National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Aeronautics and Astronautics Chronology, 1959

SOURCE: Eugene M. Emme, comp., Aeronautics and Astronautics: An American Chronology of Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space, 1915-1960 (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1961), pp. 106-17.


January 2: U.S.S.R. launched LUNIK I into a solar orbit, with a total weight of a reported 3,245 pounds, the first man-made object placed in orbit around the sun. It was called MECHTA ("dream") by the Russians

---: Defense officials indicated fiscal year 1960 budget would begin major integration of long-range missiles into weapons arsenal and replacement of manned aircraft on a large scale.

January 4: Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Pacific Missile Range declared officially operational for firings.

January 5: LUNIK I transmissions ceased 373,125 miles from earth.

January 8: NASA requested eight Redstone-type launch vehicles from the Army to be used in Project Mercury development flights.

January 9: NASA-DOD agreement signed for a "National Program To Meet Satellite and Space Vehicle Tracking and Surveillance Requirements" for fiscal year 1959 and fiscal year 1960.

January 12: NASA announced selection of McDonnell Aircraft Corp., as source for design, development,and construction of Mercury capsule.

January 15: First successful castings of molybdenum made at U.S. Bureau of Mines Laboratory at Albany, Oreg.

January 19: The AEC demonstrated a 5-watt radioisotope thermoelectric generator (designated SNAP 3) to President Eisenhower as an example of the potential use of radioisotopes and static thermoelectric conversion for providing long-lived electric power for space.

January 23: Dr. T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator, announced appointment of chairmen of 13 new research advisory committees to provide technical counsel from industry, universities, and government organizations.

January 28: Nike-Cajun successfully launched 12-foot-diameter test inflatable sphere to a height of 75 miles over NASA Wallops Island, the sphere inflating satisfactorily.

---: One hundred ten candidates were selected by NASA in the first screening for Project Mercury astronauts from Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps test-pilot schools.

January 29: First jet passenger service across the United States begun by American Airlines with Boeing 707's.

During January: Rocketdyne demonstrated 1-million-pound-thrust liquid-propellant rocket combustion chamber at full power.

February 2: First annual report on Aeronautical and Space Activities, covering all U.S. activities during the year 1958, was forwarded to the Congress by the President.

February 6: First test launch of USAF Titan ICBM (A-3) from Cape Canaveral.

February 11: Army announced that a weather balloon, launched at the Signal Research and Development Laboratory, Fort Monmouth, N.J., had established a world altitude record of 146,000 feet.

February 17: VANGUARD II (SLV-4), the fifth U.S.-IGY satellite, successfully launched payload containing photocells designed to produce cloud cover images for 2 weeks; processing or wobbling prevented significant interpretation of data.

---: USAF Committee presided over by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Associate Director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Cambridge, Mass., recommended that the USAF continue to take a positive approach to UFO's, investigate reported sightings by all scientific means, and keep the public fully informed of existing policy. Of the unknown objects sighted, it reported, no scientific evidence supports the conclusion that the objects were spacecraft.

February 19: Monorail two-stage rocket-research sled attained 3,090 mph, or roughly Mach 4.1, at Holloman AFB.

February 20: NASA awarded $105 million in contracts for 1959 projects (15 satellites).

February 23: Navy revealed development of steerable molybdenum nozzle used in the solid-propellant Polaris missile.

February 28: DISCOVERER I, ARPA satellite weighing 1,450 pounds, successfully launched into polar orbit by USAF Thor-Agena A booster from Pacific Missile Range; stabilization difficulties hampered tracking acquisition.

March 1: "Poor man's rocket," Scout, was jointly announced by NASA and AF. The concept of Scout originated at Langley Research Center in 1958, based upon extensive experience with staged solid-propellant rockets.

March 3: PIONEER IV, fourth U.S.-IGY space probe, a joint ABMA-JPL project under direction of NASA, was launched by a Juno II rocket from AMR and achieved earth-moon trajectory, passing within 37,000 miles of the moon before going into permanent solar orbit. Radio contact was maintained to a record distance of 406, 620 miles. It was the first U.S. sun-orbiter.

---: NASA's Langley Research Center launched first in a series of six-stage solid fuel rocket research vehicles, the world's first, from Wallops Island, Va., to a speed of Mach 26 in a reentry physics program.

March 4: British National Committee on Space Research, H. S. W. Massey as chairman, held its first meeting.

March 6: Radio signals received from PIONEER IV from a distance of 406, 620 miles from earth, a new communications record.

March 7: First French Veronique sounding rocket launched from Columb Bechar to an altitude of 104 km (64.6 mi.).

March 10: First captive flight of X-15 (No. 1) under modified B-52 with A. Scott Crossfield in the cockpit; additional captive flights were made on April 1, April 10, and May 21.

