This Day in Astronomy and Aerospace History: October 17

This Day in Astronomy and Aerospace History: October 17
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This Day in Astronomy and Aerospace History


German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler first observed an uncharted, notably bright star that had suddenly appeared in the constellation Ophiuchus. Scientists would later determine this light to be the last supernova to be observed in the Milky Way, SN 1604. It would be dubbed “Kepler’s Star,” in his honor. By Kepler’s observations, it is known that the nova was visible to the naked eye and brighter than any star in the sky, with a magnitude of roughly -2.5. To the right is a replica of Kepler’s chart of the skies. The “stella nova” is marked with an “N”


Bill Anders, one of the first three men to orbit the Moon as crew of the Apollo 8, was born.

Physicist Albert Einstein emigrated to the United States to escape the Nazi party that had gained control of Germany. He would go on to become a leader of the U.S. scientific community.


NASA selected the third astronaut training group for future Apollo missions. All of the candidates were qualified jet pilots, with at least one thousand flight-hours and a bachelors degree in a scientific field. Physically, they were all under thirty-five years of age, under 183 cm in height, and born in the U.S. Of the 271 applicants, only 32 candidates were chosen for the final phases of testing and training. President John F. Kennedy specifically requested that one of the astronauts be black, but neither of the two black applicants met all of the requirements.


Soyuz 7 returns to Earth, at the conclusion of its five-day mission. It had been intended to dock with the Soyuz 8 for a crew transfer; however, the spacecraft suffered equipment failures that left it unable to do so. The Soviets claimed that the mission had no such objective, but it was apparent to the world community that the claim was only a transparent attempt to save face in the escalating Space Race.


The first Space Shuttle’s main engine was successfully tested at National Space Tech Labs in Mississippi.

In the UK, space travel continued to capture the imagination of television audiences, as the science fiction television series Space: 1999 premiered. The series followed the adventures of the crew of Moonbase Alpha, a lunar research station propelled into deep space when a nuclear waste facility ignited and blew the Moon out of its orbit. It would run for forty-eight episodes.


Due to an issue with a nozzle on one of its launch vehicle’s Solid Rocket Boosters, the sixth mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia was delayed and returned to Vandenberg Air Force Base for repair. The mission would launch November 28th.


Daniel S. Goldin, age 61, announced his resignation as the the head of NASA, after ten years of service. He had been appointed Administrator by President George H.W. Bush on April 1, 1992, and with his resignation he set a record for the longest-serving Administrator in NASA’s history.


Spaceship One

SpaceShipOne flew an eighteen minute gliding test flight from the Mojave Airport Civilian Flight Test Center to test horizontal tail modification. The vehicle eventually won the X-Prize and became the model for the Virgin Galactic space fleet.




Image Source

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons/Rokits XPrize gallery