Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961
NASA Administration
Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961
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A chronicle of scientific and technological events in the exploration of space offers useful perspective. To those of us engaged in these activities, it provides an inventory of the crowded kaleidoscope of swift-moving domestic and foreign events. To others interested in space exploration, it helps provide a sense of pace and a clearer awareness of genuine achievements as well as greater things to come. Events of 1961 are mingled with the past and the future. The groundwork of this year’s milestones was laid several years ago. The scientific discoveries of Explorers IX, X, and XII; the suborbital Mercury flights of Alan B. Shepard and Virgil I. Grissom; the attainment of near design speed (mach 6) and altitude (50 miles) of the X-15 rocket research airplane; the impact of Tiros satellites on global weather forecasting; and the successful first flight of the Saturn booster for large space payloads of the future-these were among the highlights of 1961. The decisions and programs undertaken this year will come to fruition in the months and years ahead. The national character of the space program is evidenced in the contributions by American industry, the scientific community, the military services, and other Government agencies. Growing public recognition of the value of increased scientific knowledge and the ultimate benefits for society of the total space effort was a so evident. Known and unpredictable promises of tomorrow spur everyone ahead in attaining the high goals of the national space program. As our broad-based scientific program and the development of a space transportation technology underwrote the events of 1961; it was also the year in which man himself first flew in space. Such was a thrilling reminder that the best interests of all mankind must ever provide the purpose and application of space exploration. This chronology represents but a first step in the historical process of fully recording and explaining the myriad activities, accomplishments, and problems of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the exploration and exploitation of space for the benefit of all mankind. It was prepared from open public sources. Since science and technology are fundamentally indivisible, events of space-related efforts by other governmental agencies including the Department of Defense, as well as international items of a non-NASA character, have been included to help provide the fuller context of current history. We are appreciative of the generous help of NASA offices and centers and interested members of the historical community.

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