March 11: NASA granted $350,000 to National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council for program of research appointments in theoretical and experimental physics to stimulate basic research appointments in theoretical and experimental physics to stimulate basic research in the space sciences.

March 12: Second British Black Knight rocket reached 350-mile altitude at Woomera, Australia.

March 12-14: Second meeting of COSPAR held at The Hague, the Netherlands.

March 13: The President announced the establishment of the Federal Council for Science and Technology to promote closer cooperation among Federal agencies in planning their respective research and development programs.

---: From an altitude of 123 miles boosted by an NRL Aerobee-Hi rocket, fired from White Sands, N. Mex., the first ultraviolet photos of the sun were taken and recorded.

March 14: National Academy of Sciences delegate to COSPAR transmitted to COSPAR President the offer of NASA to carry experiments by scientists of other nations in U.S. space vehicles.

March 15: Army Redstone ejected miniature TV camera which transmitted pictures of its target impact area.

March 17: First flight launching of a spin-stabilized 20-inch-diameter spherical rocket, by NASA Langley's PARD at Wallops Station, Va.

---: ARPA announced that DISCOVERER I was no longer in orbit.

March 18: Army Signal Corps and RCA announced development of micromodules for electronic devices which ultimately could permit 500,000 components to be packed into a cubic inch of space.

March 19: Deputy Secretary of Defense Quarles announced that three atomic blasts were fired in space (Project Argus) in 1958, using modified X-17 rockets.

March 20: MIT announced successful radar signal returns from Venus had been performed on February 10 and 12, 1958, return signals being one ten-millionth as strong as transmission signals.

March 24: NASA announced that Wallops Station had made over 3,300 rocket firings since 1945.

April 2: Seven astronauts were selected for Project Mercury after a series of the most rigorous physical and mental tests ever given to U.S. test pilots. Chosen from a field of 110 candidates, the finalists were all qualified test pilots: Capts. Leroy G. Cooper, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, and Donald K. Slayton, (USAF); Lt. Malcolm S. Carpenter, Lt. Comdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Lt. Comdr. Watler M. Schirra, Jr. (USN); and Lt. Col. John H. Glenn (USMC).

---: Lt. Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, Commander AFBMD, was named Commander of Air Research and Development Command.

---: USAF Bold Orion ballistic missile test launched from B-47 jet bomber.

April 7: AEC Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory announced development of plasma thermocouple for direct conversion of energy from a nuclear reactor into electricity, offering potential auxiliary power source for space applications.

---: First operational flight of USAF Snark to target on AMR.

April 8: Reentry body of USAF Thor-Able recovered at the far end of the Atlantic Missile Range: first recovery after an ICBM range flight by AFMTC task force.

April 13: DISCOVERER II satellite successfully placed into polar orbit by Thor-Agena A booster, but capsule ejection malfunctioned causing it to impact in vicinity of Spitsbergen on April 14 instead of vicinity of Hawaii. It was first vehicle known to have been placed in a polar orbit and was the first attempt to recover an object from orbit.

---: VANGUARD (SLV-5) failed to achieve payload orbit because of loss of second-stage pitch attitude control.

April 16: First Thor IRBM launched by British crew at Vandenberg AFB.

April 17: United States formally requested that the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space convene in New York on May 6.

April 20: NASA announced acceptance of proposals by the Canadian Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment for continuing joint rocket and satellite ionospheric experiments of a nonmilitary nature.

April 23: Fourth recovery of a data capsule at AMR, USAF Thor 1,500-mile accuracy test flight.

---: President announced the resignation of Richard E. Horner, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Development, to become Associate Administrator of NASA effective July 1st.

---: First test flight of USAF GAM-77 Hound Dog at AMR.

April 24: Dr. Hugh L. Dryden and Loftus E. Becker appointed to assist Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in the forthcoming meetings at the United Nations of the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

April 27: Meeting of DOD working group on Project Mercury search and recovery operations was held at Patrick Air Force Base, with major emphasis placed on the first two ballistic Atlas shots, and command relationships.

---: The 1958 Annual Report of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the 44th and final report of NACA established in 1915, was submitted to Congress by the President. It contained historical sections by Jerome C. Hunsaker and James H. Doolittle.

---: DX priority (highest national priority) assigned to Project Mercury.

April 28: NASA announced the signing of a $24 million contract with Douglas Aircraft Co., Inc., for a three-stage Thor-Vanguard launching rocket called Delta.

April 29-30: Symposium sponsored by the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the American Physical Society, held in Washington to review space research findings and the objectives of future research programs in the space sciences.

During April: The Tiros meteorological satellite program was transferred from the Department of Defense to the responsibility of NASA for the national meteorological satellite program. At the same time, a Joint Meteorological Satellite Advisory Committee was established.

