Wednesday, July 8, 2015

1 Week Until Close-Ups of Pluto, 26 Years Since Voyager 2's Meeting With Neptune

One week from today, we here on Earth will get our first up-close look at Pluto, should all things go according to plan for NASA's New Horizons mission, which is set to fly by the former 9th planet in 6 days (data will take hours to reach Earth, hence the 7 days until the first images).

As of now, thanks to a computer glitch this past weekend that probably triggered many panic attacks in mission control, the most recent images of Pluto date to last Friday, July 3. Here's one of those pictures.

For a historical perspective, 1989, 26 years ago, was the last time a space probe visited a planet for the first time (Pluto was still a planet when New Horizons launched and many still consider Pluto a planet regardless of the IAU's definition of 'planet') when Voyager 2 flew by Neptune. For some fun, here's a look back at that year, the most recent time a planet was visited for the first time . . .

1989 was a monumental year in human geopolitical history for one reason: the Berlin Wall came down and Eastern Europe shook off the yoke imposed by the Soviet Union. For this reason alone, 1989 will be remembered by historians centuries in the future. Starting in Poland, a wave of revolutions in Eastern Europe saw these countries, formerly behind the 'Iron Curtain' and under the oppressive rule of communist Russia, break free from their Soviet overlords and transform into modern, free democracies. By the end of the year, these Eastern Bloc nations would truly be independent nations once again and Soviet Russia, its communist system under considerable strain, would find itself standing alone against the irreversible tide of freedom. Within two years, communism in Russia would be dead.
That aside, here's more from the news in 1989:

George HW Bush succeeds Ronald Reagan as the 41st president
Tienanmen Square Massacre
Russia pulls last troops out of Afghanistan
Denmark becomes the first nation to legalize same-sex civil unions
The last 2 holdout WWII Japanese soldiers surrender
The United States invades Panama

Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska
Hurricane Hugo, the costliest hurricane to date
7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta Earthquake in California

Bob Ballard finds the wreck of the German battleship Bismarck
Robert Morris becomes the first person prosecuted for a cyber crime
1st commercial dial-up Internet service in the United States
NASA launches Galileo to Jupiter, Magellan to Venus
First mention of 'cold fusion'
First text message
Hepatitis C visus first identified

Pete Rose banned from baseball
Ryder Cup ends in a tie
Riverside International Raceway closes

Pop Culture:
Sega Genesis released in the United States
Official Soviet news agency reports landing of UFO
The Simpsons airs its first episode
Disney releases the Little Mermaid
Doctor Who ends its original TV run of 26 years

Taylor Swift
Daniel Radcliffe
Joe Jonas
Michelle Wie

Lucille Ball
Salvador Dali
Emperor Hirohito
Bette Davis
Sugar Ray Robinson
Laurence Olivier

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