Launch of Ranger 9

March 21, 1965

NASA Launches Ranger 9, the last of the Ranger series of unmanned lunar exploratory spacecraft. Ranger 9 was the first moon probe to point its cameras directly in the direction of its travel, capturing 5,814 detailed images of the moon’s surface into which it would crash land almost 3 days later. It also sent back video images which were broadcast on live TV. The Ranger series was the precursor to the Apollo Moon landing program.

Vanguard 1 Launched

March 17, 1958

The American satellite Vanguard 1 is launched. About the size of a grapefruit, Vanguard 1 was the 2nd American satellite launched and 4th man-made object in Earth orbit, following Sputnik 1, Sputnik 2, and Explorer 1. It was the first satellite to have solar power, highest object launched at the time, and currently holds the record for the oldest man-made object still in orbit. Vanguard 1 is expected to stay in orbit until the late 22nd century.

First Liquid-Fueled Rocket Launched

March 16, 1926

Robert Goddard, now considered the father of modern rocketry, successfully launched the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket in Auburn, Massachusetts. The rocket reached an altitude of 41 feet in 2 seconds at a speed of about 60 miles per hour.

The concept of using liquid as fuel allowed the advancement of rocket technology to the point where space travel was made possible. Goddard died in 1945 before his vision of space travel became a reality, however NASA acknowledged his contributions by naming the Goddard Space Flight Center after him.

A Comet? No, that’s Uranus!

March 13, 1781

Using a telescope, English astronomer William Herschel notices a small object that would move slowly across the sky over the next several days. At first thinking he had discovered a comet, continued observation revealed a planet, soon named Uranus after the Greek god of the sky. This event was also notable as it was the first time a planet was discovered by telescope.

The discovery of the planet led to Herschel’s appointment as royal court astronomer by King George III which allowed him to further pursue astronomy. Over 20 years Herschel would observe and catalog 2,500 new nebulae and star clusters as well as two moons around Uranus and two more around Saturn. He also proposed the name “asteroids” for the objects discovered in 1801. 

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Reaches Red Planet

March 10, 2006

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) arrives at the Red Planet and enters its initial orbit. The MRO’s primary mission was to search for the existence of water on Mars along with several other objectives. Initially designed to carry out its main mission for two years and supporting objectives for four years, the MRO is still in operation as of 2023. The MRO has returned over 445 terabits of data, helped locate safe landing sites for NASA’s Mars landers and discovered ice and possible flowing water on the Red Planet’s surface.

NASA Launches Kepler

March 6, 2009

Kepler, the first planet seeking space telescope is launched by NASA on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral. While intended for a three-and-a-half year mission, Kepler stayed operational for 9 years until it ran out of fuel in 2018. Kepler discovered more than 2,600 planets outside our solar system.

Pioneer 10 Launched

Pioneer 10March 2, 1972

NASA launches Pioneer 10 spacecraft on a mission to explore the outer planets of the solar system. It will pass near Jupiter and Neptune before leaving the solar system.


First Spacecraft to Land On Another Planet

Venera 3March 1, 1966

The unmanned Soviet space probe Venera 3 crashes into the night side of Venus, becoming the first spacecraft to land on another planet.


First Saturn 1B Rocket Launch

Saturn 1BFebruary 26, 1966

The first Saturn 1B rocket is launched from Cape Canaveral. The Saturn 1B was primarily used for testing the Apollo spacecraft while the larger Saturn V rocket that was necessary for travel to the Moon was being developed. Later, after completion of the Moon landing program, The Saturn 1B was used for manned Skylab flights and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. In total, the Saturn 1B was launched 9 times with no failures.

Final Mission of Space Shuttle Discovery

STS-133 patch.png

February 24, 2011

The Space Shuttle Discovery launches on flight STS-133, its 39th and final mission, transporting several items to the International Space Station, including a humanoid robot called Robonaut2, nicknamed R2. Discovery was the longest-serving orbiter, flying more missions than any other Space Shuttle.