May 1: NASA's Administrator announced the naming of Goddard Space Flight Center under construction near Greenbelt, Md., in commemoration of Robert H. Goddard, American pioneer in rocket research. Dr. Harry J. Goett was appointed Director in September.

---: Smithsonian Optical Tracking Station at Woomera, Australia, successfully photographed VANGUARD I earth satellite at the apogee of its orbit, nearly 2,500 miles from earth. Compared to taking picture of golf ball 600 miles away, this feat was repeated on May 3 and 4.

May 3: Dr. Otto Struve of the University of California was appointed Director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, to be located at Green Bank, W. Va.

May 4: National Bureau of Standards released details on the effect on the ionosphere of the high-altitude nuclear shots called Teak and Orange on August 1 and 12, 1958, over Johnston Island.

May 6: NASA created a committee to study problems of long-range lunar exploration to be headed by Dr. Robert Jastrow.

---: ABMA Jupiter IRBM made successful 1,500-mile flight at Cape Canaveral and was declared operational by the USAF.

---: NASA awarded contract to Convair for development of Vega launch vehicle for deep space probes and satellites.

May 6-June 25: Ad Hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space of U.N. met in session at U.N. headquarters in New York.

May 12: NASA announced training program for seven Project Mercury astronauts to provide them with technical knowledge and skills required to pilot the Nation's manned orbital capsule.

---: University of Minnesota scientist under ONR contract launched unmanned balloon to 100,000 feet, where first positive measurement of intense solar protons associated with a solar flare was made.

---: USAF Thor launched GE Mark 2 nose cone 1,500 miles down AMF, recovered data capsule contained photograph of the earth from 300-mile altitude.

May 13: British plan for launching an earth satellite was revealed by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan before the House of Commons.

May 14: Use of moon as relay station for intercontinental transmission made from Jodrell Bank, England, to the USAF Cambridge Research Center at Bedford, Mass.

May 15: Lt. Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, Commander of ARDC, unveiled first reentry vehicle ever to be recovered a full intercontinental range flight.

May 18: NASA announced formation of Committee on Long-Range Studies headed by John A. Johnson to fulfill charge of National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (sec. 102), calling for "establishment of long-range studies of the potential benefits to be gained from, the opportunities for, and the problems involved in the utilization of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes."

May 26: ABMA static fired a single H-1 Saturn engine at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

May 27: First flight test of USAF Bomarc B long-range interceptor missile.

May 28: Dr. George B. Kistiakowsky of Harvard University named special assistant to the President for science and technology, replacing Dr. James R. Killian, Jr.

---: Army Jupiter IRBM launched a nose cone carrying two living passengers¾Able, an American-born rhesus monkey, and Baker, a South American squirrel monkey, to a 300-mile altitude, and both were recovered alive. The medical portions of the experiment were carried out by the Army Medical Service and Army Ballistic Missile Agency, Army Ordnance Missile Command, with the cooperation of the USN School of Aviation Medicine and the USAF School of Aviation Medicine.

June 1: Rhesus monkey Able died from effects of anesthesia given for removal of electrode instrumentation, autopsy revealing no effects from flight on May 28, at Army Research Labortory, Fort Knox, Ky.

June 3: Moon relay transmission of President Eisenhower's voice by recording was made from Millstone Hill Radar Observatory, Westford, Mass., to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada.

---: DISCOVERER III failed to achieve orbit.

June 5: Construction at Cape Canaveral for the Saturn begun.

June 6: Army announced that sea urchin eggs fertilized before Jupiter nose cone flight continued to grow normally.

June 8: X-15 (No. 1) research airplane made its first glide flight with A. Scott Crossfield as pilot, after being carried by the B-52 mother ship to an altitude of 38,000 feet.

---: Mail carried by missile as 3,000 letters were delivered by a Regulus I from the submarine Barbero to NAS Mayport, Fla.

June 9: First Polaris-carrier nuclear submarine launched at Groton, Conn., the George Washington.

June 12: Scientific subcommittee of the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space proposed creation of a center to promote international cooperation in outer space research.

June 17: First USAF test firing of an experimental escape capsule.

June 18: Six U.S. Navy enlisted men began an 8-day experiment in a simulated space cabin at the Air Crew Equipment Laboratory of the Naval Air Material Center at the Philadelphia Naval Base.

June 22: VANGUARD (SLV-6) satellite designed to measure the radiation balance of the earth, its atmosphere, and the solar energy flux, failed to go into orbit.

June 23: USAF Arnold Engineering Development Center was directed by ARDC to prepare operating and design requirements for a "Large Space Environments Test Facility" for testing and developing military space weapons.

