September 18, 1977. Previous images had shown a part of the Earth, and a part of the moon, together. But – until this image by Voyager 1, taken on today’s date 37 years ago – we had never seen the Earth and moon as whole worlds in space, in the same frame and in color.
This Date in Science
September 1, 1979. On this date, NASA’s Pioneer 11 came within 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometers) of Saturn, making it the first spacecraft ever to sweep closely past that place. The spacecraft found a new ring for Saturn – now called the “F” ring – and also a new moon, Epimetheus. There were two Pioneer spacecraft. They were used to investigate Saturn’s rings and determine if a trajectory through the rings was safe for the upcoming Voyager visits. They paved the way for the even-more-sophisticated Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977.
On the anniversary of Voyager 2’s encounter with Neptune and Triton … an awesome collection of restored Voyager 2 images, plus the link between Triton and Pluto.
August 23, 1966. This photo reveals the first view of Earth from the moon, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on August 23, 1966. It’s shot from a distance of about 236,000 miles (380,000 kilometers) and shows half of Earth, from Istanbul to Cape Town and areas east, shrouded in night. NASA restored this photo in 2008, using photographic techniques not available in the 1960s. See the restored photo inside.
August 22, 1989. When NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft skimmed past the planet Neptune on this date, it discovered a faint but continuous ring system encircling the planet. Scientists had suspected there were rings around Neptune some years earlier. After all, Uranus had rings, discovered in 1977. And, watching from Earth in 1984, astronomers were able to see extra blinks before and after Neptune passed in front of a distant star. Still, Voyager 2 made the definitive discovery of Neptune’s rings a few days before it swept closest to the planet.
July 20, 1969. On this date, Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed their moon module on a broad dark lunar lava flow, called the Sea of Tranquility. Six hours later, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon.
Don’t believe it? Try this video: Why the Apollo moon landings could not have been faked.
July 19, 2013. On this date last year, humanity acquired its third-ever image of Earth from the outer solar system, as the planet Saturn eclipsed the sun from the vantage point of an orbiting spacecraft, and as we on Earth cast our thoughts toward space. The Cassini spacecraft imaging team – led by Carolyn Porco – later dubbed this image The Day Earth Smiled. Learn more it, and see the first two images of Earth from deep space, by clicking on the links below.
July 17, 1975. On this date, Soviets and Americans accomplished the first joint space docking between two nations in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. It marked the cooling of a long era of tense relations between the two world superpowers. Russian Soyuz and American Apollo flights launched within seven-and-a-half hours of each other on July 15, and docked on July 17. Three hours later, the world watched on television as the two mission commanders, Tom Stafford and Alexey Leonov, exchanged the first international handshake in space through the open hatch of the Soyuz.
July 10, 1962. This date marks the launch of Telstar 1, the first communications satellite capable of relaying television signals from Europe to North America, by a Delta rocket. Telstar – a 171-pound, 34.5-inch sphere loaded with transistors and covered with solar panels – relayed its first signal just hours after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first transmitted images showed an American flag outside of a receiving station in Andover, Maine.
On June 30, 1908, in a remote part of Russia, a fireball was seen streaking across the daytime sky. Within moments, something exploded in the atmosphere above Siberia’s Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia. The explosion released enough energy to kill reindeer and flatten trees for many kilometers around the blast site. But no cater was ever found …