World Aviation in 1959

2 January
The Soviet Union launches a scientific probe named Luna I, intended to impact on the Moon’s surface but it misses and enters a solar orbit.

3 February
Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens die when a single-engined Beechcraft Bonanza crashes near Mason City airport.

11 February
A United States weather balloon climbs to a record height of 44,500 metres (146,000 feet)

12 February
The United States Air Force (USAF) withdraws its last operational Convair B36 bomber from service.

17 February
The United States Navy (USN) launches the weather-reporting Vanguard II satellite into Earth orbit.

3 March
United States Pioneer 4 space probe is launched in an attempt to obtain pictures of the Moon’s surface, while making a fly-past of about 32,200 kilometres (20,000 miles).

6 April
It is announced in the United States that seven pilots have been selected from the nation’s armed services for training as space vehicle pilots.

23 April
The United States Hound Dog thermonuclear stand-off missile makes a successful first flight after launching from a Boeing B52D Stratofortress bomber.

24 April
Cathay Pacific begins service with its first Lockheed Electra.

28 May
Two monkeys, Able and Baker are recovered unharmed after a 483 kilometre (300 mile) flight in a compartment in the nose cone of a Jupiter rocket.

3 June
American satellite Discovery 3 is launched carrying four mice.

4 June
A new lightplane distance record of 12,365 kilometres (7,683 miles) is set by Max Conrad in his Piper Comanche, with a non-stop flight from Casablanca to New York.

9 June
A submarine armed with Polaris ballistic missiles, the USS George Washington, is launched at Groton in Connecticut.

14 July
A new world altitude record of 28,852 metres (94,659 feet) is set by Major V. Ilyushin flying the Sukhoi T431.

7 August
National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Explorer 6 is launched into Earth orbit and returns the first television pictures of the Earth as seen from space.

26 August
French flyer Jacqueline Auriol piloting a Mirage III becomes the first woman to attain the speed of Mach 2.

4 September
An unmanned United States scientific balloon records an altitude of 45,720 kilometres (150,000 feet).

9 September
NASA’s test version of the mercury astronaut capsule is recovered successfully from the Caribbean Sea.

12 September
The Soviet Union’s Luna 2 space probe is launched. and becomes the first man-made object to impact on the Moon.

18 September
The Douglas DC8 Srs10 enters United States domestic service.

4 October
The Soviet Luna 3 space probe launched and becomes the first to photograph the Moon’s hidden surface.

6 October
The Spanish airline Spantax Air Taxis is formed.

10 October
Pan American Boeing 707-321 Clipper Windward inaugurates the first round the world passenger service by turbojet-powered airliners.

31 October
Flying a Mikoyan Type Ye66 Colonel G. Mosolov establishes a new world speed record of 2,681kph (1,665mph).

16 November
Captain Joseph W. Kittinger Jr makes a balloon ascent, gaining an altitude of 23,285 metres (76,400 feet) in an open gondola. He parachutes to the ground, recording a free-fall of 19,505 metres (64,000 feet)

1 December
A twelve nation treaty establishes Antarctica as an area of the world only accessible for peaceful purposes.

4 December
The Mercury capsule escape system is tested by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), launched with a Rhesus monkey aboard which is recovered alive and unharmed.

6 December
A new world altitude record of 30,040 metres (98,556 feet) is established by Commander L. Flint flying a McDonnell F-4 Phantom II.

9 December
A Kaman H43B rescue helicopter sets a new helicopter altitude record of 9,097 metres (29,846 feet).

14 December
The world altitude record is broken again by a Lockheed F104C Starfighter, flown by Captain J.B. Jordan to a height of 31,513 metres (103,389 feet).

15 December
A new world speed record of 2,455kph (1,525mph) is set by Major J.W. Rogers, flying a Convair F106A Delta Dart.

16 December
China Airlines is established.