June 25: DISCOVERER IV failed to achieve orbit.

June 29: NASA welcomed announcement of United Kingdom approval of proposals for cooperative scientific research in space with the United States pending formal arrangements.

During June: NASA issued Research Memo (4-17-59L) entitled "Airplane Measurements of Atmospheric Turbulence at Altitudes between 20,000 and 55,000 feet for Four Geographic Areas," analyzing data acquired by Lockheed U-2 aircraft over western United States, England and Western Europe, Turkey, and Japan.

---: Deployment of first USAF operational Thor IRBM squadron to the United Kingdom.

---: Operating velocity of Mach 6 was achieved in AEDC wind tunnel with a 40- by 40-inch test section at Tullahoma, Tenn.

July 1: The first experimental reactor (Kiwi-A) in the nuclear space rocket program operated successfully at full temperature and duration at Jackass Flats, Nev.

July 6: Comdr. M. Lee Lewis (USN) killed in accident shortly before scheduled launching of high-altitude balloon at St. Paul, Minn. He is credited with originating the Rockoon concept.

July 7: Four-stage Argo D4 rocket with an ARDC Javelin payload fired from Wallops Island to an altitude of 750 miles, first in a series of USAF-NASA launchings to measure natural radiation surrounding the earth.

July 8: As developmental planning for Project Mercury evolved, NASA notified the Army that to reduce the variety of launching vehicles to Jupiter missile would not be used for Project Mercury tests.

July 9: NASA Lewis Research Center operated a research model of an ion rocket in a newly completed electric-rocket test facility designed for basic investigations into the problems associated with a reliable ion rocket with a minimum life of 1 year.

July 10: A 10-page report of Soviet, British, and United States scientists recommended that satellites be used to detect nuclear explosions in space.

July 11: ONR STRATOSCOPE I balloon with camera to photograph the sun was launched from St. Paul, Minn., to an altitude of 81,250 feet.

July 13: Largest plastic balloon to date (6 million cubic feet) launched by Office of Naval Research with 173 pounds of instruments, at Fort Churchill, Canada.

July 14: U.N. Assembly Document No. A/4141, Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, was released.

July 16: NASA, with Army as executive agent of a joint ABMA-JPL project, attempted Explorer satellite launch with Juno II booster, but it was destroyed 51/2 seconds after launch by range safety officer.

---: Second largest reflector telescope in the world, the 120-inch telescope at the Lick Observatory, was dedicated.

July 20: NASA selected Western Electric Co. to build worldwide network of tracking and ground instrument stations to be used in Project Mercury.

July 21: A full-scale USAF Atlas ICBM nose cone recovered for the first time after flight down the AMR.

July 24: USAF Thor data capsule recovered near Antigua which contained movie film showing nose cone separation.

July 29: Two-stage Nike-Asp fired from Naval Missile Facility, Point Arguello, the first of 12 designed to record radiation 150 miles up and also the first ballistic missile fired from this new facility.

During July: Project Mercury astronauts completed disorientation flights on three-axis space-flight simulator, the MASTIF (Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility), at NASA Lewis Research Center.

---: Portion of Chincoteague (Va.) Naval Air Station transferred to NASA for use in connection with Wallops Station rocket range.

August-December: Conference of the International Telecommunications Union which was held at Geneva, Switzerland, allocated radio frequency bands for space and earth-space use.

During summer: Under joint sponsorship of National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, Princeton University scientists successfully photographed sunspots with unprecedented clarity by means of 12-inch solar telescope, STRATOSCOPE I, mounted on a balloon platform at an altitude of near 80,000 feet. (See July 11 and 13.)

August 3: First flight test of Navy Subroc antisub missile from NOTS, China Lake, Calif.

August 7: EXPLORER VI, popularly called the "Paddlewheel Satellite," launched by NASA Thor-Able 3, contained 14 experiments, and a photocell scanner which transmitted a crude picture of the earth's surface and cloud cover from a distance of 17,000 miles. Placed in highly elliptical orbit (26,000 miles out, 156 miles in), it gave a broad sample of readings.

---: Comdr. M. Ross (USNR) and R. Cooper (High Altitude Observatory) flew STRATO-LAB open gondola balloon to 38,000 feet for solar studies with a coronagraph.

---: USAF launched 39-inch weather balloon with radar reflector (Robin) from rocket at 50-mile altitude.

August 10: USAF canceled research program to develop exotic chemicals fuels for proposed Mach 3 B-70 bomber and F-108 interceptor.

August 13: DISCOVERER V placed into polar orbit by AF Thor-Agena A, but reentry capsule not recovered due to postejection malfunctions.

August 14: With Army as executive agent of ABMA-JPL Project, Beacon satellite launched by Juno II failed to go into orbit.

