Today in History: Oct. 24

The photo above was taken 65 miles above White Sands, New Mexico, 70 years ago today. It is the first photo of Earth taken from space.

After the Second World War, the United States took possession of the German missile program and had enough equipment to build about 80 V-2 missiles. V-2 No. 13 was launched with a 35-millimeter film camera on board and a timer set to take a picture every second and a half. It fell back to Earth after a brief straight-up-and-down flight and the film (protected in a steel canister) was safe.

Clyde Holliday, an engineer who designed the camera, wrote about the experiment in National Geographic in 1950: “Results of these tests now are pointing to a time when cameras may be mounted on guided missiles for scouting enemy territory in war, mapping inaccessible regions of the earth in peacetime, and even photographing cloud formations, storm fronts, and overcast areas over an entire continent in a few hours.”

* * * *
One of the worst space-race-era accidents took place on this date in 1960 when a missile exploded on a launch pad at what is now the Baikonur Cosmodrome; the head of the Soviet Union’s missile and rocket program, Marshal Mitrofan Ivanovich Nedelin, and at least 150 others were incinerated. The fact that the accident took place at all was only a rumor until 1989, when the Soviet Union officially acknowledged it.

Problems with the wiring on the new R-16 rocket led to delays, delays led to authority figures micromanaging workers (Marshal Nedelin seated himself near the launch pad), micromanaging managers and delays led to impulsive rushes and mistakes. The second stage on the rocket ignited while the rocket was still tethered to the launch pad. The flames ignited the first stage below it, which was still fully fueled. The conflagration reached temperatures around 5500°F.

There are photos and a film that were taken by automatic cameras that were some distance away and programmed to take photos of a spectacular rocket launch. They are difficult to look at.

* * * *
The start of the Great Depression came suddenly on this date (“Black Thursday”) in 1929, when the U.S. stock market dropped 11% of its value upon opening; only a large investment by the biggest banks in blue chip stocks later in the afternoon restored confidence and slowed the crash, which then continued the following week.

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John Lennon released his first new single in five years on this date in 1980, “(Just Like) Starting Over.” It became Lennon’s biggest hit in the United States, where it was number 1 for five weeks.

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Jackie Robinson died on this date in 1972. David Oistrakh died on this date in 1974. Gene Roddenberry died 25 years ago today. Rosa Parks died 11 years ago today.

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Moss Hart was born on this date in 1904. Bob Kane was born on this date in 1915. Denise Levertov was born on this date in 1923. J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) was born on this date 85 years ago.

* * * *
Y. A. Tittle is 90 today. Norman Rush is 83. Bill Wyman is 80 today. F. Murray Abraham is 77. Kevin Kline is 69 today. Some Pirates of Penzance:

Kweisi Mfume is 68. B.D. Wong is 56. Tila Tequila is 35.

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One comment

  1. hL · October 27, 2016

    Your posts are so great.

    Liked by 1 person

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