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60th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST U.S. SPACE LAUNCH, Jan 25 and 31, 2018, various times and places

Several events are planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, which was launched on January 31, 1958 Eastern Standard Time (February 1 GMT).  Data from Explorer 1 led to discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts that encircle earth.  They are named after University of Iowa scientist James Van Allen who designed the instruments on Explorer 1.

Explorer 1 was built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which then was a U.S. Army facility operated under contract by the California Institute of Technology (which currently operates it for NASA).  Explorer 1 was launched on a Jupiter C (or Juno 1) rocket developed by Wernher von Braun’s team at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.  NASA did not exist at that time. It was established by law in July 1958 and opened its doors in October 1958.  JPL was transferred to NASA a year later along with Army space-related activities at ABMA. The latter became NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, of which von Braun was the first Director.

The first celebratory event will take place on January 25 at JPL.   On January 31, the National Academy of Sciences will hold an afternoon seminar in Washington, D.C., and NASA and the Air Force will hold a media event at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

  • January 25, 7:00 pm Pacific Time (10:00 pm Eastern):  Six Decades of Earth Science Discoveries, JPL, livestreamed.   JPL historian Erik Conway, JPL Earth scientists Carmen Boening and Erika Poest, and others will lead a “conversation and multimedia journey that spans the dawn of American space science to the latest Earth-observing missions.” Open to the public.
  • January 31
    • 12:30-5:30 pm Eastern:  The Explorer 1 Mission and the Discovery of the Earth’s Radiation Belts, National Academy of Sciences building, Washington, DC, livestreamed.  More information is posted here.  Speakers include Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.  Open to the public (advance registration required).
    • 2:00 pm Eastern:  Media Opportunity at Explorer 1 Launch Complex, Cape Canaveral, FL.  Media must RSVP by noon ET on Friday, January 26.  More information is posted here.

NASA has also created a new website with historical information about Explorer 1.


January 25, 2018
10:00 pm - 11:30 pm