---: While EXPLORER VI satellite was passing over Mexico at an altitude of about 17,000 miles, it successfully transmitted a crude picture of a sunlit, crescent-shaped portion of the North Central Pacific Ocean. The area of earth photographed was 20,000 square miles.

August 17: First of NIKE-ASP sounding rockets to provide geophysical information on wind activity between 50 and 150 miles high was launched successfully from NASA Wallops Station.

August 19: DISCOVERER VI satellite orbited successfully, but reentry capsule not recovered.

August 21: Launching of Mercury capsule mockup from Wallops Station to test the escape and recovery systems; emergency escape rocket accidentally fired 30 minutes before scheduled firing of the Little Joe booster.

---: NASA established Bioscience Advisory Committee, headed by Dr. Seymour S. Kety, to study U.S. capability in space-oriented life science research and development and to recommend future NASA role in this area in terms of a national space program.

August 24: USAF fired Atlas-C 5,000 miles and recovered nose cone camera with photographs of one-sixth of earth's surface taken from 700 miles up, near Ascension Island.

August 25: NASA Western Operations Office, Santa Monica, Calif., made responsible for liaison, administrative, and management support west of Denver, Colo., for rapidly expanding NASA research and development activities.

---: Reflected signals off the moon successfully received at the University of Texas from the Royal Radar Establishment at Malvern, England.

August 27: Satellite tracking station at Woomera, Australia, successfully photographed EXPLORER VI at a distance of 14,000 miles.

---: First British Commonwealth Symposium on Space Flight began in London.

August 29: Navy technician withstood record 31 g's in centrifuge at AMAL, Johnsville, Pa.

August 31: Tenth IAF meeting opened in London.

September 1: USAF Atlas ICBM officially declared operational and taken over by the Strategic Air Command, at Vandenberg AFB.

September 2: Dr. Theodore van Kármán named chairman of a committee to establish an International Academy on Astronautics.

September 4: ONR SKYHOOK unmanned balloon launched from Sioux Falls, S. Dak., by Raven Industries, establishing new unofficial altitude record of 148,000 feet for unmanned balloon.

September 9: NASA boilerplate model of Mercury capsule successfully launched on an Atlas (Big Joe) missile from AMR and recovered in South Atlantic after surviving reentry heat of more than 10,000°F.

---: First launch of operational AF Atlas ICBM from Vandenberg AFB was successful, and second Atlas ICBM fired from Cape Canaveral the same day.

September 12: Russia's LUNIK II launched with a total payload weight of 858.4 pounds, became the first manmade object to hit the moon on the following day. Its launching coincided with the departure of Premier Nikita Khrushchev for the United States in turboprop Tu-114.

September 15: First static test firing of USAF Minuteman, a second generation solid-fuel ICBM.

---: Premier Khrushchev presented President Eisenhower with a replica of the Soviet coat of arms impacted on the moon on September 13.

September 16: Army Jupiter launched with NASA biomedical experiment from Cape Canaveral, destroyed by a range officer after fishtailing.

---: Full-sized USAF Minuteman ICBM model launched from underground silo.

September 17: ARPA-Navy TRANSIT IA navigation satellite was successfully launched by Thor-Able booster, but did not orbit due to third-stage malfunction.

---: First powered flight of X-15 (No. 2) research airplane, released from its B-52 mother ship approximately 36 minutes after takeoff (Interim Thiokol-RMD XLR-11 engines), A. Scott Crossfield as pilot.

September 18: VANGUARD III, sixth U.S.-IGY satellite, successfully injected into orbit, marking the end of Vanguard launching activities. VANGUARD III provided comprehensive survey of magnetic field, lower edge of radiation belts, and accurate micrometeorite impacts.

---: Secretary of Defense McElroy issued order entitled "Satellite and Space Vehicle Operations," assigning basic responsibilities.

September 22: Nuclear submarine Patrick Henry launched at Groton, Conn.

---: NASA renamed High Speed Flight Station at Edwards, Calif., to be NASA Flight Research Center, consistent with mission responsibility for all but STOL and VTOL flight research at low-speed ranges conducted at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

September 23: Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Dr. Herbert F. York, announced reorganization of military space and missile program, with major role going to Air Force. Four ARPA space projects were to be transferred to the services.

September 24: NASA Atlas-Able-4 launch vehicle, minus its payload, undergoing static tests at AMR, exploded while being prepared for the launch of a 375-pound satellite into a lunar orbit in October.

September 28: Pictures taken from satellite EXPLORER VI over Mexico at 19,500 miles altitude on August 14, were released by NASA. Picture showed crescent shape of the sunlit portion of the earth and crude cloud-cover image.

During September: Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, Deputy Administrator of NASA, took part in a number of discussions with European scientific community to assess space interest there and to indicate NASA's desire to work out possible cooperative space research programs.

