Today marks the anniversary of quite a few historical events of significance.
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.
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 over 20 years later, when it disintegrated on re-entry during a mission, killing its seven crew and passengers. 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, thanks to all the men and women in uniform who protect freedom (past and present), and to offer my sincerest condolences to the friends and family of all such heroes who did not return.
In commemoration of the achievements of Mr. Gagarin and the crew of Columbia, NASA today unveiled the permanent homes of the entire United States space shuttle fleet once they are all retired.
- Atlantis will be housed at the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral near Orlando, Florida
- Endeavor will be delivered into the hands of the California Science Center in Los Angeles
- Discovery will replace the Enterprise at the Smithsonian's National Air And Space Museum exhibit in Virginia
- As for the Enterprise, she is not being forgotten, as she will be sent to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York
As far as I am aware, no actual dates for the opening of each respective exhibit has been announced yet. My dad and I are planning a trip to D.C. to visit the Smithsonian this summer. I hope that the space shuttle exhibit is open at that time, and that they don't have it closed for the purpose of relocating the shuttles. As awesome as it would be to get to be in the same room as a space shuttle that has actually been in space (Discovery), I can't help but hope that my dad and I make it there before the Enterprise has been moved. It may not have been to space, but the Enterprise is the Enterprise! Fellow Trekkies know what I mean...
The space shuttles have been in service since before I was born. They are an iconic figure of space travel and science in general. Trying to think of a world without any of them in service is just ... weird.
Oh, and today is also the birthday of comedian and talk show host David Letterman, who was born in 1947. Happy birthday, Dave!