My birthday, January 31st, is always the anniversary of the US space program. On the very same day I was born, the US sent it's first successfult satellite into orbit. The Soviets had sent Sputnik up about three months prior and most the US attempts had ended in spectacular explosions. Still, we had the better German scientists and got to the moon first.
This was the dawn of what became know for the next decade as the "Space Age". Everything in the news paper above (click on it for blow up) seems quaint and a different time. Most the parts that were used you can probably find in a Radio Shack today. Still it was enough to discover the Van Allen Radiation Belt on the day I was born. Since then, the space program and the race to the moon ushered in the next age, the Information Age followed by the Internet Age. Let's just hope we're not going into the Dark Ages.
Because my birthday was on this anniversary, NASA often sent up various space shots on Jan 31st. I had my fair share of launches, like some of the first Space Shuttles, various Apollo and Gemini flights. I also had my fair share of disasters around my birthday. Both Apollo 1 and Challenger disasters were on days that I was celebrating my birthday. However, most of the time I had a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm around Space. I would suspect that most of my generation that entered into software were inspired by the Space program and learned science and mathematics because of the investment made in these areas as a result of the Space program. I look forward to new enthusiasm and launches with the new Ares program.
It wasn't called NASA then, but happy anniversary NASA and travels in outer space. To infinity and beyond!