This Month in Space - DECEMBER 2014

This evening we are proud to present to you the December edition of the special "This Month in Space" series, brought to you by the Kennedy Space Center, which help us to remember the rich past of space exploration. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, offering fun and educational activities, so it is no surprise that they would be the ones gathering all these pieces of information. Enjoy!:

This Month in Space - December 2014

December 2, 1993: STS-61 Endeavour launched on the first servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission was a success after two teams of astronauts completed five back-to-back space walks totaling 35 hours, 28 minutes. Hubble continues to orbit the Earth, peering deep into the vast universe. A mock-up of the Hubble Space Telescope can be seen at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. 

December 3, 1972: Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to fly by Jupiter. It made the first observations of the distant planet and captured up-close images. Currently, Pioneer 10 is in interstellar space coasting silently as a ghost ship.

December 4, 2014: Witness history in the making during the first launch of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft aboard the Delta IV Heavy rocket, built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before, into deep space. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has various programs and activities today, along with live NASA TV coverage of the launch and the mission of Orion.

December 5, 1909: George Taylor completed the first manned glider flight on Narrabeen Beach in Sydney, Australia. Taylor was the founder of the Aerial League of Australia and established an airplane factory in September 1909.

December 6, 1998: The Unity and Zarya modules were successfully connected to the International Space Station core by the STS-88 Endeavour crew and Russian cosmonauts. Crawl through a mock-up of the International Space Station in Space Shuttle AtlantisSM at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

December 7, 1907: Gerard Kuiper was born in the Netherlands. Kuiper was known to many as the father of modern planetary science making several major discoveries in his lifetime. He is most famous for proposing the existence of what is now called the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune containing comets, asteroids and other small bodies.

December 8, 1990: The Galileo spacecraft flew past Earth after beginning a six year expedition to Jupiter in 1989.  The purpose of Galileo was to orbit the outer planets in order to study them with more detail.

December 10, 1959: The U.S. Ambassador Lodge recommended a resolution to the U.N. regarding the international peaceful uses of outer space. Years later, 15 countries partnered on the design, development, operation and utilization of the International Space Station (ISS). Today, the ISS orbits the Earth as a testimony to the power of international collaboration.

December 11, 1972: Apollo 17 became the last mission to land on the moon at 7:54 p.m. The landing site was the Taurus-Littrow highlands and valley area, which contained rocks both older and younger than previously returned in other mission. Astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt gathered samples and surveyed the new terrain while astronaut Ronald Evans orbited overhead.

December 12, 1961: The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, or AMSAT, launched Oscar 1, the first amateur radio satellite. AMSAT is an educational organization comprising amateur radio operators.

December 14, 1972: Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the last men to walk on the moon. They returned 110 kg of lunar samples, more than any other lunar mission.

December 15, 1970: The Soviet Union’s Venera 7 spacecraft became the first to land on Venus and the first to transmit data from another planet. The information transmitted revealed Venus to have a surface temperature around 887 degrees Fahrenheit

December 16, 1965: Pioneer 6 launched as the first of four spacecraft designed to study interplanetary phenomena. It was the first spacecraft to return data about the Sun’s atmosphere.

December 17, 2003: RD-180 became the first Russian-made rocket engine to launch a U.S. military payload into space. The payload was a F11 satellite carried in the Atlas 3B launch vehicle.

December 18, 1999: The Terra weather satellite launched on an Atlas rocket. The project was a joint effort by the U.S., Japan and Canada intended for observation of how the Earth’s lands, oceans, air, ice and life function as an entire system.

December 19, 1960: The first mercury capsule MR-1A was launched from Kennedy Space Center aboard a Mercury Redstone rocket. The capsule achieved weightlessness for a total of 5 minutes and 30 seconds making the mission a success.

December 20, 1904: The Mount Wilson Solar Observatory was founded by George Hale. Hale sought to learn more about the sun and other distant stars, so he brought the Snow Solar Telescope from the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin to Los Angeles. By making this move, Haled founded what would eventually become the leading astronomical research facility.

December 21, 1988: Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov set the record for long duration in space after spending more than 365 days in orbit aboard the Mir space station.

December 22, 1966: Luna 13 launched from the U.S.S.R towards the moon. The Soviet Union’s unmanned spacecraft landed on the moon on Dec. 24, sending radio transmissions back to Earth shortly after.

December 24, 1968: Apollo 8 went into lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, becoming the first manned mission to the moon. During this orbit, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders captured the first photo of an “Earthrise.” Experience what the Apollo 8 launch was like from the firing room at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

December 25, 1642: Isaac Newton was born. Newton is famous for his laws of motion and law of universal gravitation. His ideas changed the world and led the way to future space exploration.

December 26, 1989: The Miniature Travel Wave Cube (TWT) was awarded a U.S. patent. TWT technology eventually led to commercial television applications by permitting satellites to transmit a greater number of messages in a radio frequency signal.

December 29, 1980: STS-1 Columbia was stacked next to its external tank and solid rocket boosters on the powerful crawler-transporter and rolled out to Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. This was in preparation the first space shuttle launch.

December 31, 2004: The Cassini spacecraft made its first flyby of Saturn’s moon, Iapetus. Known as the ying-yang moon, Iapetus has one dark hemisphere and the other hemisphere is as white as snow.

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