50 years of Corning in space,
from the first moon landing to today

50 years of Corning in space,
from the first moon landing to today

Discover the ways Corning supports space missions since the success of Apollo 11

On July 20, 1969, Americans paused in awe in front of their television sets to hear U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong utter his halting and historic words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," while taking his first steps on the moon. Eight years after President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of putting a person on the moon by the end of the 1960s, Armstrong, along with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, completed the first lunar landing by an American spacecraft as part of the Apollo 11 mission. The first human footsteps on the moon propelled a global fascination with space exploration.

Beyond developing the TV picture tubes in the televisions that kept Americans informed on the latest in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) missions, Corning played a key role in space exploration and research from the U.S.’s earliest quests into the great unknown and still actively supports current and future missions.


1961- Corning’s heat-resistant windows for the Mercury protected the spacecraft and its passengers from the dangerously high temperatures involved with launch and atmospheric re-entry. This began Corning’s long-standing relationship with NASA.

1962- The Friendship 7 featured Corning window glass for astronaut and senator John Glenn’s historic orbit of the Earth mission.

1969- Apollo 11 featured Corning glass on its windows, allowing astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin to view the moon before their historic landing and walk.


1979- Corning’s ULE® Ultra Low Expansion Glass mirror glass was featured in what would later be unveiled in 1990 as the Hubble Telescope. This began Corning’s relationship with multiple research telescopes globally for decades to come.

1977- NASA used Corning’s MACOR® Machinable Glass in its spaceborne gamma radiation detector, and there were 200 MACOR parts in the Space Shuttle Orbiter fleet in hinge points, windows, and doors. Enterprise was the first shuttle in this fleet, followed by Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour.


2000- NASA commissioned Corning to develop the highest quality optical window for the International Space Station (ISS) in the early 2000s. This window installed on the nadir (earth-facing) side of the ISS is part of a research site called The Window Observational Research Facility (WORF). No longer would images of planets, asteroids, and moons look as though they were snapped through a thick household window glass.

2001- The space shuttle Discovery brought Corning’s HPFS® Fused Silica glass to the ISS to research it for potential future space industry applications by testing its long-term use in a space environment.

2006- Corning’s diamond-turned mirrors and housings were built into the New Horizons unmanned space craft called Project Ralph for a study on the planet Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

2007- Corning’s UniCam SC/APC connectors allowed the NASA ground control team to communicate successfully with the astronauts on the space shuttle Atlantis.

2009- The Kepler telescope featured Corning’s ULE® Glass in the primary mirror of the photometer, enabling researchers to identify 2,899 exo-planets, or planets with the potential of sustaining life.


2014- Corning’s Specialty Materials division provided two high-precision mirrors for NASA’s New Frontiers program for asteroid exploration, for the OSIRIS-REx mission, to focus on the near-earth asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx launched in 2016 and will return to Earth in 2023. The mirrors help collect and image light reflected by the asteroid.

2015- After nine years of travel, and with Corning’s mirrors as a resource, the world was given its first images of Pluto from Project Ralph, which showed the world a view of a new celestial body beyond the moon.

2016- Corning® CellBIND® surface treatment glass technology helped the University of Colorado’s BioServe Space Technologies program provide microgravity-ready cell culture equipment for NASA-funded life sciences research projects aboard the ISS.

2019- Orbital Sidekick, makers of the ISS-HEIST platform, is using Corning® microHSI™ 410 Sensors, hyperspectral imaging sensors, to survey the earth by detecting light reflected off surfaces and dividing it into color bands invisible to the human eye. These sensing and imaging technologies have more capabilities than traditional satellite cameras. The first images released from Orbital Sidekick in April 2019.


2021- The James Webb Space Telescope will become operational and will house three telescopes with mirrors made by Corning.

Before the first human left his mark on the moon, Corning has been a part of the emergence of early space exploration and research. When asking “Where is Corning?”, simply look to the sky, or through a telescope, to see that glass is everywhere, including the vastness of outer space.