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Vanguard I satellite marks 50 years in orbit


It may not have been the first, but Vanguard I does have the distinction of being the oldest satellite still in orbit, and it's now set to mark its 50th anniversary on March 17th. It can lay claim to being the very first solar-powered satellite, however, and it has no shortage of accomplishments under its belt, including returning information on air density, temperature ranges and micrometeorite impact, and maintaining an orbit so stable that cartographers were able to draw more accurate maps of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Even now, researchers rely on ground-based tracking of the satellite to provide data on the effects of the sun, moon, and atmosphere on satellite orbits. And, of course, as you can see above, it was also way ahead of this whole steampunk thing..

[Image courtesy of NASA/NSSDC]

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