U.S. President Richard Nixon orders the development of a space shuttle program.
After nearly 3 months in orbit, the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 falls to Earth.
The Mars Polar Lander is launched. The mission ultimately ended in failure during an attempted landing on Mars’ surface. Attempts to re-establish communication with the lander failed after the lander entered Mars’ atmosphere. It has been concluded that the most likely cause of the failure was a software error, causing the lander to crash into the planet. Even though software was the likely culprit, it has not been proven that Microsoft had anything to do with it 🙂
December 23, 1968
Astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William Anders become the first men to orbit the Moon. Flying in Apollo 8, the men perform 10 total lunar orbits and test many of the procedures that will be used in future lunar missions. Additionally, the men were the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit, the first to see Earth as a whole planet, and the first to directly see the far side of the Moon. On Christmas Eve, the crew made a television broadcast from which they read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis. It was the most watched television program ever at the time.
NASA launches the active repeater communication satellite Relay I from Cape Canaveral. One of the earliest communication satellites to be launched, Relay I’s mission was primarily experimental, but it nonetheless was used for some notable events. On November 22, 1963 Relay I was the first satellite to broadcast television from the United States to Japan, which happened to be the announcement of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was then used in August of 1964 to broadcast the 1964 Summer Olympics from Japan to Europe and the United States, relaying the signal with another satellite, Syncom 3. It was the first time two satellites were used in tandem for a television broadcast. Relay I was used until February 10, 1965, when a problem with its power system caused the satellite to become non-functional.