October 1: NASA personnel total reached 9,347.

October 2: AFMTC Commander Maj. Gen. Donald N. Yates, appointed Department of Defense representative for Project Mercury support operations.

October 4: NASA LITTLE JOE launch vehicle carrying a boilerplate Mercury capsule with a dummy escape system successfully launched from Wallops Station, Va.

---: LUNIK III, Russia's translunar earth satellite began photographing trip around the moon, while Premier Khrushchev was visiting Peiping.

October 6: EXPLORER VI ceased transmissions.

---: USAF launched an Atlas ICBM and a Thor IRBM at their full range from Cape Canaveral.

October 8: PIONEER IV reached first aphelion (estimated 107,951,000 miles) in its orbit around the sun at 8 p.m., e.s.t. Since launch on March 3, PIONEER IV was tracked by JPL's Goldstone tracking station to 407,000 miles from earth.

October 13: EXPLORER VII, the seventh and last U.S.-IGY earth satellite, and now under direction of NASA with the Army as executive agent, launched into an earth orbit by modified Army Juno II. By late December, data from the satellite indicated possible relationships between solar events and geomagnetic storms, and revealed information about trapped radiation and cosmic rays near the earth. With launching of this ABMA-JPL project, all experiments for the U.S.-IGY space program had been successfully placed into orbit.

---: USAF Bold Orion launched from B-47 near Patrick AFB passed within 4 miles of EXPLORER VI at an altitude of 160 miles in test firings.

October 14: First successful flight test of Nike-Zeus at WSPG.

October 17: A second powered free flight of the X-15 (No. 2) research airplane accomplished most planned objectives.

October 18: LUNIK III provided man's first look at 70 percent of the backside of the moon, 2 weeks after launch, by transmitting automatically taken pictures. Pictures were released on October 26.

October 21: The President by Executive Order indicated that the Development Operations Division of ABMA would be transferred to NASA, subject to the approval of Congress.

October 26: USSR released photo of the far side of the moon taken by LUNIK III.

October 28: 100-foot-diameter inflatable sphere launched on a suborbital test flight from NASA Wallops Station, Va., to an altitude of 250 miles by a first Sergeant-Delta rocket; aluminum-coated Mylar-plastic sphere to be used as passive electronic reflector in Echo was developed by NASA Langley's Space Vehicle Group under the direction of William J. O'Sullivan.

October 29: USAF Atlas successfully launched from Cape Canaveral carrying a nose-cone camera which took a series of photographs of the earth's cloud cover from a 300-mile altitude.

November 2: President Eisenhower announced his intention of transferring the Saturn project to NASA, which became effective on March 15, 1960.

November 4: NASA launched a second LITTLE JOE from Wallops Station, to test the Mercury escape system under severe dynamic pressure; launch vehicle functioned perfectly, but the escape rocket ignited several seconds too late.

November 5: Third powered flight of the X-15 (No. 2).

November 7: USAF DISCOVERER VII satellite placed into polar orbit, but capsule recovery not achieved.

November 9: Entire outer Van Allen radiation belt broke up and disappeared for several days, according to data analysis from EXPLORER VII reported at AAAS meeting in New York, December 29, 1960.

November 10: Five-stage sounding rocket launched from NASA Wallops Island to an altitude of 1,050 miles to measure density of electrons in upper atmosphere.

---: The AEC's SNAP 2 Experimental Reactor (SER) achieved initial design power of 50 thermal kilowatts in developmental tests at the Atomics International, Santa Susana, Calif., test site. SER, the first reactor designed for use in space, was being developed for Air Force surveillance satellite systems.

---: Air Force placed contracts for Dyna-Soar project with Boeing and Martin.

November 11-22: Under sponsorship of COSPAR, an internationally coordinated program of scientific rocket soundings of the upper atmosphere was conducted. The U.S. contribution included 10 rocket firings.

November 13: National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research released select photographs from the more than 1,000 taken of the sun on Stratoscope balloon flights over Minnesota on July 11, August 17, and September 4.

November 14: World's largest balloon (107 cubic feet) launched from Stratobowl near Rapid City, S. Dak., by Winzen Research, reaching maximum altitude of near 118,000 feet with a 1-ton payload suspended.

---: New Aerospace Medical Center dedicated at Brooks AFB, Tex.

November 16: Capt. Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr. (USAF), made record parachute jump from open balloon gondola at an altitude of 76,400 feet (EXCELSIOR I).

November 17: Based on September decision that all department of Defense satellite and space vehicle programs would be assigned to the military service of primary interest, various projects were assigned. Discoverer, Midas, and Samos were transferred from ARPA to the Air Force.

