Today marks the anniversary of quite a few historical events of significance.

Firing on Ft. Sumter

Today, the American Civil War turns 150 years old, as we observe the anniversary of the April 12, 1861 attack by Confederate troops of Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina. Although a grim occasion on its own right, this attack does have some silver lining, as it began the conflict that would eventually set in motion this nation's steps towards racial equality.

50 years ago today, on April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space and orbit the Earth.

NASA logo

Today is also the 30th anniversary of the 1981 maiden voyage of the space shuttle Columbia, the world's first reusable spacecraft. It was a momentous and cheerful day for space exploration. The shuttle itself met a tragic end, when it disintegrated on re-entry during a mission, killing its seven crew and passengers over 20 years later. I'd like to take this moment to thank the brave men and women of NASA for the heroic work they do expanding the horizons of human knowledge and experience, and to offer my sincerest condolences to the friends and family of all such heroes who did not return.

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