The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex just shared with us the March 2015 edition of the special "This Month in Space" series. This series of articles helps us to remember interesting details about the rich past of space exploration. The Kennedy Space Center brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, offering fun and educational activities, therefore we are sure you will agree with us that there is no better source for such information. Enjoy!:

March 1, 1982: The Soviet Union’s Venera 13 spacecraft returned the first color photographs of the planet Venus. There were eight panoramas displaying Venus’s field of orange-brown angular rocks and loose soil.

March 2, 2004: Rosetta launched on a mission to orbit and land on a comet. In 2014, after a ten year journey, Rosetta became the first spacecraft to orbit a comet and eventually deliver a lander to the surface of the comet. Rosetta will continue to follow the comet as it nears the Sun and will hopefully send back information to enrich our understanding of comets.

March 3, 1915: Today marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA. The committee was comprised of 12 volunteers with a vision to change the face of aviation. On September 30, 1958, NACA became what we know today as NASA and continues to follow through with the mission started 100 years ago.

March 4, 1979: The Voyager 1 spacecraft discovered a ring system surrounding Jupiter (see photo). Today, we know the system contains three major components: the Main ring, the Halo, and the Gossamer ring. Within the Main ring are two small orbiting moons whose dust makes up the majority of the ring.

March 6, 2009: United Launch Alliance launched a Delta II rocket carrying the Kepler spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its mission was to observe specific areas of space for Earth-sized planets orbiting stars similar to the sun. There have been numerous findings of planets and solar systems with characteristics comparable to our own, but another planet with proper living conditions has not yet been discovered.

March 7, 1969: The Spider LM, or Lunar Module, performed its first manned flight proving it worthy of manned spaceflight. It was one of several tests performed by the Apollo 9 crew. The actual mission launched on March 3, 1969 and lasted ten days.

March 8, 1979: The Voyager spacecraft took a long-exposure photograph of Io, one of Jupiter’s four moons, and a large cloud was noticed in the picture. That was perplexing as the orbiting moon had no atmosphere, so why would there be a cloud. Further investigation determined this was the result of a violent volcanic eruption occurring on Io.

March 9, 1986: The Soviet Union’s twin Vega spacecraft flew by Halley’s Comet on their mission back from Venus. Although both spacecraft approached the comet, Vega 2 came the closest to Halley at a distance just under 5,000 miles. Vega 2 successfully captured the clearest pictures of the comet. Halley’s Comet is known to fly by Earth’s atmosphere once every 75 years. The next expected visit from Halley will be in 2061, so mark your calendars! Come learn more about comets and asteroids at the Great Balls of Fire exhibit inside Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

March 10, 2006: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived at Mars orbit nine years ago. Today, the mission is still ongoing. While orbiting our neighbor planet, it uses extreme up-close photography to scan the Martian surface, analyze minerals and seek out any history of water the planet might have. It also monitors the daily global weather. See mock-ups of the rovers currently living on Mars at Exploration Space®: Explorers Wanted

March 11, 2015: In honor of NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) launch on March 12, guests are invited to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex today and tomorrow for various activities and displays about MMS. Marvel at the constellations and watch presentations about MMS in a portable planetarium in addition to several other opportunities. Located at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, this is included in daily admission.

March 12, 2015: NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission launches atop an Atlas V rocket tonight, at 10:44 p.m. MMS mission consists of four identical spacecrafts which will orbit the Earth and travel through the active magnetic system around our planet with hopes of understanding more about a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection. Learn more about the mission at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with MMS displays and activities available on March 11 and 12!

March 13, 1781: English Astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus. This was the first discovery of a planet made with a telescope. Herschel originally named the planet “Georgium Sidus” after King George III of England, but German astronomer Johann Bode suggested the name “Uranus” which stands for the ancient Greek deity of the universe. By calling the planet Uranus, it also followed the theme of classical mythology-derived planet names.[x]

March 14, 1995: Norman Thagard became the first American astronaut to launch aboard a Soviet rocket and stay on the Mir space station as part of the Soyuz TM-21 crew.

March 16, 1926: Eighty-nine years ago, U.S. rocketeer Robert Goddard built the first liquid-fuel rocket and launched it to an altitude of 40 feet.

March 17, 2011: Seven years after NASA’s MESSENGER vehicle was launched, it finally reached its destination of Mercury. MESSENGER continues to orbit the planet today photographing the surface and collecting data.

March 18, 1965: Today is the 50th anniversary of the first spacewalk. Alexei Leonov became the first man in the world to perform a spacewalk from Voskhod 2, lasting a total of 12 minutes.

March 19, 2008: NASA’s Swift satellite detected a powerful gamma ray burst that shattered the record for the most distant object to be seen with the naked eye. The Very Large Telescope in Chile measured the redshift at 0.94, meaning that the explosion happened 7.5 billion light years ago.

March 20, 2015: Today is spring equinox, marking the first day of spring. Equinox, meaning “equal night,” occurs when the sun shines directly on the equator, and there is almost 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness.

March 21, 1965: Ranger 9 launched on a mission to photograph the moon, and specifically the crater “Alphonsus” which was suspected of having recent lunar volcanic activity. This was the last of the Ranger series to launch, and enriched scientists’ understanding of the moon’s mass.

March 22, 1997: Comet Hale-Bopp had its closest approach to Earth. Hale-Bopp, or “The Great Comet of 1997,” was a 1000 times brighter than Halley’s Comet was at the same distance, and is the brightest comet to be seen since 1976.

March 23, 1965: Gemini 3, the first manned mission of the Gemini program, launched. Virgil Grissom and John Young orbited the Earth three times, demonstrating manned spaceflight, then evaluating the spacecraft and launch vehicle systems for future long term missions. The mission lasted nearly five hours before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

March 25, 1655: Christiaan Huygens discovered Saturn’s moon Titan. He originally called it Luna Saturni, and left an anagram which once decoded read, “A moon revolves around Saturn in 16 days and 4 hours.” This is fairly accurate to modern Titan’s orbital period.

March 26, 1859: Edmond Lescarbault claimed to have seen a “new planet” orbiting Mercury which he named “Vulcan.” Lescarbault sent his calculations to Jean LeVerrier, a famous French astronomer, who confirmed that Mercury had deviated from its natural orbit. Unfortunately, Vulcan was never seen again and now it’s believed to have been a rogue asteroid passing by the sun. Star Trek, the original series, named the Vulcan species after the discovery.

March 27, 2015: Expedition 43 launches for the International Space Station (ISS) with crew Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka today. Kelly and Kornienko will stay aboard the ISS for one year before returning in March 2016. Scott Kelly’s twin brother, Mark Kelly, will remain on land during the mission in order to study the human effects of spaceflight using their identical twin genetic makeup.

March 28, 1802: Wilhelm Olbers discovered the asteroid Pallas. This was the second discovery of an asteroid, and is the third largest asteroid in the asteroid belt. It was named for Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.

March 29, 1807: William Olbers discovered Vesta, the brightest asteroid. It was the fourth asteroid to be discovered and Olbers concluded they were fragments of a disrupted planet that had formerly revolved around the sun. The Great Balls of Fire exhibit at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex talks about the origins of asteroids and comets.

March 31, 1962: NASA approved the final design of the Gemini spacecraft. The Gemini capsule wouldn’t launch until November 11, 1966, and this was a major step of progress for the Gemini Program.

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