Poyekhali! Despite the tensions during the Cold War, NASA Administrator Jim Webb congratulated the Soviets on American television. Cold War or not, it’s not every day you accomplish man’s first orbit. April also brings space fans three major household names: Columbia, Apollo 13 and Hubble.
Mark Your Calendars
Here are four major space dates for April, including one breakthrough that has roots dating back to 1609, when an Italian scientist invented a new optical device to view the heavens above.
April 12, 1961
Vostok 1 launched into space carrying Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Vostok 1 orbited the Earth in 108 minutes, marking man’s first space flight and first orbit. At the moment of launch, Yuri Gagarin’s radio communication with the launch control room was “Poyekhali!” which translates to “Let’s go!” The phrase came to refer to the beginning of the Space Age in the Eastern Bloc. In his post-flight report, he recalled the feeling of weightlessness in space.
April 12, 1981
Shuttle Columbia launched on April 12, 1981, orbited Earth 36 times and landed two days later on April 14 on the dry lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Shuttle Columbia became the first winged spaceship to orbit Earth and return to airport landing. It was the first of the four original fully operational orbitals (reusable manned spacecraft).
April 13, 1970
Apollo 13 launched on April 11, 1970 and headed towards the moon for what was scheduled to be the third manned lunar landing mission. Two days later, Astronaut James A. Lovell made a troubling report to mission control: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”
An explosion caused the loss of both oxygen tanks and disrupted the supply of oxygen, electricity, light, and water. Over the next four days, the world held its breath as it watched three astronauts overcome loss of power, cabin heat, and a shortage of water. The crew used the Lunar Module as a lifeboat on its return trip to Earth.
The historic “successful failure” concluded when Astronauts James Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.
April 24, 1990
The Hubble Space Telescope became the first observatory to be placed in space after launching in 1990. It marked the biggest advancement in astronomy since the 1600s when Galileo invented the telescope. Since its launch, the Hubble Space Telescope has produced hundreds of pictures of stars and galaxies far, far away.
Visit SpaceWasteSolutions.com to find out what has been left in orbit since the beginning of the Space Age.
Image Credit: Hubble Space Telescope, NASA