October 1, 1958 marked the start of a rich history in United States space exploration. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) achieved human space flight, aeronautics, space science, and space applications. Project Mercury was NASA's first high profile mission. It was an effort to see if human life could live in space. Project Gemini was next. It was formed around all of the successes. It was built for two human astronauts. NASA continued their human flights. The next was Project Apollo which was sent to the moon. In 1969 the Apollo project came together when Apollo 11 put humans on the Moon's surface.
The 1970s did not start out well for NASA. They suffered a huge blow with a failed mission to the Moon caused by an explosion in Apollo 13 's oxygen tanks. The landing was aborted, but the crew returned safely. This was followed by many exciting missions. In 1971, the Apollo 14 moon mission is launched. The legendary Alan Shepard is among the crew members. This mission landed on the projected Apollo 13 site. They explored moon with a two-wheeled cart. This increased the amount of lunar materials that could be collected and brought back. The first moon rover was used on the moon, with the Apollo 15 mission. This time period also brings the first orbit of another planet. Mariner 9 orbited Mars. Over the next year, it maps 100% of the Martian surface. America then turned its sights to Jupiter by sending the Pioneer 10 was sent to familiarize alien life with humans. Later on in 1972 Pioneer 10 makes another trip to space. It becomes the first man-made object to travel through the asteroid belt. The first crews to Skylab, Skylab 2, are launched, repairing damage incurred to it during the launch. Mariner 10 went on the first dual planet mission. It went to Venus and Mercury. It sent back photographs of the two planets. America and the Soviets hooked up on this mission. Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 were sent on the first international spacecraft. Viking 1 was sent to Mars. The spacecraft sent back pictures. It was also the first attempt for the U.S. to land on another planet. Viking 2 made the landing on Mars. It landed in the Plain of Utopia. There it discovered water frost . Voyagers 1 & 2 left to meet up with Jupiter and then pass Saturn where it discovered new rings around the planet. The Pioneer was sent to Venus where it deployed four probes into the atmosphere. The other was sent to map the surface. The Pioneer 11 makes it to Saturn and gets within 13,000 feet. Then it took the first up close pictures. NASA then sent the first manned mission to the Space Transportation System (STS-1). Columbia was the spacecraft that made the trip. In 1982 Voyager 2 completes it's flyby of the planet Saturn. Later on in 1982 Columbia makes its fifth mission and deploys two satellites. The Challenger makes its first mission (STS-6) in 1983. Sally K. Ride is the first woman in space. She makes her famous ride on the Challenger mission (STS-7). The space shuttle Columbia takes the ESA Spacelab-1 into orbit (STS-9). Bruce McCandless takes the first untethered space walk. He uses the MMU from the space shuttle Challenger . Discovery lifts off on its maiden voyage (STS-41D). On October 5, 1984 Challenger launched on a mission (STS-41G) carrying the first two women into space. They were Sally K. Ride and Katherine Sullivan. Sullivan becomes the first woman to walk in space. Carrying the ESE Spacelab-3, Challenger lifts off into orbit. In 1986 the Voyager 2 flies past Uranus. NASA suffers another blow when Challenger explodes just after lift off on mission (STS-51L). The space shuttle Atlantis is launched (STS-30), deploying the space shuttle Magellan . U.S. launches the Galileo spacecraft from the shuttle Atlantis (STS-34). It took infrared pictures of Venus and of the asteroid Ida. It then went on to Jupiter. The U.S. Pegasus rocket was deployed from a B-52 Bomber. It launched the Pegasus launch vehicle. The space shuttle Discovery launches on STS-31, deploying the Edwin P. Hubble Space Telescope . Magellan arrives at Venus. For the next year it took radar images of the surface. Discovery launched Ulysses spacecraft with two upper stages. Ulysses flew toward Jupiter to be slingshot towards the sun. It wanted to get high solar latitudes.
NASA had a highly successful program that involved rocket power airplanes. The airplanes flew over the Earth's atmosphere and then glided down to Earth. They were called the X-15. This project gave shuttle designers much useful data.
In addition to the other projects, NASA has sent out many probes to explore the moon and other planets. Mars is another target for exploration. NASA also sent some space crafts to explore Mars such as the Viking and the Mars Pathfinder. Scientists were also able to make many astronomical discoveries by using the Hubble Space Telescope. Echo, Telstar, and Syncom are satellites that NASA has brought out to bring new generations of communications.