Contributor: Barry Fetzer
Sources: Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica
Now that we’re past Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer, we’re all looking forward to lower temperatures and being bombarded by pumpkin spice fragrances this, and pumpkin spice flavors that…
…well, maybe not the pumpkin spice. I personally have never had pumpkin spice anything, except for cinnamon and nutmeg-laced pumpkin pie, and then not until two and a half months away on Thanksgiving Day. And I’m just fine with that.
So, instead of pumpkin spice, let’s focus on today’s aviation history “twofer”, two events separated by 33 years but related in their “spaciness” (if not their “spiciness”).
On this day in aviation history in 1959 (according to Encyclopedia Britannica, which, yes believe it or not, is still a “thing”), “The Soviet Union launched Luna 2, the first space probe to hit the moon.” Luna 2 further exasperated (and even scared) Americans with their increasing sense of falling behind the Soviet Union from a technological viewpoint. The Luna 2 spacecraft successfully impacted the moon only two years after, Sputnik 1’s success. Sputnik was the first artificial earth satellite.
Again, according to Wikipedia, “Luna 2 was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the moon, and the first human-made object to make contact with another celestial body. The spacecraft was launched on 12 September 1959 by the Luna 8K72 s/n I1-7B rocket. It followed a direct path to the moon. In addition to the radio transmitters sending telemetry information back to Earth, the spacecraft released a sodium gas cloud so the spacecraft’s movement could be visually observed. On 13 September 1959, it impacted the moon’s surface east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus.”
Model of the Luna 2. Courtesy Wikipedia.
And then 33 years later on 12 September 1992, again according to Wikipedia, “Mae Carol Jemison (born October 17, 1956) an American engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut, became the first African-American woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. Jemison joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1987 and was selected to serve for the STS-47 mission, during which the Endeavour orbited the Earth for nearly eight days on September 12–20, 1992.
Born in Alabama and raised in Chicago, Jemison graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering as well as African and African-American studies. She then earned her medical degree from Cornell University. Jemison was a doctor for the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1983 until 1985 and worked as a general practitioner. In pursuit of becoming an astronaut, she then applied to NASA.
Jemison left NASA in 1993 and founded a technology research company. She later formed a non-profit educational foundation and through the foundation is the principal of the 100 Year Starship project funded by DARPA. Jemison also wrote several books for children and appeared on television several times, including in a 1993 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She holds several honorary doctorates and has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.”
Jemison in 1992. Courtesy NASA.