Fifty years ago today — February 28, 1959 — the Discoverer-1 satellite was launched by a Thor Agena rocket from Vandenberg AFB. It was the first joint U.S. Air Force/Advanced Research Projects Agency launch of a reconnaissance satellite — what would eventually become the CORONA satellite program.
Unfortunately, the Agena upper stage apparently malfunctioned and the satellite is believed to have landed near the South Pole. And fifty years later, the OCO satellite earlier this week also failed to make orbit — and ended up in the ocean near Antarctica.
I look forward to the day when space launch is routine and reliable — and if it can be affordable, too, so much the better.by