---: Pending formal transfer of the Saturn project, the Associate Administrator of NASA requested the Director of Space Flight Development to form a study group with membership from NASA, the Directorate of Defense Research and Engineering, ARPA, ABMA, and the Air Force to prepare recommendations for the development, and selection of upper stage configurations.

November 18: Nike-Asp sounding rocket fired from NASA Wallops Station emitted sodium vapor at 50-mile altitude to 150 miles, revealing powerful windshear effects.

---: NASA-DOD memorandum of understanding signed providing for interim management of Project Saturn pending its formal transfer to NASA.

November 19: Second sodium-vapor-trail experiment in Nike-Asp launch from Wallops Island was not successful.

November 20: DISCOVERER VIII satellite successfully placed into polar orbit, but capsule was not recovered.

---: Polaris test missiles successfully launched from launching ship, Observation Island, off Cape Canaveral.

November 26: Pioneer lunar probe was lifted normally by Atlas-Able 4 launch vehicle, but failure of plastic fairing covering payload (at 45 seconds after launch) caused payload to break away.

November 27: Hiller X-18 tilt-wing research transport made first flight at Edwards AFB.

November 28: During severe geomagnetic storm, two Geiger tubes on EXPLORER VII found anomalies in the outer radiation zone at about 1,000-km altitude, which appeared to be correlated in space and time with optical emissions from the atmosphere below. Very intense narrow zones of radiation were detected over a visible aurora during one orbit.

November 28-29: Comdr. M. Ross and Dr. C. B. Moore flew ONR STRATO-LAB HIGH IV balloon to an altitude of 81,000 feet, using a 16-inch telescope and spectrograph, and observing water vapor in the atmosphere of the planet Venus.

During November: Prototype Goodrich full-pressure Mercury astronaut suits (modified Navy Mark IV) were delivered to NASA. Navy Air Crew Equipment Laboratory (NACEL) of Philadelphia fitted suits and indoctrinated the astronauts on their use.

---: Cooperative space efforts were discussed with Soviet scientists attending the American Rocket Society meeting in Washington, D.C.

December 1: 12 nations (including United States and U.S.S.R.) assigned Antarctic Treaty promoting scientific research and barring any military activity in the area.

---: New Bureau of Naval Weapons, consolidating the Bureau of Ordnance and the Bureau of Aeronautics, began functioning.

---: USAF reduced order for the B-70 bomber to only two prototypes.

December 2: Construction of a missile tracking station on Roi Namur Island near Kwajalein in the Central Pacific was announced by DOD.

December 4: Third LITTLE JOE (II), successfully launched at NASA Wallops Station as part of Project Mercury development program, carried a monkey named "Sam" 55 miles into space which was recovered safely.

December 7: Unofficial altitude record of 98,560 feet set by Navy McDonnell F4H carrier jet at Edwards AFB, Comdr. L. E. Flint as pilot.

---: Administrator of NASA, Dr. T. Keith Glennan, offered services of U.S. worldwide tracking network in support of any manned space flight the U.S.S.R. might plan to undertake, in a speech before the Institute of World Affairs in Pasadena, Calif.

---: Nine nations including the Soviet Union approved a new charter for COSPAR at The Hague, which opened membership in COSPAR to all national academies of science engaged in space research, and created a nine-representative executive board. The U.S.S.R. had not participated in COSPAR deliberations since November 1958.

December 8: Maj. Gen. Don R. Ostrander (USAF) named Director of NASA's Office of Launch Vehicle Programs and responsible for launch vehicle development and operations.

---: Brig. Gen. Austin W. Betts (USA) was named Director of ARPA to replace Acting Director, Gen. D. Ostrander (USAF).

December 9: USAF Goodyear unmanned balloon launched from Akron, Ohio, to an altitude of 100,000 feet, where radar photographs of the earth's surface were taken.

---: Kaman H-43B established new helicopter altitude record of 30,100 feet.

December 10: U.S. Ambassador Lodge presented a resolution to the Assembly of the United Nations recommending that an international conference on the peaceful uses of outer space be convened in 1960 or 1961.

December 11: Capt. J. Kittinger (USAF) flew EXCELSIOR II balloon from Holloman AFB to an altitude of 74,700 feet and bailed out, establishing stable free fall for 55,000 feet.

---: New world speed record for 100-km closed course set by Brig. Gen. J. H. Moore (USAF) in F-105B, at 1,216.48 mph.

---: NASA discontinued multistage Vega vehicle program to reduce number of rocket vehicles and to exploit reliability factor in future satellite and space projects.

---: Transmitters of VANGUARD III, launched on September 18, became silent after providing tracking signals and scientific data for 85 days. Satellite was expected to remain in orbit 40 years.

