February 18, 1977
The first Space Shuttle orbiter, the Enterprise, embarks on its maiden flight in “captive mode,” attached to the top of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The flight is the first of five captive flights before the orbiter is finally released to land on its own. The nine month test program is conducted through November 1977 at the Dryden Flight Research Facility to demonstrate that the orbiter can fly and land like an airplane. The Enterprise, while the first shuttle to fly, was not the first space-worthy orbiter and was only used for testing purposes.
February 17, 1959
Vanguard 2, the first weather satellite in space, is launched to measure cloud-cover distribution. The satellite is still in orbit today and is expected to continue to orbit for about 300 years.
February 12, 2001
The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft touches down in the “saddle” region of asteroid 433 Eros, becoming the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid.
February 11, 1997
The Space Shuttle Discovery is launched on a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. This was the second of five missions necessary to fix the flawed telescope. In most states, the entire thing could have been replaced as a lemon.
February 11, 1974
The first Titan-Centaur rocket test launch fails. However the test was successful enough that no more tests were performed and this rocket design was used 6 more times successfully. Scientists are strange.
February 11, 1970
Japan launches Osumi, their first satellite. By doing so, Japan becomes the 4th nation to put a satellite in orbit.
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.