Year
1959

U.S. satellite photographs earth

From the Atlantic Missile Range in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the U.S. unmanned spacecraft Explorer 6 is launched into an orbit around the earth. The spacecraft, commonly known as the “Paddlewheel” satellite, featured a photocell scanner that transmitted a crude picture of the earth’s surface and cloud cover from a distance of 17,000 miles. The photo, received in Hawaii, took nearly 40 minutes to transmit.

Released by NASA in September, the first photograph ever taken of the earth by a U.S. satellite depicted a crescent shape of part of the planet in sunlight. It was Mexico, captured by Explorer 6 as it raced westward over the earth at speeds in excess of 20,000 miles an hour.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

U.S. embassies in East Africa bombed

At 10:30 a.m. local time, a massive truck bomb explodes outside the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Minutes later, another truck bomb detonated outside the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, the capital of neighboring Tanzania. The dual terrorist attacks killed 224 people, including ...read more

Trapped Russian sub rescued

On this day in 2005, a Russian Priz AS-28 mini-submarine, with seven crew members on board, is rescued from deep in the Pacific Ocean. On August 4, the vessel had been taking part in training exercises in Beryozovaya Bay, off the coast of Russia’s far-eastern Kamchatka ...read more

Wood raft makes 4,300-mile voyage

On this day in 1947, Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completes a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti.Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could ...read more

U.S. forces invade Guadalcanal

On this day in 1942, the U.S. 1st Marine Division begins Operation Watchtower, the first U.S. offensive of the war, by landing on Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands. On July 6, 1942, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal Island and began constructing an airfield there. ...read more

Tonkin Gulf Resolution is passed

The U.S. Congress passes Public Law 88-408, which becomes known as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, giving President Johnson the power to take whatever actions he deems necessary to defend Southeast Asia including “the use of armed force.” The resolution passed 82-2 in the Senate, ...read more

Lynne Cox swims into communist territory

On this day in 1987, Lynne Cox braves the freezing waters of the Bering Strait to make the first recorded swim from the United States to the Soviet Union. Lynne Cox’s swimming career began in her native New Hampshire when she was just nine years old. Not long after that, her ...read more

Bush orders Operation Desert Shield

On this day in 1990, President George Herbert Walker Bush orders the organization of Operation Desert Shield in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2. The order prepared American troops to become part of an international coalition in the war against Iraq that would be ...read more

Astronomer impresses Indians with eclipse

George Davidson, a prominent astronomer and explorer, impresses Alaskan Native Americans with his ability to predict a total solar eclipse. A native of Nottingham, England, Davidson immigrated to the United States in 1832. He went to school in Philadelphia, where he proved to be ...read more

Henry Fielding leaves London for Lisbon

On this day in1754, novelist Henry Fielding leaves London for Lisbon seeking a healthier climate. Fielding had suffered from ill health for some time, but his trip to Lisbon fails to ease his condition. He dies there two months later. Fielding dropped out of Eton at age 17 and ...read more

Actress Charlize Theron born

On this day in 1975, the actress Charlize Theron, known both for her lithe blonde beauty (she was named 2007’s “Sexiest Woman of the Year” by Esquire magazine) and serious acting chops (she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for 2003’s Monster), is born in Benoni, South ...read more

Mysterious explosions in Colombia

Seven army ammunition trucks explode in Cali, Colombia, killing more than 1,000 people and injuring thousands more on this day in 1956. The cause of the explosions remains a mystery. The previous day, 20 trucks fully loaded with dynamite departed the Colombian city of ...read more

Georgia institutes a State Board of Corrections

Concerned with its reputation in light of recent revelations about inhumane prison conditions, Georgia changes its constitution to set up a State Board of Corrections. The board was directed to be more humane in its treatment of prisoners and abolished whippings, leg irons, and ...read more

Congress passes Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

The United States Congress overwhelming approves the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Lyndon B. Johnson nearly unlimited powers to oppose “communist aggression” in Southeast Asia. The resolution marked the beginning of an expanded military role for the United States in ...read more

Confederate General Evander Law is born

Confederate General Evander Law is born in Darlington, South Carolina. Law had a distinguished career in the Confederate army and earned a reputation as a brave and effective field commander. Law, who attended the Citadel and studied law after his graduation, built a prewar ...read more