The launch of Sputnik brought a sense of urgency to American efforts underway to launch a man-made object as part of the U.S. Navy’s Vanguard project. Following Sputnik, Wernher von Braun and his Army Redstone Arsenal team began work on the Explorer project.

On January 31, 1958, the U.S. launched Explorer 1, which carried a small scientific payload that eventually discovered the magnetic radiation belts around Earth, which were named after principal investigator James Van Allen. Vanguard 1 became the second American satellite about six weeks later.

Also in January, Apollo 14 launched on January 31, 1971 with a mission to explore the Moon’s Fra Mauro, and area containing some of the most clearly exposed geological formations that are characteristic of the Fra Mauro Formation. The formation is an extensive geological unit that is distributed over much of the near side of the Moon.

More than 90 pounds of materials were gathered by the Apollo 14 astronauts from the Moon. They used a hand cart for the first time to transport Moon rocks.

For more information on NASA’s 50th Anniversary celebration, visit http://www.nasa.gov/50th

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