Dec. 10



U.S. Air Force Col. John P. Stapp rides a rocket-propelled sled at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to a speed of about 1,017 kilometers per hour. In stopping, Stapp endured 40 G’s of thrust – the greatest gravitational force, or g-force, on a human that had ever been recorded in a deceleration test, according to the NASA History Web site.


U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announces the cancellation of the Dyna-Soar, a planned manned space plane capable of being launched into orbit and gliding back into the atmosphere.

Dec. 12


The U.S. Air Force launches the Discoverer 36 surveillance satellite aboard a Thor Agena rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. A second payload, a 4.5-kilogram piggyback satellite dubbed Oscar, became the first satellite built by private citizens to be placed in orbit.

Dec. 14


The Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation establishes Jet Propulsion Centers at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., and the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena, Calif., to train graduate students in rocketry and astronautics.


Japan launches its second Advanced Earth Observation Satellite, or Adeos-2,

from Tanegashima Space Flight Center on an H-2 rocket. Adeos-2, which is designed primarily to monitor the atmosphere and oceans, effectively ceased functioning in October 2003

when a solar panel failed.

Dec. 15


Gemini 6 launches on a Titan rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. During the mission astronauts Walter (Wally) Schirra and Thomas Stafford perform a rendezvous with the Gemini 7 capsule, which had been launched Dec. 4 with astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell aboard.


The Soviet Union launches the Vega 1 spacecraft to Venus on a Proton rocket from the BaikonurCosmodrome

. Vega 2 was launched Dec. 21. After each spacecraft released a


for decent to the surface of Venus, they then

used the planet’s gravity to slingshot them into trajectories that would take them on separate flybys of Halley’s Comet.

Dec. 16


In the inaugural launch from the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport, an Orbital Sciences-built Minotaur rocket launches a dual payload from NASA’s Wallops Island, Va. It was the largest vehicle ever to launch from that facility. The event marked the resumption of activity after a decade-long lull. The primary payload was the Air Force’s TacSat-2 experimental design satellite, which was intended to usher in an era of inexpensive tactical satellites capable of being launched on short notice. A 10-kilogram piggyback satellite, NASA’s GeneSat-1, conducted microbiology experiments in orbit.