Today in 1993, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-61. The mission lasted just under 11 days and saw the installation of a new main camera, as well as various other repairs. The Hubble Space Telescope was originally launched on April 24, 1990. It remains in functioning order today and is one of the most recognizable symbols of NASA. It is estimated that it will continue to function for another 10-20 years.
Today in 1964, NASA launched the Mariner 4 spacecraft. It performed the first ever flyby of Mars and was the first craft to return pictures of another planet from deep space.
Today in 2001, NASA and the ESA's Hubble Space Telescope detected sodium in the atmosphere surrounding HD 209458 b, nicknamed Osiris. This marked the first time that an atmosphere had been detected on an exoplanet (a planet outside of our Sun's solar system). The find was predicted by award-winning exoplanet expert Sara Seager weeks before.
Today in 1966, the capsule containing astronauts James A. Lovell, Jr. and Buzz Aldrin splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. This marked the end of the Gemini 12 mission and also the conclusion of Project Gemini as a whole. Project Gemini was a series of experiments performed in space in conjunction with the Apollo program, with the desired outcome being less experimentation during Apollo missions. This would allow the Apollo program to focus heavier on its goal of a manned mission to the moon.
Today in 1980, NASA's Voyager 1 made it's closest approach to Saturn (within 124,000 km/77,000 miles), giving us the most detailed images of Saturn's rings that had since been seen. It also relayed new atmospheric data for both Saturn and its giant moon Titan.
Today in 1973, NASA launched its space probe Mariner 10 from Cape Canaveral. Almost 4 months later, it became the first probe to reach Mercury, which it studied extensively. It was also the first spacecraft to make use of an interplanetary gravitational slingshot maneuver.
Today in 1990, NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery completed its eleventh mission. While it was only a four day expedition, many different scientific experiments were conducted during its flight. Among them were the behavior of fire and plant cells in space, and the effects of microgravity on the heart and bones. Discovery was also equipped with multiple instruments for studying the sun.
Today in 1985, NASA's STS-51-J, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The payload was classified by the Department of Defense, but contained at least two satellites that were launched into stationary orbit.
Today in 1977, NASA's Voyager 1 took the first long-distance photo of the Earth and Moon together. The Voyager 1 launched on September 5, 1977 ans as of this writing still remains operational. It is expected to continue gathering data until the year 2025.
Today in 1992, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Endeavor (its second trip). It was also the 50th mission of the Space Shuttle program. While the mission itself was mostly for experimentation, it is notable for three of its crew members: Mae Jemison, who became the first African-American woman in space (and the subject of a previous Today Years Ago), and Mark Lee and Jan Davis, the first married couple in space. As married couples were previously banned from being crew members of the same flight, Lee and Davis secretly married a few months before the launch. NASA didn't have enough time to cancel or alter…