December 12: First Titan ICBM launching testing second stage was unsuccessful at AMR.

---: United Nations created permanent 24-nation committee to study Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and to arrange for an international conference.

December 14: Lockheed F-104C piloted by Capt. J. B. Jordan (USAF) climbed to new world's record for jet aircraft of 103,389 feet.

December 15: Convair F-106A broke straightaway course record at 1,525.95 mph, piloted by Maj. J. W. Rogers (USAF).

---: NASA released detailed comparison of United States and U.S.S.R. space sciences programs prepared by Dr. Homer E. Newell, which pointed up the importance of leadtime in vehicle technology.

Mid-December: NASA team completed study design of upper stages of Saturn launch vehicle.

December 17: Launching of NASA-AFBMD Thor-Able space probe designed to boost 90-pound payload to explore space between Earth and Venus was postponed.

December 18: Atlas ICBM made second successful 6,325-mile flight at AMR.

December 19: The Chairman, AEC, in a letter to the Administrator of NASA, proposed a flight test objective be established for the nuclear rocket program and proposed a technical program and division of agency responsibilities to achieve those objectives.

December 20: Dr. Melvin Calvin reported that molecules in meteorites resembled basic constituents of genetic material found on earth.

December 22: In a United States-Canadian cooperative project, NASA launched the first four-stage Javelin sounding rocket from Wallops Station to an altitude of 560 miles to measure the intensity of galactic radio noise.

December 27: NASA proposed joint space efforts with other nations to promote international cooperation in space research.

December 30: U.S.S. George Washington, the first fleet Polaris submarine, was commissioned.

---: Scientists associated with EXPLORER VII experiments reported their preliminary findings in a press conference at NASA Headquarters, which indicated sporadic burst of radiation from the sun could influence manned space flight.

December 31: Mercury astronauts completed basic and theoretical studies in their training program and started practical engineering studies.

---: More than 100 drop tests of boilerplate Mercury capsules had been completed from aircraft to test and develop the parachute system.

---: Approximately 300 U.S. research rockets were launched during the 30-month IGY/IGC-59 period: 221 of these were launched during the IGY. This compared with the some 400 U.S. research rockets fired during the entire preceding 12-year period from the beginning of high-altitude rocket research circa 1945 to July 1, 1957.

---: The IGY/IGC-59 program ended, but international cooperation in geophysics was to continue without a formal name under the sponsorship of International Council of Scientific Unions. NASA continued to make data from scientific satellites and space probes available to the world scientific community utilizing COSPAR and World Data Centers established during the IGY.

During December: National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, W. Va., placed its 85-foot equatorially mounted radio telescope in full operation and continued construction of its 140-foot telescope which was planned for operation in 1961. All qualified U.S. astronomers have access to these facilities sponsored by the National Science Foundation, with priorities determined by the scientific merit of their respective projects.

---: USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB proposed curriculum for Space Research Pilot Course in defining training needs for 1960-65.

---: Briefing on the orbiting Astronomical Observatory Satellite (AOS) program was given for interested members of industry at NASA headquarters.

During 1959: Lewis Research Center developed general method for automatic computation of theoretical rocket performance for propellant combinations involving up to 10 chemical elements; method permitting rapid performance calculation for virtually any conceivable fuel-oxidant combination.

---: Pratt & Whitney conducted thrust chamber tests of high-energy upper stage rocket engine using liquid hydrogen (RCIO).

---: Previous experience led NASA Lewis Research Center to design and construct experimental high-temperature jet engine which demonstrated feasibility of gas turbine operation at inlet gas temperatures up to 2,500°F, almost 1,000° above conventional gas-turbine engine. This test engine had a cooled turbine.

---: Aeromedical Laboratory completed development and testing of the full-pressure pilot suit for use by pilots of the X-15.

---: The National Science Foundation sited a national observatory on Kitt Peak, Ariz., 40 miles southwest of Tucson, for construction of a 36-inch reflector and an 80-inch telescope, and a 60-inch solar telescope. The solar telescope is scheduled for completion in 1961 and will be several times larger than the largest instrument of its kind in existence.

---: NASA Lewis Research Center first operated hydrogen fluorine thrust chambers at simulated high-altitude conditions obtaining unusually high performance.

---: Aeromedical Field Laboratory at Holloman AFB began training of chimpanzees for flights in ballistic and orbital flights for Project Mercury.

---: School of Aviation Medicine undertook to evolve a system for maintaining animals in sealed, self-contained ecological systems under a variety of physical conditions, such as weightlessness, acceleration, vibration, and spinning.

---: Transatlantic air passengers totaled 1,367,000 persons on scheduled flights and 173,000 on charter and special flights for the year, as compared to 884,000 sea passengers.

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Last Updated: January 27, 2005