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On this day in 2010 – May 21st – the Japanese experimental aircraft IKAROS was launched.

IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) is the first spacecraft to successfully demonstrate solar sail technology in interplanetary space.


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On this day in 1961 – May 25th – President John F. Kennedy challenged the USA to "commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

Sadly, Kennedy didn't live to see it happen.


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On this day in 2008 – May 25th – NASA's Phoenix lander landed on Mars.

Phoenix was expected to spend 90 Martian sols searching for environments suitable for microbial life. It carried out its mission for 157 Martian sols. (A sol is a Martian day - it's about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day).


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On this day in 1951 – May 26th – the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, was born in Encino, California.

Ride – physicist, engineer, educator and astronaut – made her first flight almost twenty years to the day after cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the very first woman in space.


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On this day in 1983 – May 26th – ESA's X-ray observatory, Exosat, was launched.

Exosat was the first European Space Agency mission to study the Universe at X-ray wavelengths, and one of the first unmanned satellites to feature an onboard computer. The spacecraft was operational from May 1983 to April 1986.


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On this day in 1931 – May 27th – Swiss physicist and explorer Auguste Piccard, with Paul Kipfer, became the first persons to travel into the stratosphere.

They reached a record altitude in a balloon with a pressurized aluminum gondola designed by Piccard. Piccard wanted to measure the activity of cosmic rays and investigate Einstein's theory of relativity.


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On this day in 1912 – May 28th – Australian radio astronomer Ruby Payne-Scott was born in Grafton, New South Wales.

She worked on radar systems in World War II, and post war helped to lay the foundations for radio astronomy. Payne-Scott was the first woman radio astronomer.


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On this day in 1794 – May 29th – German astronomer Johann Heinrich von Mädler was born in Berlin.

Von Mädler, along with Wilhelm Beer, published Mappa Selenographica. It was the most complete map of the Moon at that time, and it remained unsurpassed for over forty years.


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On this day in 1919 – May 29th – Einstein's General Theory of Relativity was tested during a total solar eclipse.

By comparing the apparent distance between stars in the constellation Taurus, with and without the Sun between them, British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington confirmed the theoretical predictions about gravitational lensing.


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On this day in 1925 – May 29th – Irish astronomer Mary Brück, née Conway, was born in Ballivor, County Meath.

Mary Brück was a a senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, her astronomical research including investigations of stars, the interstellar medium and the Magellanic Clouds. However she is probably best remembered as a writer, with a particular interest in the history of science and women in astronomy.


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