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January in History

January 30, 1868 - About 180,000 meteorites fell near Pultusk, Poland. Those collected were estimated to have a total weight of 2 tons. It is thought that they were fragments of a large body that broke apart in the atmosphere.

January 1, 1869 - 500 meteorites fell in Hessle, Sweden. They fell at such a low rate that those which landed on ice only a few inches thick actually bounced on impact.

January 31, 1958 - A U.S. Army team launched the satellite Explorer 1 into Earth orbit. The 13-kilogram (30-pound) satellite became the U.S.'s first in orbit. It was launched from Cape Canaveral's Complex 26A atop Juno 1, a modified Jupiter-C rocket. Explorer 1 was constructed for the Army by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology. An onboard experiment designed by Dr. James Van Allen of the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) detected the Earth's radiation belt, subsequently named the Van Allen Radiation Belt.

January 15, 1962 - NASA launched a Thor-Agena rocket as a test of the new launch vehicle. The flight achieved most of its planned objectives.

January 25, 1962 - A U.S. Thor-Agena rocket launched the experimental communications satellite Echo 2 into Earth orbit. Echo 2 , a spherical ballon 41.14 meters (135 feet) in diameter, was the object of numerous early communications experiments by U.S., U.K. and Soviet scientists. It remained in orbit for two years. This was the first operational flight of the Thor-Agena launch vehicle.

January 1967 - Three U.S. astronauts, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Edward White, died in a "flash fire" aboard Apollo 1 during a simulated launch at Cape Canaveral.

January 14, 1969 - The Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 4 was launched with cosmonaut Vladimir A. Shatalov. He was joined on January 15 by Boris V. Volyanov, Aleksei S. Yeliseyev and Yevgeny V. Khrunov in Soyuz 5, which docked with Soyuz 4. Cosmonauts Yeliseyev and Khrunov transferred to Soyuz 5 in a spacewalk. Soyuz 4 returned safely on January 17 and Soyuz 5 returned on January 18.

January 31, 1971 - A Saturn V rocket launched the U.S. mission Apollo 14 with astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart A. Roosa and Edgar D. Mitchell. They made the third Moon landing of the Apollo program on Feb. 2. Astronauts Shepard and Mitchell collected 96 pounds of lunar samples and stayed on the lunar surface for 33 hours and 31 minutes. They returned safely to the Earth on Feb. 9.

January 10, 1978 - The Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 27 was launched with cosmonaut Vladimir A. Dzhanibekov. Soyuz 27 participated with Soyuz 26 and 27 in the first multiple docking to a space station, Salyut 6. Soyuz 27 returned to the Earth on January 16.

January 12, 1986 - Space Shuttle Columbia was launched with astronauts Robert "Hoot" Gibson, Charles F. Bolden Jr., Steven Hawley, George D. Nelson, Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, Robert J. Cenker, and Bill Nelson. Bill Nelson was the first U.S. congressman in space. The crew conducted material and astronomy experiments. Columbia returned safely to the Earth on January 18.

January 28, 1986 - Space Shuttle Challenger was launched with astronauts Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. The Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff and all aboard were killed. The incident triggered a complete review of the Space Shuttle program and a redesign of the vehicle, the solid rocket boosters, and the launch and support procedures. The shuttle flights resumed after 2 years and 8 months, with the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery on Sept. 29, 1988.

January 26, 1995 - The Chinese-designed Long March 2E rocket carrying a telecommunications satellite exploded after launch from Xichang in southwest Sichuan province.

January 11, 1996 - Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched with astronauts Brian Duffy, Brent W. Jett Jr., Winston E. Scott, Leroy Chiao, Daniel T. Barry, and Koichi Wakata. The crew released a NASA space probe, retrieved a Japanese satellite, and completed 13 hours of extra-vehicular activity (EVA). Endeavour returned safely to the Earth on January 20.


James M. Thomas, last updated November 15, 1999.

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