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NASA launches Pioneer 1

The year was 1958. Elvis Presley, Billie Holiday, The Everly Brothers and Frank Sinatra were crooning the charts. NASA had just been extablished, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law. On October 11, NASA sent their first spacecraft towards space – meet Pioneer 1.

NASA replaced the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and became operational on October 1, 1958. Part of Pioneer 1’s mission was to use an image scanning infrared television system to study the surface of the moon. The mission also intended on collecting valuable data regarding the earth’s atmosphere.

Pioneer 1 was preceded by Pioneer 0, which failed its mission on account of a turbopump failure. Would Pioneer 1 be a success? Well… no. Unfortunately, it never made it to the moon and could therefore not collect data regarding the lunar surface. According to wiki, it failed because of “a programming error in the upper stage causing a slight error in burnout velocity and angle (3.5 deg.). This resulted in a ballistic trajectory with a peak altitude of 113,800 km (70,712 mi).”

On the plus side, Pioneer 1 did manage to collect some valuable data regarding the earth’s atmosphere. It showed that the radiation surrounding the earth was “in the form of bands and measuring the extent of the bands, mapping the total ionizing flux, making the first observations of hydromagnetic oscillations of the magnetic field, and taking the first measurements of the density of micrometeorites and the Interplanetary Magnetic Field.”

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