We’re wrapping up our celebration of Space Exploration Month honoring the historic events that took place in the month of July. Visit Questia’s topic page on space exploration for more information on the memorable dates in space exploration history including the Apollo 11 lift off, the U.S.’s Moon Day and even the anniversary of NASA’s founding. Since the first human spaceflight was launched on April 12, 1961 by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the world has closely followed the achievements of our space missions and their noble crews. In honor of Space Exploration Month, we’ve granted access to reference works on five of history’s most notable space missions for free for an entire month.
- Challenger Space Shuttle: On the morning of January 28th, 1986, the nation watched in horror as the Challenger Space Craft exploded 73 seconds after launching at Port Canaveral in Florida, the result of an O-ring improperly sealing components of the spacecraft. All seven crew members aboard the flight perished in the explosion, including teacher Christine McAuliffe who was expected to be the American civilian in space. The explosion led to a 32 month hiatus of NASA space missions as well as the formation of the Rogers Commission to investigate the incident. Eventually, the Teacher in Space program would be folded into a larger “Teaching From Space program,” a national program for educating students about space. [Burgess, Colin. Teacher in Space: Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger Legacy. University ofNebraska Press: 2000]
- Apollo 11: The goal of NASA’s Project Apollo was to land the first humans onto the moon. On July 16th, 1969, that mission succeeded with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the lunar surface, with Armstrong infamously declaring that this is “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The success of this space mission left several important legacies, including securing the United States position as a technological and economic world power as well as allowing people to view the world in a new way. [Launius, Roger. Frontiers of Space Exploration. Greenwood Press: 1998]
- Apollo 13: Commanded by James Lovell alongside John Swigert and Fred Haise, Apollo 13 was faced with complications 55 hours into the mission. An explosion caused damage to equipment and an oxygen tank, promoting them to return to the Earth’s atmosphere. The shuttle was able to safely land in the Pacific, but crew members were forced to conserve as much energy as possible until the rescue boat retrieved them. An investigation was launched following the incident to determine the cause of the oxygen tank explosion and to prevent future such events from occurring. [Levine, Alan J. The Missile and Space Race. Praeger: 1994]
- Columbia Space Shuttle: As the Columbia Space Shuttle re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere after a 16-day mission, an explosion caused the shuttle to disintegrate on February 1st, 2003, with the disaster resulting in the loss of all seven crew members aboard. It was determined that damage to the wing of the shuttle during launch from a loss of foam in the shuttle contributed to the accident, with the thermal protection system failing to properly insulate the shuttle upon re-entering the Earth’s surface. [Mahler, Julianne. Organizational Learning at NASA: The Challenger and Columbia Accidents. Georgetown University Press: 2009]
- Mercury 3: Alan Shepard became the first American man to fly into space with his mission on May 5th, 1961, aboard the Mercury-Redstone 3. Shepard spent roughly 217 hours away from Earth and only 15 weightless minutes in space in the closet-sized capsule. His launch is widely-regarded as a historical milestone which set the precedent for all future space exploration. The widely broadcast and publicized event was later declared by Shepard as a baby step for the space program. [Harper, Jennifer. “Alan Shepard, First American in Space Dies at 74.” Washington Post: July 23,1998]
For all the latest space shuttle news including missions, development and behind-the-scenes scoops, check out NASA‘s Space Shuttle blog.