February 20, 2020
Day 51 of 366
February 20th is the fifty-first day of the year. It is the World Day of Social Justice, also known as Social Justice Equality Day, which recognizes the need to promote social justice. That includes efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections.
Historical items of note:
- In 1792, the Postal Service Act was signed by President George Washington, thus establishing the United States Post Office Department.
- In 1816, Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville premiered at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.
- In 1872, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in New York City.
- In 1877, Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
- In 1925, director and screenwriter Robert Altman was born.
- In 1927, actor Sidney Poitier was born. He was the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
- In 1931, the United States Congress approved the construction of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge by the state of California.
- In 1933, the United States Congress approved the Blaine Act to repeal federal Prohibition in the United States. This sent the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution (which would repeal the Eighteenth Amendment) to state ratifying conventions for approval.
- In 1935, Caroline Mikkelsen became the first woman to set foot in Antarctica.
- In 1944, the Batman & Robin comic strip premiered in newspapers.
- In 1954, actor and musician Anthony Stewart Head was born.
- In 1956, the United States Merchant Marine Academy became a permanent Service Academy.
- In 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes while aboard Friendship 7.
- In 1984, comedian and actor Trevor Noah was born.
- In 1986, the Soviet Union launched the Mir spacecraft. It remained in orbit for fifteen years and was occupied for ten.
In 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes while aboard Friendship 7.
Formally known as the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6), it was the fifth human spaceflight after Vostoks 1 and 2 (both orbital flights by the Soviets) and Mercury-Redstones 3 and 4 (both sub-orbital flights by the Americans). After Mercury-Atlas 5 successfully took Enos the Chimp to orbit and back, Marine Corps aviator John Glenn was chosen to pilot Friendship 7. Glenn was a distinguished fighter pilot in World War II, China, and Korea. He shot down three MiG-15s and was awarded six Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen Air Medals. In 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States, during which the first continuous, panoramic photograph of the country was taken.
The mission was first announced for a January 16 launch but was postponed for over a month due to various issues. Once the capsule was launched, Glenn witnessed dust storms on the planet below, twilight and sunset over the Indian Ocean, and the “fireflies” of ice crystals venting from spacecraft systems.
Friendship 7 splashed down in the North Atlantic and was retrieved by the destroyer USS Noa. The spacecraft was preserved and is currently displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
The mission is portrayed from different points of view in the films The Right Stuff and Hidden Figures.
John Glenn went on to receive the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1962, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990. After leaving NASA in January 1964, he served in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999, returning to space in 1998 on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95). At the age of 77, he was the oldest person to fly into space.
John Glenn was the oldest and last surviving member of the Mercury Seven. He died in 2016 at the age of 95.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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