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NASA: Celebrating 60 Years of Groundbreaking U.S. Space Science 2018.02.02

NASA, USA - January 31, 2018 - On the evening of Friday, January 31, 1958, Americans eagerly waited for news as the rocket carrying the Explorer 1 satellite was prepped for launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Just months earlier, the Soviet Union successfully launched two Sputnik satellites, in October and November 1957. That December, news media were invited to witness the launch of a U.S. satellite on a Navy Vanguard rocket, but it exploded seconds after liftoff. The pressure was on the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's Jupiter-C rocket, the satellite built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the science instruments developed at the University of Iowa to succeed.

After two days of weather delays, on Jan. 31, 1958, at 10:48 p.m. EST, the Jupiter-C rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, successfully into orbit.
University of Iowa physicist James Van Allen’s instrument for measuring cosmic rays, a Geiger counter, helped make the first major scientific find of the Space Age: a belt of radiation around Earth that would later be named in his honor.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 

NASA, USA - January 31, 2018

By Samson Reiny
NASA’s Earth Science News Team


On the evening of Friday, January 31, 1958, Americans eagerly waited for news as the rocket carrying the Explorer 1 satellite was prepped for launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The stakes were high.

Just months earlier, the Soviet Union successfully launched two Sputnik satellites, in October and November 1957.
That December, news media were invited to witness the launch of a U.S. satellite on a Navy Vanguard rocket, but it exploded seconds after liftoff.
The pressure was on the Army Ballistic Missile Agency’s Jupiter-C rocket, the satellite built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the science instruments developed at the University of Iowa to succeed.


The three men responsible for the success of Explorer 1, America's first Earth satellite which was launched January 31, 1958.
At left is Dr. William H. Pickering, former director of JPL, which built and operated the satellite.
Dr. James A. van Allen, center, of the State University of Iowa, designed and built the instrument on Explorer that discovered the radiation belts which circle the Earth.
At right is Dr. Wernher von Braun, leader of the Army's Redstone Arsenal team which built the first stage Redstone rocket that launched Explorer 1.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
On Jan. 31 the moment had come. At 10:48 p.m. EST, Explorer 1 blasted off, hurtling into Earth’s orbit in seven and a half minutes.
The next day’s front-page news declared that the United States was now officially in the Space Age.


Explorer 1 was the first U.S. satellite and the first satellite to carry science instruments. The satellite was launched on Jan. 31, 1958, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., USA.
Explorer 1 followed a looping flight path that orbited Earth once every 114 minutes.
The satellite went as high as 2,565 kilometers (1,594 miles) and as low as 362 kilometers (225 miles) above Earth.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
Explorer 1 showed that the United States was capable of not only launching a satellite but also carrying out scientific research in space.
For four months after launch, instruments aboard Explorer 1 measured and sent back data on temperature, micrometeorites and cosmic rays, or high-energy radiation.


On Jan. 31 att 10:48 p.m. EST, Explorer 1 launched into space, hurtling into Earth's orbit in seven and a half minutes.
The next day's front-page news declared that the United States was now officially in the Space Age.
Photo courtesy of NASA / LK Ward
 
University of Iowa physicist James Van Allen’s instrument for measuring cosmic rays, a Geiger counter, helped make the first major scientific find of the Space Age: a belt of radiation around Earth that would later be named in Van Allen’s honor.

Group of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) women mathematicians who calculated Explorer 1’s trajectory by hand.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
“Explorer 1 was a beginning. It was the beginning of going beyond our sphere of life out into space,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.
“At first, quite frankly, space looked like a pretty boring place. But the instrument that Van Allen and his team built showed that space is beautiful.”

This early schematic of the Van Allen Belts' structure was created after the first American satellite discovered their existence in 1958.
Photo courtesy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Historic image of Van Allen Belts courtesy of NASA’s Langley Research Center
 
On the heels of Explorer 1’s success, the nation entered a new era of discovery on Earth and beyond that continues to this day.

In 1960, NASA launched the world’s first weather satellite, the Television and Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS).

The United States now has an extensive fleet of weather satellites operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that monitors storms and other natural disasters and provides critical data that helps save lives and protect critical infrastructure.

Schematic of the Van Allen Belts discovered by Explorer 1.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
In 1972, NASA designed and launched Earth Resources Technology Satellite 1, later renamed Landsat 1, as the first spacecraft designed to monitor the planet’s land masses.
Subsequent Landsat satellites, now operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, have produced over four decades of continuous data about our changing planet that have been applied to such uses as crop health monitoring, freshwater and forest management and infectious disease tracking.

