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On this day in 1999 - December 18th - NASA launched the Terra satellite.

Terra was the flagship of the Earth Observation System, a multinational research program to study changes in the Earth and how they could affect life on our planet.



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On this day in 2013 - December 19th - the European Space Agency (ESA) launched its Gaia spacecraft.

Gaia is a space observatory which is measuring the positions and distances of stars with unprecedented accuracy. The mission aims to construct the largest and most precise 3D space catalog ever made.


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On this day in 1904 - December 20th - The Mount Wilson Solar Observatory was founded.

About fifteen years later, "solar" was dropped from the name as the 100-inch Hooker telescope came into use. Observing with it, Edwin Hubble found evidence that the Milky Way was just one galaxy in an expanding Universe.


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On this day in 1986 - December 21st - NASA launched Apollo 8 with its crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders.

The Apollo 8 Moon mission was the first manned mission to leave Earth orbit and go into orbit around another celestial object.


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On this day in 1988 - December 21st - Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov returned to Earth after spending one year aboard Mir space station.



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On this day in 2019 – December 22nd – at 04:19 UTC the December solstice occurred, the start of winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere.

UTC=Greenwich Mean Time, so for most of North America and the Pacific islands the solstice was on December 21st. The northern winter solstice happens when the Sun is directly above the Tropic of Capricorn.


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On this day in 1672 – December 23rd – Jean-Dominique Cassini discovered Saturn's moon Rhea.


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On this day in 1968 – December 24th – Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit.

The crew were the first humans to view Earth as a whole planet, the first to orbit another world, and the first to see the far side of the Moon. They made a live Christmas Eve broadcast to the Earth as the circled the Moon.


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On this day in 2004 – December 25th – the Huygens probe separated from the Cassini spacecraft.

Huygens went on to land on Saturn's moon Titan, and Cassini studied the Saturnian system until 2017.


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On this day in 2003 – December 25th – the European Mars Express and Beagle 2 arrived at Mars.

Beagle 2 was damaged on landing and never responded, but the orbiter Mars Express is still returning data.


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