February 6, 2020
Day 37 of 366
February 6th is the thirty-seventh day of the year. It is the United Nations-sponsored International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.
In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Frozen Yogurt Day and National Lame Duck Day.
Historical items of note:
- In 60 AD, graffiti was left in Pompeii that identified this day as a dies Solis, or a Sunday. Thanks to this historic Banksy, it is the earliest date for which a day of the week is known. In modern parlance, this day would have been a Wednesday.
- In 1665, Queen Anne of Great Britain was born. She was the last monarch of the House of Stuart.
- In 1778, as part of the American Revolutionary War, the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce were signed in Paris by the United States and France. This signaled official recognition of the new republic.
- In 1815, New Jersey granted the first American railroad charter to John Stevens, the American lawyer, engineer, and inventor who constructed the first U.S. steam locomotive, first steam-powered ferry, and first U.S. commercial ferry service from his estate in Hoboken.
- In 1838, Sir Henry Irving was born. He was the first actor to be awarded a knighthood, and was one of the inspirations for the title character of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
- In 1895, American baseball player George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. was born. He was one of the first five inaugural members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- In 1918, British women over the age of 30, who met minimum property qualifications, received the right to vote when Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed by Parliament.
- In 1922, actor Patrick Macnee was born.
- In 1939, actor and director Mike Farrell was born. He portrayed Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H.
- In 1940, journalist Tom Brokaw was born.
- In 1945, singer-songwriter Bob Marley was born.
- In 1951, the Canadian Army entered combat in the Korean War.
- In 1952, Elizabeth II became Queen of the United Kingdom and her other Realms and Territories and Head of the Commonwealth upon the death of her father, George VI. At the exact moment of succession, she was in a treehouse at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch, as well as the world’s longest-serving female head of state, oldest living monarch, longest-reigning current monarch, and the oldest and longest-serving current head of state.
- In 1959, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments filed the first patent for an integrated circuit.
- In 1966, singer-songwriter Rick Astley was born. He promises to never give you up, never let you down, and never run around and desert you.
- In 1987, Justice Mary Gaudron became the first woman to be appointed to the High Court of Australia.
- In 1998, Washington National Airport was renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport. This coincided with the actor and former U.S. President’s 87th birthday.
In 2018, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, a super heavy-lift launch vehicle, made its maiden flight.
SpaceX, formally the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is a private American aerospace and space manufacturing company founded by Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla. The company’s goal is the reduction of space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.
SpaceX put the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket, the Falcon 1, in orbit in 2008. They were also the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft (the Dragon in 2010), the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (the Dragon in 2012), the first propulsive landing for an orbital rocket (the Falcon 9 in 2015), the first reuse of an orbital rocket (the Falcon 9 in 2017), and the first private company to launch an object into orbit around the sun.
That last one was the Falcon Heavy and its payload of a Tesla Roadster. The reusable Falcon Heavy – classified as a super heavy-lift launch vehicle due to its ability to lift more than 110,000 pounds of payload into low Earth orbit – was designed to be able to carry humans into space beyond low Earth orbit. It was unveiled at a news conference in April 2011 with an initial test flight expected for 2013. Partly due to the failure of the SpaceX CRS-7 in 2015, the maiden flight was delayed until February 2018. The goal of the maiden flight was to demonstrate the rocket’s capabilities while gathering telemetry throughout the flight.
The Tesla Roadster was chosen as a payload because it belonged to Elon Musk and had to be “something fun and without irreplaceable sentimental value”. A mannequin (in a SpaceX spacesuit) named “Starman” sat in the driver’s seat, named in honor of David Bowie. The car’s sound system also played Bowie songs on a loop. The Roadster became the first consumer car sent into space, and it was inserted into a heliocentric orbit.
The mission also carried Arch Mission 1.2 – a crystal disk containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of books – as well as a copy of Douglas Adams’ 1979 novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the glovebox, a towel, a “Don’t Panic!” sign on the dashboard, a Hot Wheels miniature Roadster with a miniature Starman driver, a plaque bearing the names of the employees who worked on the project, and a message on the vehicle’s circuit board that read “Made on Earth by humans”.
A year after the successful demo flight, SpaceX had managed to sign five commercial contracts worth $500 million to $750 million. SpaceX launched the first commercial Falcon Heavy rocket in April 2019, and a third flight a few months later with the recovered side-boosters from the second flight.
SpaceX has flown 18 resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership with NASA. NASA also awarded SpaceX a further development contract in 2011 to develop and demonstrate a human-rated Dragon spacecraft, which would be used to transport astronauts to the ISS and return them safely to Earth. SpaceX conducted the maiden launch of its Crew Dragon spacecraft on a NASA-required demonstration flight (christened Crew Dragon Demo-1) on March 2, 2019 and is set to launch its first crewed Crew Dragon in March 2020.
SpaceX is also hard at work on the Starship spacecraft, which is designed for use in crewed interplanetary spaceflight.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.