A Busy Launch Day in Space History

Two interesting launches occurred 15 years ago today — August 3, 1994.

  • From Edwards Air Force Base, California, a Pegasus rocket launched the Advanced Photovoltaic and Electronic Experiments spacecraft off the wing of NASA’s B-52 carrier aircraft. APEX was part of the USAF Space Test Program, and carried instruments to study the effects of the Van Allen radiation belt.
  • And from Cape Canaveral, what might have been an “ordinary” launch (except that in space launch there’s still no such thing) of DIRECTV-2, except that this spacecraft carried the “SpaceArc” time capsule. SpaceArc — the “space archive” — consisted of a reel of 35-mm optical tape containing essays, poems, written music and artwork: “the personal expressions of more than 47,000 people from around the world, representing 52 countries,” according to the old web site. The archive included messages from then Vice-President Al Gore and his predecessor, Dan Quayle, and is intended to remain in orbit for thousands of years after the satellite’s useful life.

And five years ago — on this date in 2004 — the Messenger probe to Mercury was launched from Cape Canaveral. Messenger is scheduled to arrive at Mercury and begin orbiting the planet in March 2011 (591 days away, if you’re counting). Read more about the Messenger mission on the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory web site.

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