This Day In Astro History

Vanguard 1
Vanguard, first solar spacecraft.

March 17

2012 - Messenger spacecraft wraps up a year-long campaign performing the first orbital reconnaissance of the geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment of Mercury.

2004 - ESA's INTEGRAL gamma-ray observatory, solving a 30 year mystery, has resolved the diffuse glow of gamma rays in the centre of our Galaxy showing that most of it is produced by a hundred individual sources.

1958 - First solar-powered spacecraft launched Vanguard 1. The Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, made fun of its size, (6" diameter), calling it a "grapefruit." It actually discovered the Earth is slightly pear-shaped. It carried a temperature sounder and a radio transmitter. It's power system stopped in 1964 although it had been expected to orbit earth and transmit data for a 1,000 years.
Mercury topographic
Mercury topographic

diffuse glow of gamma rays
diffuse glow of gamma rays
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It is my conclusion that human evolution and the motions of matter in space are intrinsically linked. The observation and understanding of the complexity of biological history on Earth cannot be complete without the tandem observation and understanding of a dynamic greater cosmos. - SpaceGene