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This Month in Exploration - September
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.

M. Santos Dumont's plane100 Years Ago

September 13, 1906: Alberto Santos-Dumont successfully completed the first official airplane flight in Paris in his 14-bis. His aircraft was a box-kite structure that flew 725 feet.

Image right: M. Santos Dumont's plane. Credit: Vintage Postcard from Collection of Roy Nagl.

75 Years Ago

September 9, 1931: Friedrich Schmiedl started the world’s first rocket-mail service in Austria. Schmiedl’s Post Rocket R1 delivered 333 letters from Hochtroetsch to Semriach. This rocket-mail service continued until March 1933.

50 Years Ago

September 27, 1956: Air Force test pilot Captain Milburn Apt successfully flew the Bell Aircraft Company’s rocket-powered X-2 at Mach 3.2. This event marked the first manned flight to exceed the speed of sound by more than a factor of three.

X-2 Aircraft 30 Years Ago

September 3, 1976: NASA’s Viking 2 lander successfully landed on the surface of Mars after nearly a month of locating and certifying the ideal landing site. From its high-inclination orbit, the Viking 2 orbiter was able to closely observe complex Martian polar regions. The Viking 2 mission was launched via a Titan-Centaur rocket in September 1975, and the orbiter was used until July 1978 to capture about 16,000 images of Mars and its satellites.

Image left: X-2 drop from B-50 mothership. Credit: NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

25 Years Ago

September 24, 1981: NASA launched the Satellite Business Systems 2 (SBS 2) spacecraft via a Delta rocket. The satellite will enhance communications by providing fully switched private networks for use by businesses, the government and other organizations.

Mars Image 20 Years Ago

September 17, 1986: NASA launched the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 10 satellite (NOAA 10) using an Atlas rocket to monitor Earth’s atmospheric energy and weather patterns.

Image right: Image from surface of Mars taken by Viking 2. Credit: NASA

10 Years Ago

September 16, 1996: Space Shuttle Atlantis began its 10-day STS-79 mission to dock with Russia’s Mir Space Station. Astronaut John Blaha replaced Shannon Lucid as the American crewmember.

Five Years Ago

September 30, 2001: NASA launched the Stanford Audiophonic Photographic Infrared Experiment (Sapphire), a microsatellite built by Stanford University students and faculty. Sapphire carries infrared sensors, a digital camera and a voice synthesizer for converting text messages into human voices for transmission over amateur radio waves.

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Present Day

September 1, 2006: NASA selected Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor to design, develop, and build Orion, America’s spacecraft for a new generation of explorers.

September 14, 2006: The Expedition 14 crew heads to the International Space Station aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin of Russia will remain on the station for about six months. In December, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams is expected to join the crew after traveling aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-116 mission.

10 Years From Now

September 2016: The 18th mission of the Commercial Orbital Transportation System may launch to carry supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). An American astronaut will replace the Russian ISS Commander, and a European astronaut will conduct extensive food-science research using experiment racks in the European Columbus module. The third crew member may be a space tourist from Japan, continuing several years of tourist visits to the ISS. After a shift change, the Japanese space tourist, the former ISS Commander and a Brazilian astronaut will return to Earth.

20 Years From Now

Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Image right: The Orion crew vehicle launches on board the Ares I launch vehicle. Photo credit: Lockheed Martin Corp.

September 2026: The first flight version of the Mars Crew Exploration Vehicle is completing its testing program at the contractor's facility. The 18 astronaut candidates for the first human mission to Mars may visit the contractor's facility to examine the vehicle's construction.

Emily Groh (Analex Corporation)

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