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On this day in 2011 - September 10th - NASA launched the two small spacecraft GRAIL A (Ebb) and GRAIL B (Flow).

The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mapped the gravitational field of the Moon in unprecedented detail.

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On this day in 1857 - September 10th - American astronomer James Keeler was born.

Keeler was the director of the University of Pittsburgh's Allegheny Observatory in 1891, and later Lick Observatory in California. He was known for his studies of the rings of Saturn and for expanding astronomers' understanding of nebulae through an extended series of photographs using a large telescope.

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On this day in 1877 - September 11th - English astrophysicist and mathematician James Jeans was born.

Jeans made major contributions to the early understanding of stellar radiation and stellar evolution.

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On this day in 1985 - September 11th - the International Cometary Explorer (ICE) became the first spacecraft to make a flyby of a comet.

It passed through the plasma tail of comet Giacobini-Zinner within about 7,800 km (4,800 mi) of the nucleus.

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On this day in 1997 - September 11th -NASA's Mars Global Surveyor arrived at Mars.

It was a global mapping mission that formed part of the larger Mars Exploration Program. NASA officially ended the mission in January 2007 following an irreparable communications failure.

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On this day in 1717 - September 11th - Swedish astronomer Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin was born.

He was the first director of the Stockholm Observatory, and is probably best remembered today for his extensive study and observation of Jupiter’s satellites.

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On this day in 1959 - September 12th - the Soviet spacecraft Luna 2 was launched to the Moon.

The following day Luna 2 became the first human object to land on another celestial body.

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On this day in 1970 - September 12th - the Soviet spacecraft Luna 16 was launched.

It was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil to Earth.

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On this day in 1915 - September 14th - John Lowry Dobson was born.

Dobson was a keen amateur astronomer and popularizer of astronomy. He designed and promoted a quality telescope that could be made using inexpensive, readily available materials. The Dobsonian telescope meant that amateur astronomers could afford a portable instrument of a size and aperture that would otherwise be beyond their means.


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On this day in 1968 - September 15th - the Soviet spacecraft Zond 5 was launched.

It was the first spacecraft to travel to the Moon with living creatures on board. It circled the Moon and returned safely to Earth with its passengers, including two tortoises.

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