Today in History: March 23

The Soviet Union launched the Mir space station on February 23, 1986, and it orbited the Earth for a little longer than 15 years until March 23, 2001, 15 years ago today, when it was guided through a de-orbit maneuver and burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

During its years in orbit, its home country closed for business and re-opened as Russia, it became the first station to house Russian-American missions, and it almost saw a crew die in space when a cargo ship crashed into it. Its crew quarters were cramped, tools that no one could figure out a use for cluttered its work spaces, and it had difficulty staying in any one position for long, which would sometimes smack crew members about.

Russian mission control successfully guided the crippled space station to a re-entry over the South Pacific, so no debris struck land.

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George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” had its London premiere on this date in 1743. A debate in the newspapers about whether such a serious story—Christ’s Nativity, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension—was suitable for performance in a theater may have hurt the success of the premiere. Handel cut the scheduled number of performances in half, from six to three. A revival of the piece in 1749, with some cuts and changes made to it, sparked a new public embrace of the oratorio, an embrace that has not diminished in the years since. “O Death Where is Thy Sting” (after the fold):

 
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Dame Elizabeth Taylor died five years ago today.

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Fannie Farmer, whose 1896 cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring cups and spoons as well as the idea of level measurement, was born on this date in 1857.

Joan Crawford was born on this date in 1905. Akira Kurosawa was born on this date in 1910. Wernher von Braun was born in 1912 on this date. Ugo Tognazzi was born in 1922 on this date. The late Moses Malone was born on this date in 1955.

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“Hello, dere!” The comedian Marty Allen is 94 today. He is still performing live, almost always accompanied with his wife, Karon Kate Blackwell, providing musical breaks. “Ninety-four years old, and I’ve still got it!” is his opening line, followed by, “But nobody wants it.” His 70-plus-year show business career still continues. A birthday performance/celebration will be held on Saturday at the Rampart Casino at The Resort at Summerlin in Las Vegas.

Sir Roger Bannister is 87 today. Barry Cryer is 81 today. Barbara Rhoades is 70 today. Ric Ocasek is 67 today. Chaka Khan is 63. Amanda Plummer is 59 today. Catherine Keener is 57 today. Perez Hilton is 38.

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