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10 Things for the Week of December 15 - 21
Columnist: Autumn Burdick

10 Things for the Week of December 15 - 21
13 December 2013

China's Chang'e made history this last Saturday by landing on the moon after a lunar soft landing hiatus of 37 years. This week remember the forerunners -- and main players -- to man's walk on Earth's closest friend and neighbor. It's all here in this week's edition of 10 Things -- plus a few other anniversaries, a season change and some night sky viewing opportunities as well.

1. TRANSMITTER

33 years ago Sunday (December 16) Venera 7 landed on Venus. Venera 7 was the first spacecraft to transmit data from the surface of any extraterrestrial planet.

2. FIRST IN FLIGHT

December 17 is the 110th anniversary (1903) of the Wright brothers' first airplane flight. The Wright 1903 Flyer was the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve a controlled and sustained flight. The plane flew for a total of 12 seconds and for a distance of 37 m.

3. MERCURY PROJECT

On the 55th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight, a project called Mercury was created in 1958. Project Mercury's goals were:

-To orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth
-To investigate man's ability to function in space
-To recover both man and spacecraft safely

The US accomplished these goals in 1961, when Alan Shepard became the first American in space.

4. BENARES

Thursday, December 19 is the 215th anniversary of Benares meteorite fall. This meteorite from 1798 hit a house in India.

5. APOLLO 17

Also on Thursday, it's the 41st anniversary of Apollo 17's return to Earth after a successful moon landing. Eugene A. Cernan (commander), Harrison H. Schmitt (lunar module pilot) and Ronald E. Evans (command module pilot) made up the crew of Apollo 17 back in 1972.

6. APOLLO 8

Before you land on another space body, you need to see if it is possible; that man and machine can make the trip. The Mercury missions and the early Apollo missions helped to make it possible for man to traverse the surface of the moon. One of those early missions was Apollo 8, with a three-man crew (Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders). Apollo 8 is celebrating its 45th anniversary of launch this Saturday, December 21st.

7. SOLSTICE

Winter begins on Saturday, which is the shortest day of the year. This is due to the fact that the sun will be at its lowest in the Earth's sky.

8. URSIDS

Night sky watchers in the Northern Hemisphere, lend me your ears. The Ursids meteor shower will peak on the night/morning of December 21/22.

9. NIGHT SKY

Venus is quite bright this month: -4.9 magnitude. Learn more about where and when to view this planet in this month's edition of What's Up.

10. SHOWING

Speaking of viewing opportunities -- check out Jupiter this week as well.


Read More by Autumn Burdick

About: Autumn Burdick
Photo of Autumn Burdick
Autumn is the science writer who enjoys bringing this weekly look at upcoming events and stories from around our solar system to you. Follow SSE on Twitter: @NASASolarSystem
Read More by Autumn Burdick
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Last Updated: 17 Dec 2013