This Week in Space


This Week in Space: Brought to you by Kennedy Space Center

March 1st–March 15th

  • On March 4, 1979, the Voyager 1 spacecraft discovered a ring system surrounding Jupiter. Today, we know the system contains three major components: the Main ring, the Halo and the Gossamer ring. Within the Main ring are two small orbiting moons whose dust makes up the majority of the ring.
  • On March 6, 2009, United Launch Alliance launched a Delta II rocket carrying the Kepler spacecraft. Its mission was to observe specific areas of space for Earth-sized planets orbiting stars similar to the sun. There have been numerous findings of planets and solar systems with characteristics comparable to our own, but another planet with proper living conditions has not yet been discovered.
  • On March 7, 1969, the Spider LM, or Lunar Module, performed its first manned flight proving it worthy of manned spaceflight. It was one of several tests performed by the Apollo 9 crew. The mission launched March 3, 1969 and lasted 10 days.
  • On March 8, 1979, active volcanoes were discovered on Io, one of Jupiter’s four moons. At 5 a.m., the Voyager spacecraft took a long-exposure photograph of Io and a large cloud was noticed in the picture. The data didn’t coincide with previous studies of Io. The orbiting moon had no atmosphere, so why would there be a cloud? Further investigation determined this was the result of a violent volcanic eruption occurring on Io. 
  • March 9, 1986: The Soviet Union’s twin Vega spacecrafts flew by Halley’s Comet on their mission back from Venus. Although both spacecraft approached the comet, Vega 2 came the closest to Halley at a distance just under 5,000 miles. Vega 2 successfully captured the clearest pictures of the comet. Halley’s Comet is known to fly by Earth’s atmosphere once every 75 years. The next expected visit from Halley will be in 2061, so mark your calendars!
  • March 10, 2006: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived at Mars eight years ago. Today, the mission is still ongoing. While orbiting our neighbor planet of Mars, it uses extreme up-close photography to scan the Martian surface, analyze minerals and seek out any history of water the planet might have. It also monitors the daily global weather. 
  • On March 11, 2008, STS-123 Endeavour launched for the International Space Station. This was the 25th space shuttle mission to visit the ISS. The crew delivered the Canadian Dextre robotics system, which proved successful in completing any repairs normally handled by the astronauts during a spacewalk.
  • March 12, 1981: Russian Cosmonaut Viktor Savinykh became the 100th person to fly into space. Viktor was the flight engineer on Soyuz T-4 which docked with the USSR space station, Salyut 6, for 79 days. This was also the last Soyuz spacecraft to dock with Salyut 6.
  • March 13, 1781: 233 years ago, English Astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus. This was the first discovery of a planet made with a telescope. Herschel originally named the planet “Georgium Sidus” after King George III of England, but German astronomer Johann Bode suggested the name “Uranus” which stands for the ancient Greek deity of the universe. By calling the planet Uranus, it also followed the theme of classical mythology-derived planet names.
  • March 14, 2014: Participate in hands-on robot exhibits and games at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Robot Rocket Rally. Beginning today, the three-day event showcases the most recent robotic and engineering technology. The event is in conjunction with the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch March 16th to deliver Robonaut 2 its legs. 
  • March 15, 2014: Tomorrow morning at 4:41 a.m. SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule will launch to the International Space Station (ISS). It will deliver food and supplies, along with climbing legs for Crewmember Robonaut-2 (R2).

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