29 July 1958: Dwight David Eisenhower, Thirty-fourth President of the United States of America, signed Public Law #85-568 (72 Stat. 426), the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Congress declared a requirement for aeronautics and space research, and
…that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.
President Eisenhower had proposed civilian National Aeronautics and Space Agency to Congress in a letter sent 2 April 1958. The Bill passed on 16 July.
26 July 1971: At 9:34:00.6 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time (13:34:00.6 UTC), the Apollo 15/Saturn V (AS-510) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The three-man flight crew were Colonel David Randolph Scott, United States Air Force, Mission Commander, on his third space flight; Major Alfred Merrill Worden, USAF, Command Module Pilot, on his first mission; and Lieutenant Colonel James Benson Irwin, USAF, Lunar Module Pilot, also on his first space mission.
Their destination was was Hadley Rille, Mare Imbrium, The Moon.
At first stage ignition, the Apollo 15/Saturn V launch vehicle (AS-510) had a total weight of 6,494,415 pounds (2,945,817 kilograms). The five Rocketdyne F-1 engines of the S-IC first stage produced 7,558,000 pounds of thrust (33,619.66 kilonewtons).
After the first stage engines shut down, the S-IC stage was jettisoned. The five Rocketdyne J-2 engines of the S-II second stage received the Engine Start Command at T + 161.95 seconds. They produced 1,169,662 pounds of thrust (5,202.92 kilonewtons), and were themselves shut down at T + 549.06 seconds. The second stage was jettisoned and the single J-2 of the S-IVB third stage started at T + 553.2 and shut down at T + 694.7 seconds. The S-IVB engine produced 202,965 pounds of thrust (902.83 kilonewtons) during its First Burn.
Apollo 15 entered a parking orbit 11 minutes, 44 seconds after launch. The nearly-circular 105.3 × 106.4 miles (169.5 × 171.3 kilometers) orbit had a period of 1 hour, 27.84 minutes.
The Trans Lunar Injection maneuver (TLI) began at mission elapsed time 02:50:03. The total vehicle mass at the S-IVB’s Second Burn ignition was 307,661 pounds (139,552 kilograms). The J-2 engine produced 203,111 pounds of thrust (903.48 kilonewtons. The engine shut down at T + 02:55:53.7.
Once on the way to The Moon, the Command and Service Module Endeavour separated from the S-IVB third stage, reversed its relative position and then extracted the Lunar Module Falcon from the stage adaptor fairing. The S-IVB third stage was then released, continuing its own journey. It impacted the lunar surface at mission elapsed time 79:24:41.55, traveling 5,764 miles per hour (9,277 kilometers per hour).
This was the fifth manned lunar landing mission (though Apollo 13 did not land).
On this flight, NASA was sending a powered wheeled transport vehicle, the Lunar Roving Vehicle, or LRV. This would allow the astronauts on the moon’s surface to travel farther from the landing point, spend less time getting where they were going, and with less physical exertion. They would also be able to return to their space craft with more geologic samples. The emphasis on this flight was to conduct a meaningful scientific examination of the surface. The astronauts had received extensive training in this regard.
In a space agency filled with trailblazers, Sally K. Ride was a pioneer of a different sort. The soft-spoken California physicist broke the gender barrier 29 years ago when she rode to orbit aboard space shuttle Challenger to become America’s first woman in space.
“Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America’s space program,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally’s family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly.”
“Sally was a personal and professional role model to me and thousands of women around the world,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. “Her spirit and determination will continue to be an inspiration for women everywhere.”
Ride’s contribution to America’s space program continued right up until her death at age 61 this week. After two trips to orbit aboard the shuttle, she went on an award-winning academic career at the University of California, San Diego, where her expertise and wisdom were widely sought on matters related to space. She holds the distinction of being the only person to serve as a member of both investigation boards following NASA’s two space shuttle accidents. She also served as a member of the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, also known as the Augustine Committee, in 2009, which informed many of the decisions about NASA’s current human spaceflight programs.
However, Ride’s place in history was assured on June 18, 1983 when she rocketed into space on Challenger’s STS-7 mission with four male crewmates.
“The fact that I was going to be the first American woman to go into space carried huge expectations along with it,” Ride recalled in an interview for the 25th anniversary of her flight in 2008. “That was made pretty clear the day that I was told I was selected as a crew. I was taken up to Chris Kraft’s office. He wanted to have a chat with me and make sure I knew what I was getting into before I went on the crew. I was so dazzled to be on the crew and go into space I remembered very little of what he said.”
“On launch day, there was so much excitement and so much happening around us in crew quarters, even on the way to the launch pad,” Ride said. “I didn’t really think about it that much at the time . . . but I came to appreciate what an honor it was to be selected to be the first to get a chance to go into space.”
Ride joined NASA as part of the 1978 astronaut class, the first to include women. She and five other women, along with 29 men, were selected out of 8,000 applicants. The class became known as the “Thirty-Five New Guys” and reported to the Johnson Space Center the next summer to begin training. Ride trained for five years before she and three of her classmates were assigned to STS-7. The six-day mission deployed two communications satellites and performed a number of science experiments.
Following that historic flight, Ride returned to space on another shuttle mission, STS-41G in 1984. The 8-day mission deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conducted scientific observations of Earth, and demonstrated potential satellite refueling techniques. She was assigned to a third flight, but transitioned to a role on the Rogers Commission that investigated the Challenger accident after that shuttle was lost in January 1986. When the investigation was completed, she accepted a job as a special assistant to the NASA administrator for long range and strategic planning.
Ride left NASA in August 1987 to join the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, as a professor of physics and director of the University of California’s California Space Institute. In 2001, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, to pursue her long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology.
A native of Los Angeles, Ride graduated from high school there in 1968 and enrolled at Stanford University. At Stanford, she earned four degrees, including a doctorate in physics in 1978. She also was an accomplished athlete who played varsity tennis at Stanford after being nationally ranked as a youth.
Ride received numerous honors and awards during the course of her career. Most notably, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award.
—The above is from the official NASA web statement at
23 July 1999: at 12:31 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (16:31:00 UTC), the Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) lifted off on its 26th mission, STS-93, to place the Chandra X-ray Observatory in orbit. The total mission duration was 4 days, 22 hours, 49 minutes, 37 seconds.
In command was Colonel Eileen Marie Collins, United States Air Force, on her third shuttle flight. This was the first time that a space shuttle mission had been commanded by a woman.
Colonel Collins had previously served as pilot aboard Discovery STS-63 and Atlantis STS-84. She would later command Discovery (STS-114), the “Return To Flight” mission following the loss of Columbia. She logged 38 days, 10 hours of space flight. Eileen Collins retired in 2006.
21 July 2011, 5:54:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, (21:54:00 UTC) Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135, landed at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Wheel stop was 5:57:54 a.m., EDT.
This 13-day mission had been the thirty-third flight for Atlantis. It had spent a total of 307 days in Earth orbit.
This brought to a close The Era of American Manned Space Flight which began 50 years, 2 months, 15 days, 20 hours, 23 minutes, 41 seconds earlier with the launch of Alan Shepard in Freedom 7, 5 May 1961, 09:34:13 EST.
The benefits of the NASA programs over these decades are immeasurable.