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On this date in 1958, Pioneer 1 was launched by NASA aboard a Thor-Able rocket. It was the first launch of a spacecraft by the agency, which had opened for business 10 days earlier. Although the craft successfully reached space, the mission failed because the third stage of the rocket underperformed and did not reach escape velocity. Pioneer had been designed to be sent into orbit around the Moon with instruments to scan the Moon's surface in IR, to measure radiation levels, to detect micrometeorites, and to measure magnetic field strength. Despite the failure of its primary mission, Pioneer 1 was able to show the existence of and measure the strength of the radiation bands surrounding Earth and make the first measurements of the hydromagnetic oscillations in Earth's magnetic field.

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