On January 31, 1961, Ham the space chimpanzee made history after blasting off hundreds of miles into low Earth orbit inside a Mercury capsule. Before NASA could send humans into space, they used animals as test subjects to determine whether or not a human could perform tasks or even survive miles above the Earth’s surface. This photo, submitted by NASA to the Senate Committee on Space and Astronautics, captured the image of Ham stretching for an apple after landing safely aboard the capsule. More than just a passive rider, Ham readily performed a series of learned tasks on his journey proving that humans would have at least a limited functionary capability in space. One apple seems a pittance for Ham’s great contribution to the Mercury project and human space flight. Nevertheless, he seemed glad to have it!
Photograph of Ham reaching for an apple, SEN 89A-F1, 1/31/1961, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 7038095)
On December 19, the sound of the a human voice was transmitted through space. It was the voice of President Eisenhower, broadcasting a message of peace to the world below.
This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one. Through this unique means, I convey to you and all mankind America’s wish for peace on earth and good will to men everywhere.
Recorded on December 17th, it was transmitted to the satellite following a last-minute plan to change the existing recordings with Eisenhower’s goodwill message and broadcast on December 19th.
September 12, 1962 — President John F. Kennedy speaks at Rice University Stadium, Houston, Texas, concerning the nation’s efforts in space exploration. In his speech the President discusses the necessity for the United States to become an international leader in space exploration and famously states, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
The space shuttle orbiter Challenger (STS-8) makes the first nighttime landing of the Space Transportation System as it touches down on Runway 22 at 12:40 am PDT at the end of a six-day mission. Aboard the shuttle are: Richard H. Truly, commander; Daniel Brandenstein, pilot; and mission specialists Guion S. Bluford, Dale A. Gardner and Dr. William E. Thornton, 09/05/1983
Ticket Price? $74 Million Dollars; Space Nerd Cred? Priceless.
On July 30, 1985 President Ronald Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive Number 181, which allowed for the sale of flight capacity on the Space Shuttles to foreign and commercial users. The minimum acceptable price would be $74 million dollars.
Shuttle Pricing for Foreign and Commercial Users, 07/30/1985
NASA is Created
Act of July 29, 1958 (National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958), Public Law 85-568, 72 STAT 426, which provided for research into the problems of flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere., 07/29/1958
0658 RECOVERED 2 HELOS. ASTRONAUTS, N.A. ARMSTRONG, LCOL M. COLLINS USAF, AND COL E.E. ALDRIN JR USAF
Deck Log of the USS Hornet, 07/24/1969
Documenting in rather matter-of-fact terms both the arrival of the President of the United States and successful recovery of the Apollo 11 astronauts.
John Glenn conducted the first manned space orbit of the earth on February 20, 1962. This is the transcription of his in-flight communication with Mission Control in Florida. During re-entry Glenn was forced to switch to manual control after the autopilot failed. Additionally, there were concerns his heat shield had come loose — leading the recommendation to leave his retropackage in place .
Transcript of John Glenn’s Official Communication with the Command Center , 02/28/1962
Fifty years ago, on February 20, 1962, Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., became the first American to orbit the Earth. With the world watching the historic and live-televised event, Glenn orbited the Earth three times in his space capsule, Friendship 7. Four hours and 55 minutes after ignition, John Glenn and Friendship 7 returned to Earth and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary with a special video display of “Friendship 7,” a film produced in 1962 by NASA that is now part of our holdings. And if you can’t make to Washington, DC, you can watch this special 5-minute version.
Challenger’s resting place
On January 28, 1986, at 11:30, A.M. just one minute after lift off, the Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew were destroyed in an explosion. After pieces of the Challenger were examined, they were lowered into their permanent storage area in the Minuteman missile silo at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.