Deep Space 1 Using its Ion Engine (Artist's Concept)
NASA's New Millennium Deep Space 1 spacecraft approaching the comet 19P/Borrelly.
With its primary mission to serve as a technology demonstrator - testing ion propulsion and 11 other advanced technologies - successfully completed in September 1999, Deep Space 1 is now headed for a risky, exciting rendezvous with Comet Borrelly.
NASA extended the mission, taking advantage of the ion propulsion and other systems to target the daring encounter with the comet in September 2001.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
NASA has a long history of using the vantage point of space to advance our understanding of our complex home planet.
The Nimbus-1 satellite launched in 1964 was the first of seven such spacecraft that revolutionized Earth science.
Nimbus satellites measured snow cover at the North and South poles, estimated the size of volcanic eruptions and the distribution of phytoplankton in the oceans and confirmed the existence of the annual ozone hole in Antarctica.
NASA’s current fleet of more than a dozen Earth-observing missions continues to provide new insights about Earth’s interconnected systems.

Cassini Spacecraft in a JPL Assembly Room.
On October of 1997, a two-story-tall robotic spacecraft will begin a journey of many years to reach and explore the exciting realm of Saturn, the most distant planet that can easily be seen by the unaided human eye.
A huge magnetosphere teeming with particles that interact with the rings and moons, and the intriguing moon Titan, which is slightly larger than the planet Mercury, and whose hazy atmosphere is denser than that of Earth, make Saturn a fascinating planet to study.
The Cassini mission is an international venture involving NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and several separate European academic and industrial partners.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
Looking beyond Earth’s horizon, in 1962 NASA launched Mariner 2, the first satellite to encounter another planet as the spacecraft flew within 21,000 miles of Venus and sent back information on not only the Venusian atmosphere but also the solar wind.
The space agency has since dispatched satellites to explore every planet in the solar system, in addition to the Sun and a number of moons, comets and asteroids.

Proposed Missions - Terrestrial Planet Finder.
Visible Light Coronagraph for Terrestrial Planet Finder.
To search for Earth-like planets that might harbor life.
Terrestrial Planet Finder will use multiple telescopes working together to take family portraits of stars and their orbiting planets and determine which planets may have the right chemistry to sustain life.

Photo courtesy of NASA
 
NASA has also long set its gaze out into the cosmos.
From 1966 to 1972, the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory series of satellites provided the first high-quality ultraviolet observations of stars at the edge of the Milky Way.
The space agency has continued its groundbreaking research into the mysteries of the universe with the 2004 launch of the Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer, which has imaged the most luminous known galaxies in addition to detecting millions of black holes and dwarf stars.

Artist's Concept of Deep Space 1 Encounter with Comet Borrelly.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
America’s 60 years of space science has yielded profound insights and practical benefits for the nation and the world.
And NASA continues to blaze new trails of discovery.

“Although we have made many amazing discoveries during our first six decades in space, the most exciting part of this journey of exploration is in the future,” Zurbuchen commented.

Artist's Concept of Voyager.
This artist's concept of the Voyager spacecraft with its antenna pointing to Earth.
The identical Voyager spacecraft are three-axis stabilized systems that use celestial or gyro referenced attitude control to maintain pointing of the high-gain antennas toward Earth.
The prime mission science payload consisted of 10 instruments (11 investigations including radio science).
Only five investigator teams are still supported, though data are collected for two additional instruments.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
This summer NASA is launching Parker Solar Probe, which over the next seven years will get closer to the Sun than any satellite before as it travels into the solar corona to explore how heat and energy there move and how solar wind originates and accelerates. 

Rover 1 Solar Arrays
JPL engineers hand-deploying the solar arrays that provide the electrical power on Mars Exploration Rover 1
.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
On New Year’s Day 2019 in the frigid outer recesses of the solar system, the New Horizons spacecraft is set to buzz by an object in the Kuiper Belt known as 2014 MU69.
It will be the most primitive and distant object a spacecraft has ever explored.

Robotic Arm of Rover 1
JPL engineers examine the robotic arm of Mars Exploration Rover 1.
The arm is modeled after a human arm, complete with joints, and holds four devices on its end, the Rock Abrasion Tool which can grind into Martian rocks, a microscopic imager, and two spectrometers for elemental and iron-mineral identification.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
Also in 2019, the James Webb Space Telescope will launch to an orbit nearly a million miles away from Earth, where it will explore a wide range of science questions to understand our place in the universe.

A successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe.

Adjustments to Rover 1
JPL engineers making adjustments to Mars Exploration Rover 1
.
Photo courtesy of NASA
 
And Americans will be exploring beyond our home planet as NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon in preparation for the next great achievement in space travel: crewed missions deeper into the solar system, including an eventual journey to Mars.
 

Mount Sharp 'Photobombs' Mars Curiosity Rover.
This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge, which it's been investigating for the past several months.
Poking up just behind Curiosity's mast is Mount Sharp, photobombing the robot's selfie.
January 31, 2018
Photo courtesy of NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
 

For more information on Explorer 1 and America’s six decades of firsts from space, visit:

https://go.nasa.gov/Explorer1  

Follow the Explorer 1 conversation on social media with the hashtag #ExploreAsOne.


Photo courtesy of NASA
 

Source: NASA

https://www.nasa.gov/  



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ASTROMAN Magazine - 2015.10.02

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Editor-in-Chief of ASTROMAN magazine: Roman Wojtala, Ph.D.


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