Many people have asked what anniversaries are upcoming in 2013 in space history. Here is a quick list. Are there items that I should add to this accounting?
1923—90 years ago
December: Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space) by Hermann Oberth was published in Germany; it served to promote considerable discussion of rocket propulsion worldwide.
1953—60 years ago
20 August: The Army’s Redstone Arsenal launched the first Redstone rocket from its Atlantic Ocean test range at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
1958—55 years ago
31 January: As part of Project Explorer, the United States launched its first artificial satellite, Explorer 1, atop the interregional ballistic missile Juno 1.
15 May: The Soviet Union launched Sputnik III, a geophysical laboratory that relayed data about Earth as part of the International Geophysical Year effort.
1 October: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began operations.
6 December: The United States launched Pioneer 3, the first U.S. satellite to ascend to an altitude of 63,580 miles.
18 December: An Air Force Atlas booster placed into orbit a communications relay satellite, Score, carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Christmas message. This was the first voice sent from space.
1963—50 years ago
15-16 May: The capstone of Project Mercury took place with the flight of astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, who circled the Earth 22 times in 34 hours aboard the Mercury capsule Faith 7.
14-18 June: Soviet cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky set a record aboard Vostok 5 by orbiting Earth 81 times.
16-19 June: The first woman in space, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, flew 48 orbits aboard Vostok 6.
1968—45 years ago
22 January: In Apollo 5, NASA made the first flight test of the propulsion systems of the lunar module’s ascent/descent capability.
14 September: In a significant first, the Soviet Union sent its Zond 5 lunar mission capsule on an unpiloted flight around the Moon and brought it back safely to Earth.
11-12 October: The first piloted flight of the Apollo spacecraft, Apollo 7, and Saturn IB launch vehicle involved astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn F. Eisele, and Walter Cunningham, who tested hardware while in Earth orbit.
26 October: The Soviet Union’s Soyuz 3 made a rendezvous with Soyuz 2 in a mission that repeated the basic flights of Gemini VI and Gemini VII.
21-27 December: Apollo 8 made the first circumlunar flight (around the Moon) with a crew aboard: Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr., and William A. Anders.
1973—40 years ago
25 May 1973-February 1974: NASA conducted research on the orbital workshop Skylab, the first U.S. attempt to build a space station.
1978—35 years ago
20 May 1978-9 May 1979: The United States undertook a mission to Venus, Pioneer Venus 1 and 2, that relayed scientific data about climate, chemical makeup, and atmo¬spheric conditions of the planet.
1983—30 years ago
18-24 June: NASA made history during the flight of Challenger (STS-7) when a member of the crew, scientist-astronaut Sally K. Ride, became the first American woman in space.
30 August: NASA made history during the flight of Challenger (STS-8) when a member of its crew was the first African American astronaut, Guion S. Bluford.
1988—25 years ago
29 September-3 October: The Space Shuttle returned to flight following the Challenger accident with the launch of Discovery (STS-26).
21 December: Two Soviet cosmonauts returned to Earth following a record-setting period in space aboard the Soviet space station Mir. Cosmonauts Titov and Manarov far outdistanced any other spacefarers after a period of one year, 22 hours, and 39 minutes in space.
1993—20 years ago
2-12 December: Astronauts aboard the Endeavour (STS-61) executed a highly successful first mission to repair the optics of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and perform routine servicing on the orbiting observatory, conducting five extravehicular activities.
1998—15 years ago
8 January: Lunar Prospector was launched on this date for a one-year polar mission to explore the Moon, especially to determine whether or not water ice is buried inside the lunar crust. In March Lunar Prospector detected the presence of water ice at both lunar poles, estimating that as much as 330 million tons of lunar water ice may be dispersed over 18,000 square miles.
28 May: The Hubble Space Telescope gave humanity its first direct image of what is probably a planet outside our solar system—one apparently that has been ejected into deep space by its parent stars. Located in a star-forming region in the constellation Taurus, the object called TMR-1C, appears to lie at the end of a strange filament of light that suggests it has apparently been flung away from the vicinity of a newly forming pair of binary stars.
29 October-7 November: In one of the most heralded missions in the shuttle era, during the flight of STS-95, John Glenn returned to space for the first time since 1962. The primary mission objectives of this flight were to operate the four primary payloads: SPACEHAB, HOST, IEH-03, and SPARTAN-201. This involved more than eighty scientific experiments investigating mysteries that span the realm from the inner universe of the human body to studies of our own Sun and its solar activity.
20 November-12 December: A Russian Proton rocket launched the Zarya (“Sunrise”) control module from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the first element of the International Space Station. On 5 December the Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-88, rendezvoused with Zarya and mated the Unity module, contained in the shuttle’s cargo bay, to Zarya. Then, in a series of complex spacewalks astronauts connected cables between the two modules, affixed antennae and other elements to the exterior, and opened the hatches between the two spacecraft.
2003—10 years ago
1 February: The Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry into the atmosphere 16 minutes before touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, after a successful 16-day science mission in Earth orbit. The breakup started over California as the spacecraft and debris scattered over the lower part of the central United States from Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. At the time of its breakup Columbia was traveling at more than Mach 12 at an altitude of approximately 200,000 feet. The accident seems to have been the result of an impact of a portion of foam insulation from the External Tank on the left leading edge of the orbiter during launch of the mission on 16 January. This debris strike damaged part of the wing’s leading edge and the shuttle’s thermal protection system. Accordingly, during reentry the damaged portion of the wing allowed friction to heat the vehicle’s superstructure to the point that it failed, leading to Columbia’s breaking apart. Lost in the accident was the crew of seven astronauts: Mission Commander Rick Husband; Pilot William “Willie” McCool; Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, and Laurel Clark; Payload Commander Michael Anderson; Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon. Ramon was the first astronaut from Israel to fly on a Space Shuttle.
2007—5 years ago
11 January: China tested its anti-satellite capability by destroying a Chinese weather satellite—the FY-1C polar orbit satellite of the Fengyun series, at an altitude of 537 miles, with a mass of 750 kg—with a kinetic kill vehicle traveling with a speed of 8 km/s in the opposite direction. It was launched with a multistage solid-fuel missile from Xichang Satellite Launch Center or nearby. The test set off a global debate as several nations responded negatively to the test and highlighted the serious consequences of engaging in the militarization of space.
4 August: NASA launched the Phoenix robotic lander to Mars, which it reached on May 25, 2008. Mission scientists used instruments aboard the lander to search for environments suitable for microbial life on Mars, and to r