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January 2, 2012 - Transforming the Space Frontier

Transforming the Space Frontier Forty years ago this week, President Richard Nixon announced that he was directing NASA to develop “an entirely new type of space transportation system designed to help transform the space frontier of the 1970s into familiar territory, easily accessible for human endeavor in the 1980s and ‘90s.” The Space Transportation System, more commonly known as the Space Shuttle, flew 135 missions beginning with the April 1981 STS-1 mission of the shuttle Columbia, and ending in July 2011 with the STS-135 mission of Atlantis, seen here during its final liftoff. Over those thirty years, five different orbiters flew in space, circling Earth more than 21,000 times and logging more than 800 million kilometers (500 million miles) as a fleet—enough to fly a one-way trip to Jupiter.

Image credit: NASA / Tony Gray and Tom Farrar

Weekly Calendar

January 2-8, 2012

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 2

Moon at apogee
Jupiter 5° south of Moon

1900: Leslie Peltier born
1920: Isaac Asimov born
1959: Luna 1 is first spacecraft to leave Earth’s gravitational field
1972: Mariner 9 begins mapping Mars
2004: Stardust encounters Comet Wild 2

Moon phase Tuesday 3

Quadrantid meteor shower

1962: NASA publicly announces and names Gemini program
2004: Mars rover Spirit lands

Moon phase Wednesday 4

Earth at perihelion
Quadrantid meteor shower

1970: NASA cancels Apollo 20 mission; further production of Saturn V launch vehicles ceases

Moon phase Thursday 5

1969: Venera 5 launched
1972: President Nixon announces approval to develop the Space Shuttle
2005: UB313 (Eris) discovered, ignites the Pluto-Planet debate

Moon phase Friday 6


1998: Lunar Prospector launched

Moon phase Saturday 7

1610: Galileo discovers Callisto, Europa, & Io
1964: First power tool for space demonstrated
1968: Surveyor 7 launched

Moon phase Sunday 8

1587: Johann Fabricius born
1942: Stephen Hawking born
1973: Luna 21 & Lunokhod 2 launched
1987: Challenger debris buried

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.