Washington, DC - January 31, 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. satellite - Explorer I - and the dawn of the U.S. space program. Leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology marked that anniversary with the introduction of a U.S. House Resolution late yesterday remembering the landmark day and the remarkable advances the U.S. space program has yielded.
Resolution author Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics was joined by cosponsors Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Ranking Member Tom Feeney (R-FL) and Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX) in introducing the commemorative measure.
Moreover, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the House Science and Technology Committee, which was also established in 1958 as a response to the Soviet Sputnik satellite launch. It was then the first new permanent House committee since 1892. Initially the Committee was focused on space exploration and efforts like Explorer I, but over time the jurisdiction expanded to include almost all non-defense federal scientific research and development.
As noted by Rep. Udall in his introduction of the Explorer I resolution, "On January 31, 1958, the U.S. successfully launched its first satellite into space and began a 50 year journey of exploration and achievement in space that continues to this day. Yet the launch of Explorer I was not just a 'photo-op.' Explorer I carried a scientific package that included a cosmic ray detector and marked the first ever use of a satellite to carry out scientific research in outer space. Because of that detector, developed by Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa, the United States made a significant discovery about the Earth's environment--namely, the discovery of regions of energetic charged particles trapped in the Earth's magnetic field--later referred to as the Van Allen radiation belts."
Explorer I was also the first in a succession of small scientific spacecraft that continue to be an integral component of the U.S. space science program and an invaluable training ground for young scientists and engineers. Rep. Udall and Committee leaders extended their thanks and appreciation for the contributions of the late Dr. James Van Allen and his team - as well as those of the individuals at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency who made possible the success of Explorer I and ushered in the birth of our space program.
"I'm pleased to be an original cosponsor of this resolution," added Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). "Our space program is one of the crown jewels of the nation's R&D enterprise, and we need to work hard to ensure that the next 50 years of America's efforts in space will continue to deliver significant benefits to our citizens, inspire our young people, and push back the frontiers of our knowledge."
"I think that America's space program has been a vital contributor to the nation's well being and standing in the world, as well as to significant scientific and technological advances over the last five decades. It is fitting and proper that we pause to celebrate and honor the anniversary of Explorer I and the birth of the U.S. space program--and to rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of a robust and vital space program over the next fifty years," concluded Rep. Udall.