This Month in Space - APRIL 2015

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex just shared with us the April 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 Visitor Complex brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, offering fun and educational activities. We are sure you will agree with us that there is no better source for such interesting information.

April 1, 1960: The Television Infrared Observation Satellite Program (TIROS-1) launched. It was the first experiment to determine whether or not satellites would be useful in space. The test was successful and provided the first accurate weather forecast. In 1962, it began continuous coverage of Earth’s weather.

April 2, 1845: French physicists, Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucault, took the first successful photograph of the sun. The image was 5 inches and captured incredible detail for its time, including several sunspots.

April 3, 1966: The Lunar 10 spacecraft entered the moon’s orbit at 6:44 p.m. UT. This was the first spacecraft to orbit the moon, and also the first man-made object to orbit anything beyond our own Earth.

April 4, 2015: Witness a total lunar eclipse this morning at 6:16 a.m. from the east coast of America. The moon will set before it becomes a total lunar eclipse, but other areas in the world will see the entire magnificent occurrence. It will also be visible from Asia, Australia and the Americas. This is the third total lunar eclipse in a tetrad that began last April 2014 and it’s the shortest lunar eclipse of the 21st century, lasting five minutes.

April 5, 2010: STS-131 Discovery, one of the last five shuttle missions, launched at 6:21 a.m. The 15 day mission remains the longest made by Discovery.

April 6, 1965: Intelsat 1, or Early Bird, launched, becoming the world’s first commercial communications satellite. As a result, the phrase “live via satellite” is born.

April 8, 1964: Gemini 1 launched 50 years ago today. This was the first unmanned launch of the Gemini Program. The program focused on long duration flights, testing the ability to maneuver a spacecraft and achieving the rendezvous and docking of two vehicles in Earth’s orbit.

April 9, 1959: At a press conference in Washington D.C., NASA introduced the official Mercury Seven astronauts to the general public. The Mercury Seven astronauts included Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton.

April 11, 1970: Today is the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 13. The three-man crew, James Lovell, Fred Haise Jr. and John Swigert Jr., launched atop a Saturn V rocket. This was to be the third moon landing attempt. When the oxygen tank exploded, the crew was left with limited resources at a distance of 200,000 miles from Earth. They were forced to sustain using the lunar module as a lifeboat for four days while engineers worked on plans to get them home safely. It was not labeled a failed mission though. The experience gained was valuable to future lunar missions and the crew managed to capture amazing photographs of the Earth.[iii]

April 12, 1961: Yuri Gagarin, Russian cosmonaut, became the first man in space, making a 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok 1 spacecraft.

April 13, 1970: The crew of Apollo 13 were forced to act quickly when the oxygen tank exploded on board. James Lovell, Fred Haise Jr. and John Swigert Jr. were left without electricity and water at a distance of 200,000 miles from Earth. It was meant to be the third moon landing.

April 14, 1972: NASA Administrator, Dr. James C. Fletcher, announced that Kennedy Space Center will be a Space Shuttle launch and landing site. The official name of the runway became “Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility.”

April 16, 1946: The first V-2 rocket launched in America from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. In 1945, the U.S. Army invaded Germany and captured an underground factory for V-2 rocket production. They shipped about 100 rockets to White Sands, studied the propulsion system and the rest is history.

April 19, 1971: The Soviet’s Salyut 1 launched and became the world’s first space station. It was shaped like a stepped cylinder with a single docking port and had three main compartments, providing the cosmonauts with everything they needed to survive in space.

April 20, 1972: Apollo 16 was the fifth moon landing, but the first landing in the lunar highlands. Before exploring the Descartes Formation and Cayley Formation in the highlands, it was believed they were once volcanoes. After the Apollo 16 crew investigated these areas, they discovered the “volcanoes” were actually impact craters. This information aided in learning more about our moon’s history.

April 21, 1997: The first private memorial spaceflight launched carrying the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, American physicist Gerald O’Neill, German rocket-propulsion engineer Krafft Ehricke and 21 others. The Celestis spacecraft orbited the Earth for five years until it reentered the atmosphere in 2002.

April 22, 2015: Happy Earth Day! Join NASA as they celebrate the world we live in. Don’t forget to watch the skies as the Lyrid meteor shower peaks this morning between midnight and dawn. Every year, Earth passes through Comet Thatcher’s tail and this results in a meteor shower close by the star Vega within the constellation Lyra. Take a chair outside (and a telescope if you have one), sit back, and watch the bright meteors fly by Earth’s atmosphere.

April 23, 2015: Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope April 24 through 26 at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Experience displays, presentations, educational activity booths, astronaut meet and greets and a traditional star gazing event. See a 3D printing demonstration and a breathtaking projection of Hubble’s most iconic images inside Space Shuttle Atlantis.

April 24, 1990: Today marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble Space Telescope is Earth’s window to the universe and brings humans closer to the heavens than ever before. Its enormous glass, mirrored eye unlocks more secrets as it gazes out to the edge of the observable universe. Learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with numerous activities and presentations through April 26.

April 25, 1990: The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed by the crew members of STS-31 Discovery. Hubble peers into the far reaches of space, producing the most vibrant images known to humankind such as the brilliant Eagle Nebula and the breathtaking celestial butterfly dispensing the last of its hot gas across the universe as it dies. It provides a new prospective of the cosmos, changing the world of astronomy.

April 26, 1993: STS-55 Columbia launched 21 years ago bringing the second reusable German Spacelab to the International Space Station. This mission established international cooperation and scientific research for future space station operations with Germany.

April 27, 1953: Astronaut Ellen Baker, M.D., turns 62 today. Dr. Baker flew on three shuttle missions: STS-34 Atlantis, STS-50 Columbia and STS-71 Atlantis. She served as a mission specialist, and conducted several medical and scientific experiments.

April 28, 2001: Dennis Tito, an American businessman and space enthusiast, became the first space tourist. Tito was an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and always had the dream of flying to space. Although NASA did not approve of Tito’s launch into orbit, the Russian space program agreed to allow Tito passage in their Soyuz spacecraft. Twenty million dollars and a few roadblocks later, Tito fulfilled his dream of flying to space. Today, the commercial space industry is taking off and the idea of private citizens going to space isn’t so outlandish.

April 29, 2005: Ten years ago, the last Titan 4 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ending five decades of Titan launches. See a real Titan rocket in the Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

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