched from the Eastern Space Missile Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on top of a Jupiter rocket to an altitude of 360 miles.

45 Years Ago

May 28, 1964: The United States placed the first Apollo Command Module in orbit. This Apollo capsule was launched during an automated test flight atop a Saturn I rocket in preparation for the lunar landing program, which would occur five years later.

40 Years Ago

May 18, 1969: NASA launched Apollo 10 → from Kennedy Space Center on a test mission before the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. Astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan tested all aspects of the lunar landing mission, except the actual lunar landing. Among its many notable firsts, Apollo 10 transmitted the first color television pictures to Earth from a crew in space. The crew was also the first to shave in space.

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35 Years Ago

May 17, 1974: The first prototype geosynchronous orbit weather satellite, SMS-1, was launched by a Delta rocket at 5:31 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

30 Years Ago

May 9, 1979: Pioneer Venus 2, also known as the Pioneer Venus Probe Bus, plunged five separate probes into the atmosphere of Venus at an average speed of 26,100 miles per hour. The probes relayed scientific data on the climate, chemical makeup and atmospheric conditions of the planet. NASA launched the Pioneer Venus 2 vehicle in August of the previous year in preparation for the mission.

20 Years Ago

May 4, 1989: NASA launched space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-30 mission carrying astronauts David Walker, Ronald Grabe, Norm Thagard, Mary Cleave and Mark Lee. It was the first U.S. planetary mission in 11 years and the first time a general purpose computer was switched on orbit. During the mission, the crew deployed Magellan to Venus. It was the first deep space probe to be deployed from a space shuttle.

Apollo 10 astronauts John Young and Tom Stafford John Young (left) and Tom Stafford head for the elevator and the transfer van that will take them to the pad for the Apollo 10 Countdown Demonstration Test. Credit: NASA 15 Years Ago

May 9, 1994: The Miniature Sensor Technology Integration 2, a U.S. defense satellite, was launched into low Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base by the last of the now discontinued Scout series rockets. The satellite demonstrated theater ballistic missile tracking.

Ten Years Ago

May 27, 1999: NASA launched space shuttle Discovery on the STS-96 mission to the International Space Station. Astronauts Kent Rominger, Rick Husband, Ellen Ochoa, Tamara Jernigan, Daniel Barry and Julie Payette and cosmonaut Valery Tokarev were the new space station's first visitors since its launch. They prepared the station for the arrival of the Zvezda Module, its early living quarters, and its first station crew.

Present Day

May 11, 2009: The space shuttle Atlantis will launch from Kennedy Space Center, Launch Pad 39A, on mission STS-125. Atlantis will fly seven astronauts into space for the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope to repair and improve the observatory's capabilities.

Lee A. Jackson (Analex Corporation)

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