Category Archives: History

Earth 50 Years Ago


50 years ago today the Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first picture of Earth from the moon. Lunar Orbiter 1 was launched on 10 August 1966 and returned 42 high-resolution and 187 medium-resolution frames were taken and transmitted to Earth covering over 5 million square kilometers of the Moon’s surface. This image was taken on 23 August 1966 at 16:35 GMT.

More about Lunar Orbiter 1

Image: NASA via Wikimedia

Sample 15415

Sample 15415 or the Genesis Rock was collected by Apollo 15 astronauts James Irwin and David Scott on the surface of the moon. The date was 01 August 1971 and it was the second EVA for the astronauts when Sample 15415 was collected from Spur crater.


The early idea was the Genesis Rock was lunar primordial crust, however it turn out not to be so. The rock is anorthosite.

More about the oldest moon rocks.

Scientific data on Sample 15415.

The name Genesis Rock is stored at the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility.

Here’s a written transcript of the astronaut radio transmissions at the time of the finding and below (should be) the audio file.



ISS Reaches Historic Milestone!

Congratulations to the International Space Station on completing 100,000 orbits since the station was launched on 20 Nov 1998. In the years since launch the station will have traveled around 2,643,342,240 miles, or roughly the distance between Earth and Neptune.

The event occurred at 06:10 UTC this morning 16 May 2016.


90 Years Ago

90 years ago today Robert Goddard launched his first liquid fueled rocket.  Powered by a mixture of liquid oxygen and gasoline the rocket reportedly rose 41 feet (~12 meters) and traveled 184 feet (56 meters) before landing in a cabbage patch.

Goddard’s diary entry:

March 17, 1926. The first flight with a rocket using liquid propellants was made yesterday at Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn…. Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until it cleared the frame, and then at express train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate —  Lehman, Milton (1963). “This High Man: The Life of Robert H. Goddard”. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss, and Co..

Today, 90 years later we have space probes: at the extreme edge of the solar system, orbiting comets and moons and planets, we have put robotic travelers on other worlds and it all started on Aunt Effie’s farm.

Video from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

LIGO Details

Now for some more detail on the discovery of gravitational waves.

The press release from the Caltech LIGO website:

LIGO Opens New Window on the Universe with Observation of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes

WASHINGTON, DC/Cascina, Italy

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.
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