December 17, 1903. On this date, two Ohio brothers – Wilbur and Orville Wright – made the first bonafide, manned, controlled, heavier-than-air flight. It was the first airplane, and it took off at 10:35 a.m. with Orville Wright on board as pilot. He flew their vehicle, called the Flyer, for 12 seconds over 120 feet (about 37 meters) of sandy ground just outside Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
This Date in Science
December 10, 1851. What if you wanted to organize every book in the library? That was the goal of Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal classification system, used today in libraries around the world.
November 20, 1889. Happy birthday, Edwin Hubble! The Hubble Space Telescope is named for this astronomer. How did this honor come to be? Hubble’s work was pivotal in changing our entire cosmology: our idea of the universe as a whole.
November 16, 1974. This is the anniversary of the most powerful broadcast ever deliberately beamed into space with the intention of contacting alien life. Some applauded this event as a mind-expanding attempt to remind people in 1974 that Earth is likely not the only planet where an intelligent civilization has evolved. At the time, others felt we shouldn’t be attempting to reveal Earth’s location in space to unknown alien civilizations.
October 4, 1957. On this date, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. According to many space historians, the Space Age began on this date.
September 27, 1905. On this date, while he was employed at a patent office, Albert Einstein published a paper titled “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy-Content?” It was the last of four papers he submitted that year to the journal Annalen der Physik. The first explained the photoelectric effect, the second offered experimental proof of the existence of atoms, and the third introduced the theory of special relativity. In the fourth paper, Einstein explained the relationship between energy and mass. That is, E=mc2
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.
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.