It happened today…

Published On: July 20, 2005

James DoohanJames Doohan, the actor known to millions as the original Star Trek’s Chief Engineer Scott, dies at the age of 85. A veteran TV and radio actor who also led Canadian troops during D-Day in World War II, he tried out a number of accents for what was originally a rather non-specific engineer character for Star Trek’s first season before settling on a Scottish accent; even after the series ended, his involvement with Star Trek continued, and he provided nearly every male voice outside of the show’s regular characters in the short-lived animated Star Trek series before reprising the role of Scotty in the first seven Star Trek films and a fan-favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease last year, and made a farewell appearance at Star Trek convention a few months later, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well.

Published On: July 20, 1999

Liberty Bell 7A day short of exactly 38 years since the capsule flew its suborbital flight and then sank as it took on water upon splashdown, Liberty Bell 7, the Mercury capsule flown by Gus Grissom in 1961, is raised from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean from a depth of almost 16,000 feet. The recovery, requiring specialized deep sea equipment, is bankrolled by the Discovery Channel, which gains exclusive broadcast rights to the event. The capsule itself is cleaned up, restored, and put on display at the Kansas Cosmosphere space museum in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Published On: July 20, 1976

VikingViking 1 makes a soft landing on Mars, the first spacecraft to do so intact (the Soviet space program had been attempting to put landers on Mars, some of them including rudimentary rovers, since 1962). It successfully transmits the first picture from the Martian surface back to Earth within seconds, and successfully gathers soil samples for analysis. Viking 1’s orbiter mothership will later shut down in 1980, but the lander itself functions until 1982. Viking 1’s landing takes place on the seventh anniversary of the first manned moon landing.

Published On: July 20, 1969

Apollo 10The Apollo 11 lunar module touches down in the Sea of Tranquility, a flat plain on the moon. Astronaut Neil Armstrong is the first human being to set foot on another body in the solar system, followed by “Buzz” Aldrin; the two spend roughly two and a half hours on the moon and gather nearly 50 pounds of samples of lunar soil and rock. This feat effectively ends the Cold War space race, though both the United States and the Soviet Union continue their lunar efforts: more Apollo missions are still on the schedule, and the Soviet continue trying to mount a successful launch of their giant N1 rocket.

This mission is dramatized in the Mare Tranquilitatis episode of HBO’s 1998 series From The Earth To The Moon.

To look up events on a specific date, use this date selector to select the appropriate month and day and leave the year blank. To look up events in a specific month or year, select the month or year and leave all other fields blank. Play around with it, it’s actually pretty cool.