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On this day in 1968 – May 17th – the first ESRO satellite was successfully launched.

The European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) was a precursor to the European Space Agency (ESA). ESRO-2B was launched by a Scout rocket from the Western Test Range in California. It was the first mission controlled by teams at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

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On this day in 1974 – May 17th – NASA launched the first ever geostationary satellite.

SMS-1 (Synchronous Meteorological Satellite) was the first satellite in the first series of geostationary meteorological satellites. (A geostationary satellite is in an orbit that keeps it above the same part of the Earth all of the time.)

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On this day in 1711 – May 18th – astronomer, mathematician, philosopher and Jesuit priest, Roger Joseph Boscovich, was born in Ragusa (Dubrovnik) in what is modern-day Croatia.

Boskovich wrote on a wide range of astronomical topics, including the Aurora Borealis, transits of Mercury, and the theory of the telescope. Among other accomplishments, he solved the problem of locating the Sun's equator, observed sunspots to determine the rotation period of the Sun, and discovered the absence of an atmosphere on the Moon.

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On this day in 1991 – May 18th – British cosmonaut Helen Sharman was launched into space on board a Soyuz spacecraft.

Sharman was the first Briton (and first Western European woman) in space. With crew mates Anatoli Artsebarsky and Sergei Krikalev, she orbited Earth for two days before docking with the Mir space station.

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On this day in 2009 – May 18th – the final spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope took place.

The servicing mission was carried out in mission STS-125 aboard the shuttle Atlantis. There were five spacewalks altogether, the final one carried out by astronauts John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel.

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On this day in 1825 – May 20th – American astronomer George Phillips Bond was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

He succeeded his father, William Cranch Bond, as director of Harvard College Observatory. And he is considered by many to be the father of astrophotography, his achievements including taking the first photograph of a star (Vega in 1850), and in 1857 of the double star Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major.

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On this day in 1990 – May 20th – the Hubble Space Telescope sent back its first image, that of several stars, captured with its Wide Field/Planetary Camera.

Unfortunately, it was then discovered that there was a flaw in the main mirror which meant fuzzy images for three years until the first space shuttle servicing mission. Interestingly, the images were still much better than the ones from ground-based telescopes of the time.

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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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