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On this day in 1976 - July 20th - NASA's Viking 1 became the first spacecraft to land successfully on Mars and perform its mission.

Part of its mission was a biology experiment whose purpose was to look for evidence of life.


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On this day in 1620 - July 21st - French astronomer Jean Picard was born.

Picard collaborated and corresponded with many fellow scientists, including Isaac Newton, Christiaan Huygens, Ole Rømer, and Giovanni Cassini, among others. He was a founding member of the French Academy of Sciences.


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On this day in 1784 - July 22nd - German astronomer and mathematician Friedrich Bessel was born.

Bessel was the first to publish a reliable value for the distance from the Sun to another star using parallax.


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On this day in 1928 - July 23rd - American astronomer Vera Rubin was born.

Rubin's pioneering work on galaxy rotation rates uncovered a discrepancy between the predictions and the observations. This was early evidence for the existence of dark matter.


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On this day in 1999 - July 23rd - NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was deployed by STS-93 Columbia.

Columbia was under the command of Eileen Collins, the first woman commander of s space shuttle mission.


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On this day in 1972 - July 23rd - the US launched Landsat 1.

The near-polar orbiting spacecraft served as a stabilized, Earth-oriented platform for obtaining information on Earth resources of all kinds, meteorology, pollution, etc. Over the lifetime of the satellite it provided around 300,000 images.


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On this day in 1950 - July 24th - the first rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Cape Canaveral - which for a time was called Cape Kennedy - became the launch site for the manned space program. Until May 30, 2020, the USA could only put astronauts into space via Russian launches.


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On this day in 1969 - July 24th - the crew of Apollo 11 returned safely to Earth.

President John F. Kennedy's goal "of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth" had been achieved "before this decade is out", though he didn't live to see it.


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On this day in 1975 - July 24th - the last Apollo crew returned to Earth after docking and working with a Russian Soyuz crew.

The end of the Apollo Soyuz mission was the final flight of the Apollo program and the last US splashdown.


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On this day in 2009 - July 24th - the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GranTeCan or GTC) was dedicated.

Located on La Palma in the Canary Islands of Spain, it's the world's largest single-aperture optical telescope.


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