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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.


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On this day in 1973 – April 5th – NASA launched Pioneer 11.

Pioneer 11 was the first spacecraft to encounter Saturn and it followed Pioneer 10 into the far reaches of the Solar System.


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On this day in 1965 – April 6th – Intelsat I became the first commercial communications satellite to be placed in geosynchronous orbit.

It was nicknamed Early Bird from the proverb "The early bird catches the worm." Although the satellite remains in orbit, the last time it was activated was in 1990.


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On this day in 1991 – April 7th – the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) was deployed by astronauts on the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

It was the second of NASA's "Great Observatories" and it transformed our knowledge of the high-energy sky, producing the first ever all-sky survey in gamma rays.


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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.


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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.


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On this day in 1964 – April 8th – NASA's Gemini 1 was launched as an unmanned test flight.

The Gemini program was the bridge between NASA's Mercury program - its original ventures in manned spaceflight - and the Apollo moon program.


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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.


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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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On this day in 1968 – April 9th – Europe's spaceport, the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) - Guiana Space Centre - became operational.

This first launch was of a sounding rocket from the French Veronique series.


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