On January 31, the United States successfully launches Explorer 1—the first American satellite in orbit around Earth. A hastily formed team from the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) and Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), led by Wernher von Braun, accomplishes what amounts to a national prestige rescue mission. The team uses a military ballistic missile as the launch vehicle. With instruments supplied by Dr. James Van Allen of the State University of Iowa, Explorer 1 discovers Earth's trapped radiation belts—now called the Van Allen radiation belts in his honor.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) becomes the official civilian space agency for the United States government on October 1. On October 7, the newly created NASA announces the start of the Mercury Project—a pioneering program to put the first American astronauts into orbit around Earth.

In mid-December, an entire Atlas rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral and goes into orbit around Earth. The missile's payload compartment carries Project Score (Signal Communications Orbit Relay Experiment)—a prerecorded Christmas season message from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This is the first time the human voice is broadcast back to Earth from outer space

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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