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Category Archives: Space

Discovery’s First Mission 30 Years Ago

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Discovery entered service in 1984 as the third orbiter in the space shuttle fleet. Columbia and Challenger had already flown a total of 11 missions as America’s “space truck.” Discovery’s first mission, STS-41D, followed suit as the crew deployed, for the first time, three communications satellites, but it also signaled how the shuttle could serve   …Continue Reading


Remembering Henry Warren “Hank” Hartsfield, Jr.
Discovery’s First Commander (1933-2014)

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Henry “Hank” Hartsfield served as commander of the first mission of Space Shuttle Discovery, now on display at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The six-day STS-41D mission began on August 30, 1984. An earlier launch attempt ended with the first on-the-pad abort just four seconds before launch. The first Discovery crew successfully deployed three communications   …Continue Reading


Apollo@45: Technological Virtuosity Remembered

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There is no question that the success of Project Apollo in the 1960s helped to create a culture of competence for NASA that translated into a level of confidence in American capability, and especially in the ability of government to perform effectively, to resolve any problem. Something that almost sounds unthinkable in the early twenty-first   …Continue Reading


Skylab is Falling!

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Thirty-five years ago, on July 11, 1979, the first US space station fell out of orbit. It wasn’t a surprise or an error, nor was it a calamity. It was more like an intense meteor shower—sparkling and momentary—as Skylab entered the atmosphere. Very little of this spacecraft as large as a house was ever found   …Continue Reading


Blazing the Trail in Space

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The first successful American “astronaut” is on display at the Smithsonian in the Apollo to the Moon exhibition. It’s not Alan Shepard, but Able, a rhesus monkey. Able and a squirrel monkey named Baker were the first American animals to enter space and return safely. On May 28, 1959 at Cape Canaveral, Able was placed   …Continue Reading