August 21, 1993
NASA loses contact with the Mars Observer spacecraft, three days before it was to enter into orbit around Mars. The reason for the loss of contact was never definitively determined, but the most probable cause was a rupture of a fuel tank.
August 12, 1960
Echo 1, the world’s first communication satellite is launched. Technically, Echo 1 was a passive reflector, as communication signals were bounced off it rather than retransmitted as modern satellites do today.
August 10, 1966
The first lunar orbiter, creatively named Lunar Orbiter I, is launched. Its primary mission is to photograph potential landing sites for future Apollo missions.
Astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, mission STS-43, use an Apple Macintosh Portable computer to send what is considered the first e-mail from space. Using the AppleLink online service, Atlantis astronauts Shannon Lucid and James C. Adamson sent the following message:
Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!
The AppleLink software on the Macintosh was specially configured to connect to NASA’s communication system which allowed the Shuttle to interface with Apple’s proprietary network from space. The Macintosh Portable itself only had very minor modifications to operate in space.
August 4, 2007
NASA launches the Mars Phoenix lander. Phoenix would become the first spacecraft to land on the Martian arctic surface. Its mission was to dig for ice and assess if the Martian arctic ever had conditions that could have supported life.
July 31, 1971
Using the battery-powered Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), Astronaut David Scott of the Apollo 15 mission becomes the first person to drive a vehicle on the Moon. The LRV was used during the last three missions to the Moon, Apollo 15, 16, and 17. The three LRVs used during the missions still remain on the surface of the moon.
July 26, 1963
Syncom 2, the world’s first geosynchronous satellite, is launched. Syncom 1 was intended to be the first geosynchronous satellite, but an electronics failure rendered the satellite inoperable during the ascent to orbit.
July 24, 1950
The first successful rocket launch occurs at Cape Canaveral. The rocket, Bumper 8, was a captured German V-2 modified with a US Army Corporal second stage.
Cape Canaveral’s location in the southeast is an ideal site for rocket launches in the United States. By launching eastward, rockets are able to take advantage of the linear velocity of the Earth’s rotation. This velocity is greatest towards the equator, making the southern United States preferable. And by launching towards the ocean, away from populated areas, safety downrange from the launch is maximized in case of problems.
July 20, 1969
Eagle, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, successfully lands in the area of the Moon known as the Sea of Tranquility. Upon landing, Neil Armstrong utters the now famous phrase, “The Eagle has landed.” About six hours later, while setting foot on the Moon, he utters the even more famous phrase, “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.“
July 17, 1975
Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 successfully dock in orbit and the astronauts and cosmonauts shake hands. This marks the first time in history that spacecraft of two nations dock in space.