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On this day in 2011 - May 16th - STS-134 Endeavour launched, the final space shuttle mission.


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On this day in 1836 - May 17th - English scientist and astronomer Norman Lockyer was born.

Along with the French scientist Pierre Janssen he is credited with discovering the gas helium which was first discovered in the light spectrum of the Sun decades before any was found on Earth.


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On this day in 1968 - May 17th - the first ESRO satellite was successfully launched.

The European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) was a precursor to the European Space Agency (ESA). ESRO-2B was the first mission controlled by teams at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. It was mainly intended to study X-ray and particle emissions from the Sun.


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On this day in 1969 - May 18th - Apollo 10 was launched.

Apollo 10 was a dress rehearsal for the first Moon landing, testing all of the components and procedures, just short of actually landing.


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On this day in 2009 - May 18th - The final spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope took place.

Amongst other things the astronauts installed some new instruments, made repairs to two instruments, replaced old batteries, and added new gyroscopes.


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On this day in 1990 - May 20th - the Hubble Space Telescope sent back its first image, that of several stars, captured with its Wide Field/Planetary Camera.

Unfortunately, they then discovered there was a flaw in the main mirror which meant fuzzy images for three years until the first shuttle servicing mission. Interestingly, the images were still much better than the ones from ground-based telescopes.


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On this day in 2010 - May 21st - the Japanese experimental aircraft IKAROS was launched.

IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) is the first spacecraft to successfully demonstrate solar sail technology in interplanetary space.


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On this day in 2008 - May 25th - NASA's Phoenix lander landed on Mars.

Phoenix was expected to spend 90 Martian sols searching for environments suitable for microbial life. It carried out its mission for 157 Martian sols.


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On this day in 1961 - May 25th - President John F. Kennedy challenged the USA to "commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

Sadly, Kennedy didn't live to see it happen.


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On this day in 1983 - May 26th - ESA's X-ray observatory, Exosat, was launched.

Exosat was the first ESA mission to study the Universe at X-ray wavelengths, and one of the first unmanned satellites to feature an onboard computer. The spacecraft was operational from May 1983 to April 1986.


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