February 10, 2009
The communication satellites Iridium 33 and Kosmos-2251 collide in orbit, destroying both. This was the first major collision of satellites in Earth orbit.
February 10, 1990
The spacecraft Galileo flies by Venus on its way to Jupiter. Galileo used the flyby of Venus along with two flybys of Earth as a “gravitational slingshot” in order to reach Jupiter with the least amount of fuel.
February 7, 1984
Astronauts Bruce McCandless II and Robert L. Stewart make the first untethered space walk using the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). McCandless became the first human Earth-orbiting satellite, venturing out 320 feet from the orbiter.
February 6, 1971
1971 – Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard hits the first golf ball on the Moon. He used a six-iron attached to a sample collection tool.
February 5, 1971
Apollo 14, the 3rd US manned Moon expedition, lands near Fra Mauro. Alan Shepard & Edward Mitchell walk on the Moon for 4 hrs.
February 3, 1995
Astronaut Eileen Collins becomes the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle as mission STS-63 gets underway from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
February 3, 1966
The unmanned Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft makes the first controlled rocket-assisted landing on the Moon. It was the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on any planetary body other than the Earth and to transmit photographic data to Earth. It was, however, the 12th attempt by the Soviets at a soft landing.
February 1, 2003
The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard. The cause of the disaster was a piece of foam insulation the size of a small briefcase that broke off the external tank during launch and struck the leading edge of the left wing. This damaged the Shuttle’s thermal protection system (TPS), which protected it from heat generated by the atmosphere during re-entry. The damage allowed hot gases to penetrate and destroy the internal wing structure, resulting in the in-flight breakup of the Columbia.
January 31, 1961
50 years ago today, Ham the Chimp travels into outer space aboard Mercury-Redstone 2. Ham (whom was named this only after he survived the flight) was the first ape to fly into space. Note that apes include chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans, but NOT monkeys.
January 31, 1958
Explorer 1 is launched, which becomes the first American satellite to successfully make orbit.