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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.


Mona Evans
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On this day in 1970 – September 12th – the Soviet spacecraft Luna 16 was launched to the Moon.

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 in Beijing, China.

The American amateur astronomer, who grew up in the San Francisco area, was a popularizer of astronomy. He's best known for having 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 1938 – September 15th – American astronomer James Christy was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Christy is best known for his discovery of Charon, the first moon of Pluto and the largest of its five known natural satellites.


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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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On this day in 2017 – September 15th – the NASA/ESA Cassini mission ended with planned entry into Saturn's atmosphere.

The Cassini spacecraft had spent over 13 years studying Saturn and its moons and rings.


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On this day in 1848 – September 16th – Saturn's moon Hyperion was discovered.

American astronomers William and George Bond, and English astronomer William Lassell independently discovered the moon.


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On this day in 1764 – September 17th – English astronomer John Goodricke was born in Groningen in the Netherlands.

An infection as an infant rendered him deaf and unable to speak. However he overcame the handicaps and became a highly proficient astronomical observer and pioneering investigator of variable stars. He theorized that the variable star Algol was a binary star whose variability was due to a dark companion periodically eclipsing it.


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On this day in 1789 – September 17th – William Herschel discovered Saturn's moon Mimas.

The huge crater in the leading hemisphere of Mimas is named Herschel in honor of the moon's discoverer.


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On this day in 1857 – September 17th – Russian rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was born in Izhevskoye, Russia.

Tsiolkovsky is considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics. Long before the Wright brothers' first plane flew 120 feet, he was thinking space travel. And when it was still science fiction to most people, he was developing the theory, and doing the math, for multistage rockets.


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