“It’s not good enough for us to have generations of kids that… look forward to a better version of a cell phone with a video in it. They need to look forward to exploration” – Burt Rutan
From the announcement of a new Manned Spacecraft Center to first successful unmanned trip around the moon to the first privately-funded space flight. Here are four major space dates for September.
Zond 5 was launched on September 14, 1968 as part of the Soviet space program. Zond5 orbited the moon on September 18. When it returned to Earth on September 21, it became the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon and return. At the time, it demonstrated how close the ‘Space Race’ had become – the Americans had yet to launch Apollo 8, which would make the same trip but with people on board. The Apollo 8 mission took place in December 1968
NASA announced Houston would become the home to a new spaceflight center. The Manned Spacecraft Center would be the site where manned missions would be managed and supervised. The space center brought 751 NASA employees to Houston and hired an additional 689 new employees.
Houston’s Mission Control Center officially opened in September 1963 and would oversee the upcoming Apollo Missions, including the first manned mission to the moon. On February 19, 1973, the Manned Spacecraft Center was renamed the Johnson Space Center in honor of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Shortly after 8 am, Space Shuttle Atlantis landed safely at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Aboard was NASA Astronaut Shannon Lucid who was returning to Earth after 188-day days in space on the Russian Space Station Mir. Shannon Lucid set a new U.S. space endurance record and a world record for women. She is also the only American woman to serve aboard Mir.
SpaceShipOne completed it’s first flight on May 20, 2003 and achieved supersonic flight on December 17, 2003, the one-hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ historic flight. Finally, on September 29, 2004, SpaceShipOne completed the first privately funded human spaceflight and became the first privately built ship to reach outer space.
SpaceShipOne was an experimental air-launched rocket-powered aircraft with sub-orbital spaceflight capability. It was funded by Paul Allen, designed by Burt Rutan and manufactured by Scaled Composites.