July 18, 2011 - A Day Made for Landings

A Day Made for Landings In one of those strange examples of calendrical chance, the first spacecraft to land safely on Mars did so precisely seven years to the day after humans first walked on the Moon. While the Apollo 11 landing rested squarely in the hands of Neil Armstrong as he controlled the Lunar Module Eagle to a safe landing on the Sea of Tranquility, the fate of the Viking 1 lander was relegated to a pre-programmed series of instructions stored on its onboard computer. Thirty-five years ago this week, following a routine choreographed more than a year before, Viking 1 entered the Martian atmosphere, deployed a parachute, fired its descent engine, and landed safely on the Chryse Planitia. This picture of the ruddy rock-strewn landing area was taken by Viking 1 the following day.

Image credit: NASA / JPL

Weekly Calendar

July 18-24, 2011

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 18

Neptune 6° south of Moon

1921: John Glenn born
Gemini X launched
1980: India becomes seventh nation to launch its own satellite

Moon phase Tuesday 19

1846: Edward Pickering born
1967: Explorer 35 launched
1985: NASA selects Christa McAuliffe as first teacher to travel in space

Moon phase Wednesday 20

Mercury at greatest elongation (27° E)

1969: Apollo 11 astronauts become first humans walk on Moon
1976: Viking 1 lands on Mars
1999: Liberty Bell 7 capsule recovered from Atlantic Ocean after 38 years

Moon phase Thursday 21

Uranus 6° south of Moon
Moon at apogee

1961: Liberty Bell 7 suborbital flight; capsule sinks in Atlantic Ocean
1969: Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle lifts off from Moon

Moon phase Friday 22

1784: Friedrich Bessel born
1994: Last fragment of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts Jupiter

Moon phase Saturday 23

Last Quarter Moon 1:02 AM ET
Jupiter 5° south of Moon

1972: Landsat 1 launched
1999: STS-93 Columbia launched, deploys Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Moon phase Sunday 24

1950: First rocket launched from Cape Canaveral
1969: Apollo 11 crew returns to Earth
1975: Apollo-Soyuz crew returns to Earth, last US splashdown
2009: Canaries Great Telescope dedicated

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.