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January 30, 2008The launch of the Explorer 1 satellite, 50 years ago tomorrow, showed the unlimited potential of the United States to succeed on the highest of technological levels, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said Thursday. "This anniversary is a time for Americans to look upon our achievements in space with great pride," Blakey said. "Explorer 1 included sensitive equipment that sent important data back to our scientists, leading to discoveries of great scientific value. And it directly led to our great achievements in manned space exploration." Explorer 1 launched at 10:43 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1958. It came about three months after the launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union, which touched off the space race. Equipped with a Geiger counter for detecting cosmic rays and other advanced instrumentation, Explorer 1 was remarkable because it represented a leap forward in technology. The satellite provided the first major scientific discovery from space the Van Allen radiation belt, named for the scientist who designed the instruments on the satellite. The belt consists of charged particles trapped in space by Earth's magnetic field. Explorer 1 was a scientific satellite launched aboard the Juno 1, a military rocket that evolved from the Jupiter-C. This hybrid of civil and military space technology foreshadowed the important role both would play to our nation in the future. Blakey said the anniversary should be a reminder of the importance of U.S. leadership in space, which is in a critical time as the space shuttle heads toward retirement and the new vehicles for the Constellation Program are developed. Lawmakers must provide adequate investment in the program to ensure we do not fall behind other nations, Blakey said.