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April 3, 1949: Twelve nations, including the United States, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C. In this photograph, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson signs the treaty on behalf of the United States.
 
 
 
 

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April 4, 1983: The Space Shuttle Challenger roared into orbit on its maiden voyage, STS-6, with astronauts Paul J. Weitz, Koral J. Bobko, Donald H. Peterson and Dr. Story Musgrave on board. Challenger was the second orbiter in the program, and completed nine missions. Historical milestones for Challenger included the first spacewalk during a shuttle mission (STS-6), the first U.S. women in space (Sally Ride on STS-7), the first African American in space (Guion Bluford on STS-8), the first shuttle night launch and night landing (STS-8), the first untethered space walk (STS-41B), the first female spacewalk (Kathryn Sullivan, STS-41G), and carried the first Canadian and Dutch astronauts. In all, Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., seven times. Challenger was destroyed on takeoff, Jan. 28, 1986.
 
 
 
 
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April 5, 1947: The second prototype of the Hughes XF-11 twin-boom reconnaissance aircraft made its first complete flight (takeoff and landing), piloted by Howard Hughes. The XF-11 was a prototype military reconnaissance aircraft, designed and flown by Howard Hughes and built by Hughes Aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Forces. Although 100 F-11s were ordered in 1943, only two prototypes and a mockup were completed. During the first XF-11 flight in 1946, Howard Hughes crashed the aircraft in Beverly Hills, Calif. The production aircraft had been canceled in May 1945, but the second prototype was completed and successfully flown in 1947.
 
 
 
 
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April 5, 1947: The No. 1 Bell X-1 (s/n 46-062) and its JTB-29A mother ship arrived at Muroc Army Airfield (now Edwards AFB, Calif.) from the Bell Facility in New York, following modifications in preparation for turning the aircraft over to the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) for further flight testing. This was the first time that the No. 1 aircraft had been at Muroc. This is an undated Edwards History Office photograph.
 
 
 
 
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April 6, 1965: Intelsat I, nicknamed Early Bird, the first commercial communications satellite was placed in geosynchronous orbit. It was built by the Space and Communications Group of Hughes Aircraft Company (later Hughes Space and Communications Company, and now Boeing Satellite Systems) for COMSAT, which activated it on June 28, 1965. It was based on the Syncom series of satellites that Hughes had previously built for NASA to demonstrate that communications via synchronous-orbit satellite were feasible. It helped provide the first live TV coverage of a spacecraft splashdown, that of Gemini 6 in December 1965. Originally slated to operate for 18 months, Early Bird was in active service for 4 years and 4 months, being deactivated in January 1969, although it was briefly activated in June of that year to serve the Apollo 11 flight when the Atlantic Intelsat satellite failed. It was deactivated again in August 1969 and has been inactive since that time (except for a brief reactivation in 1990 to commemorate its 25th launch anniversary), although it remains in orbit. The Early Bird satellite was the first to provide direct and nearly instantaneous contact between Europe and North America, handling television, telephone and fax transmissions. It was fairly small, measuring nearly 2.5 × 2 feet, and weighing 76 pounds.
 
 
 
 
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April 7, 1942: Maj. Paul H. Dane flew a Douglas A-20 Havoc equipped with small liquid-fuel rocket boosters in the first Rocket Assisted Take-Off test. An experimental 1,000-pound thrust unit was installed in the aft end of each engine nacelle. The Havoc was an American medium bomber, attack aircraft, night intruder, night fighter, and reconnaissance aircraft of World War II. Designed to meet an Army Air Corps requirement for a bomber, it was ordered by France for their air force before the USAAC decided it would also meet their requirements. French DB-7s were the first to see combat; after the fall of France the bomber, under the service name Boston continued with the Royal Air Force. From 1941, night fighter and intruder versions were given the service name Havoc. In 1942 U.S. Army Air Force A-20s saw combat in North Africa. It served with several Allied air forces, principally the United States Army Air Forces, the Soviet Air Forces, Soviet Naval Aviation, and the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom. A total of 7,478 aircraft were built, of which more than a third served with Soviet units. It was also used by the air forces of Australia, South Africa, France, and the Netherlands during the war, and by Brazil afterwards.
 
 
 
 
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April 7, 1945: The Imperial Japanese battleship Yamato was sunk by American carrier-based bombers and torpedo bombers. During 1944, the balance of naval power in the Pacific decisively turned against Japan, and by early 1945, its fleet was much depleted and badly hobbled by critical fuel shortages in the home islands. In a desperate attempt to slow the Allied advance, Yamato was dispatched on a one-way mission to Okinawa in April 1945, with orders to beach herself and fight until destroyed, thus protecting the island. The task force was spotted south of Kyushu by U.S. submarines and aircraft and sunk.
 
 
 
 
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April 8, 1959: NASA presented its first seven astronauts: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald Slayton. Known as the Mercury Seven, the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1, they were selected to fly spacecraft for Project Mercury. All of the Mercury Seven eventually flew in space. They piloted the six spaceflights of the Mercury program that had an astronaut on board from May 1961 to May 1963, and members of the group flew on all of the NASA human spaceflight programs of the 20th century—Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle.
 
 
 
 
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April 9, 1942: U.S. forces on the Bataan Peninsula on the main Philippine island of Luzon surrendered to the Japanese. Approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make an arduous 65-mile march to prison camps. The marchers made the trek in intense heat and were subjected to harsh treatment by Japanese guards. Thousands perished in what became known as the Bataan Death March. This photograph shows American survivors of the Battle of Bataan under Japanese guard before the march.
 
 
 
 
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April 9, 1967: The first test flight of Boeing’s new 737 took place as the jetliner took off from Boeing Field in Seattle on a 2 and 1/2-hour trip to Paine Field in Everett, Wash.
 
 
 
 
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April 9, 1969: The first UK-assembled Concorde (G-BSST) makes its maiden flight from Filton to RAF Fairford. It’s final flight was on March 4, 1976, and it now sits in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton. It had made 438 flights (836 hours), of which 196 were supersonic.
 
 
 

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