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The Space Age turns 50

Emily Lakdawalla • October 04, 2007

Around the world, there is conversation today about the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Спутник, that is, Sputnik, Earth's first unnatural satellite.

Pluto: The Discovery of a Planet

Amir Alexander • February 18, 2005

To mark the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the planet Pluto, The Planetary Society presents to its readers the remarkable story of the discovery.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 6: From Pluto to Sedna

Amir Alexander • February 17, 2005

74 years after Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto as a faint dot on a pair of photographic plates, a modern group of astronomers made another remarkable discovery. On March 15, 2004, Michael Brown of Caltech, Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory, and David Rabinowitz of Yale announced the discovery of Sedna – the furthest object ever detected in the Solar System.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 5: The Aftermath

Amir Alexander • February 16, 2005

The discovery of Planet X was announced to the world on March 13, 1930, which marked the anniversary of William Herschel’s discovery of Uranus in 1781 as well as Percival Lowell’s birthday. The observatory’s communiqué emphasized that the discovery was no coincidence, but the vindication of Lowell’s predictions made years before.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 4: Clyde's Search

Amir Alexander • February 15, 2005

Since his teenage years Clyde Tombaugh had been an avid amateur astronomer and a gifted telescope builder. Based on instructions contained in an article from a boy’s Sunday school paper, he built a series of telescopes of increasing power and quality on the family farm.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 3: Planet X

Amir Alexander • February 14, 2005

The discovery of Neptune accounted for nearly all the unexplained motions of the outer planets of the Solar System. Nevertheless, several astronomers insisted that some unexplained residual motions remained, pointing to the presence of a ninth planet beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 2: Out of the Six-Planet World

Amir Alexander • February 13, 2005

Since humans first set their eyes to the stars, they noticed that a few of these bright objects behaved differently from the others. Whereas all the stars moved together, revolving around the Earth once every 24 hours, five appeared to move within the firmament among the other stars. Accordingly, they were named “planets,” meaning “wanderers” in Greek.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 1: The Blinking Image

Amir Alexander • February 12, 2005

February 18, 1930, was a cloudy day at the Lowell Observatory, on top of Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. 22 year old Clyde Tombaugh was hard at work, peering through the lens of an ancient-looking brass-colored device. The instrument, known as a “blink comparator,” mounted two large photographic plates.

The Stories Behind the Voyager Mission: Charles Kohlhase

A.J.S. Rayl • September 05, 2002

Charles Kohlhase served as Mission Design Manager for Voyager from 1974 to 1989. He brought more than a decade's worth of experience working on the Mariner and Viking missions to the position.

The Stories Behind the Voyager Mission: Ed Stone

A.J.S. Rayl • September 05, 2002

Edward C. Stone, an internationally renowned physicist, signed on as Project Scientist of the Voyager mission in 1972, responsible for coordinating the efforts of 11 teams of researchers.

The Stories Behind the Voyager Mission: Bud Schurmeier

A.J.S. Rayl • September 05, 2002

Harris 'Bud' Schurmeier served as the first Project Manager for the Voyager mission. In 1976, just before the twin spacecraft launched, he became Assistant Lab Director at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The Stories Behind the Voyager Mission: Linda Morabito Kelly

A.J.S. Rayl • September 05, 2002

Linda Morabito Kelly began working at Jet Propulsion Laboratories while still a student at the University of Southern California. In 1974, she accepted a fulltime position as an engineer in the Satellite Ephemeris Development and Orbit Determination section JPL.

The Stories Behind the Voyager Mission: Jurrie van der Woude

A.J.S. Rayl • September 05, 2002

Jurrie van der Woude worked for 25 years in the Jet Propulsion's Laboratory's Public Affairs Office as Image Coordinator. It was Jurrie who, working closely with the Voyager imaging team, chose the best images to release to the press.

The Stories Behind the Voyager Mission: Bruce Murray

A.J.S. Rayl • September 05, 2002

Bruce C. Murray served as the only geologist on the team planning the Grand Tour, which was cancelled by NASA in 1972, but which led to Voyager the same year. He later became the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a position he held from 1976 to 1982, the early glory years of the mission.

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