Today in Science History – February 3 – Space Race Firsts

Luna 9 moon surface
First photograph from the Moon’s surface.

February 3, 1966, was a day for two ‘firsts’ during the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The United States launched the first meteorological satellite, ESSA-1. ESSA-1 (Environmental Science Services Administration) would take photographs of cloud cover and transmit the data to the National Meteorological Center. It would be supplemented by 8 other ESSA satellites over the next three years and provided weather information to receiving stations in 45 different countries.

The Soviet Union successfully landed a probe on the surface of the Moon. This landing was the first soft landing on another celestial body. The Luna 9 spacecraft touched down and began taking photographs of the area around the landing site. The Soviet government did not release the data received from Luna 9, but British scientists deciphered the signal from the Moon. They passed the photographs along to the BBC, who published them to the world.
Luna 9 was the second spacecraft to reach the moon after the Luna 2 probe crashed into the surface in 1959. This landing proved a future lander could land on the surface without sinking into the lunar dust.

Notable Science History Events for February 3

1995 – First Space Shuttle mission with a female pilot.

Astronaut Eileen Collins
Astronaut Eileen Collins

Astronaut Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot the space shuttle. The Space Shuttle Discovery completed a rendezvous with the Soviet space station Mir as part of the Russian-American Shuttle-Mir program. The shuttle passed close to Mir to practice navigation and communication for future Mir missions.

1984 – The first human baby born from embryo transfer.

The first transfer of an embryo from one woman to another woman was born. This procedure was directed by Dr. John Buster at the UCLA Medical Center. This research has given new options to people to become parents who couldn’t before.

1966 – The U.S. launches the first meteorological satellite.

1966 – The Soviet Union make the first soft landing on the Moon.

1935 – Hugo Junkers died.

Hugo Junkers
Hugo Junkers (1859 – 1935)

Junkers was a German aviation engineer who developed one of the first all-metal airplanes. He also built the first all-metal transport aircraft. The aircraft company he founded would become one of the principal suppliers of Germany’s Luftwaffe during World War II. Junkers himself was forced from his company before the war began by the Nazi government. Three days after Hitler took office, Junkers was ordered to turn over his patents to the government and he promptly refused. He was placed under house arrest while the government decided if he was guilty of treason. While under arrest, his health deteriorated and died on his 76th birthday.

1894 – Edmond Frémy died.

Edmond Frémy
Edmond Frémy (1814 – 1894)

Frémy was a French chemist who was best known for his work with fluorine and its compounds. He discovered anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and was the first to artificially produce rubies.

Frémy is also known for Frémy’s salt. Frémy’s salt (or Potassium nitrosodisulfonate -K2NO(SO3)2) is a strong oxidizer and long-lasting radical useful in many oxidation reactions.

1862 – Jean-Baptiste Biot died.

Jean-Baptiste Biot
Jean-Baptiste Biot (1774 – 1862)

Biot was a French physicist whose early works included the relationship between current and magnetism which became to be known as the Biot-Savart law. He also was the first to determine that mica polarizes light.

1859 – Hugo Junkers was born.

1823 – Spencer Fullerton Baird was born.

Spencer Fullerton Baird
Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823 – 1887)

Baird was an American naturalist who would transform the Smithsonian into a major natural history museum. He started the Smithsonian’s natural collection with his own large collections and donations from his friend, John Audubon. He encouraged many government survey projects to include training for scientific exploration and collections.

1821 – Elizabeth Blackwell was born.

Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821 – 1910)

Blackwell was a British physician who was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. She encouraged other women to become doctors and was active in Woman’s Suffrage movement.