Astronomy Picture of the Day

The First Explorer

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The First Explorer


Fifty years ago
(on January 31, 1958)
First Explorer
, was
launched into Earth orbit
by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.

Inaugurating the era of space exploration for the United States,
Explorer I
was a thirty pound satellite that
carried instruments to measure temperatures,
and micrometeorite impacts, along with an experiment designed by
James A.
Van Allen
to measure
the density of electrons and ions in space.

The measurements made by Van Allen's experiment led to an unexpected and
-- an earth-encircling belt of high energy electrons
and ions trapped in the
now known as the
Allen Radiation Belt

Explorer I ceased transmitting on February 28, 1958, but
remained in orbit until March of 1970.

Pioneering space scientist
James Van Allen died on August 9th,
2006 at the age of 91.

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