. On this day in 1914 – April 4th – Czech astronomer Zdeněk Kopal was born in Litomyšl, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic).
In 1938 he studied in England at Cambridge under Arthur Eddington, and later that year accepted a teaching post at Harvard College Observatory. In order to ensure good quality maps of the Moon for the Apollo program, Kopal organised a USAF-funded programme designed to map the Moon from the Earth using high resolution imagery. He was head of astronomy at the University of Manchester for 30 years and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Astrophysics and Space Science from its foundation in 1968 until his death in 1993.
. On this day in 2001 – April 7th – NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter was launched.
The orbiter was designed to look for evidence of past or present water and ice, as well as study the planet's geology and radiation environment. Its primary mission was meant to last 32 months, but It's still in service.
. On this day in 1793 – April 8th – German amateur astronomer Karl Ludwig Hencke was born in Driesen, Brandenburg.
Hencke discovered five variable stars and carried out much useful work on the general improvement of star charts. But his major discoveries were the asteroids Astraea (1845), found 15 years after his search began, and Hebe in 1847. They were the first new asteroids known since the discovery of Vesta was in 1807.
. On this day in 1921 – April 9th – Mary Jackson was born.
Jackson was NASA's first black female engineer. She began as a computer for NASA's predecessor organization, but went on to take advanced engineering classes. She worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, for most of her career.
. On this day in 1959 – April 9th – NASA selected its first group of astronauts, known as the Mercury Seven.
They were the pioneers of the US manned space program: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. None of the Mercury Seven are still alive.
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