January 2, 2020
Day 2 of 366
January 2nd is the second day of the year. It is the ninth of the Twelve Days of Christmas, Ancestry Day in Haiti, and Carnival Day in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Historical items of note:
- In 1778, the State of Georgia was the fourth to ratify the United States Constitution.
- In 1936, musician and actor Roger Miller was born.
- In 1947, zoologist and author Jack Hanna was born.
- In 1959, Luna 1 was launched by the Soviet Union. It was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon and to orbit the Sun.
- In 2004, Stardust flew by Comet Wild 2, eventually returning to Earth with samples.
In 1959, the Soviet Union launched a spherical satellite called Luna 1. Powered by mercury-oxide batteries and silver-zinc accumulators, the launch was manually controlled via radio since engineers of the time did not trust automated systems. When one of the engine commands was sent too late, the rocket picked up an additional 175 meters per second. Instead of impacting the lunar surface as planned, the vehicle missed its target and inadvertently became the first spacecraft to leave geocentric orbit and enter an orbit around the sun.
As part of its experiments, the spacecraft released one kilogram of sodium gas in order to track the craft’s trajectory and analyze the behavior of gas in space. It also took readings of the lunar magnetic field and the radiation in the outer Van Allen belt. It also took the first-ever direct observations and measurements of solar wind.
A similar mission was launched by the American space program two months later. After Luna 1‘s battery was depleted, the spacecraft settled into a heliocentric orbit between Earth and Mars where it still orbits to this day.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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