Archaeologists discover 35 glass jars at Mount Vernon from 1700s, most containing edible preserved fruits

During an on-going renovation at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, archaeologists have discovered 35 glass jars from the 1700s, with most containing preserved cherries and berries that appear completely edible.

Of the 35 bottles, 29 are intact and contain perfectly preserved cherries and berries, likely gooseberries or currants. The contents of each bottle have been carefully extracted, are under refrigeration at Mount Vernon, and will undergo scientific analysis. The bottles are slowly drying in the Mount Vernon archaeology lab and will be sent off-site for conservation.

Only a small quantity of the preserved fruits has been analyzed, with the following results:

  • 54 cherry pits and 23 stems have been identified thus far, suggesting that the bottles were likely full of cherries before bottling. Cherry pulp is also present.
  • Microscopy suggests that the cherries may have been harvested by snipping from trees with shears. The stems were neatly cut and purposefully left attached to the fruit before bottling.
  • The cherries likely are of a tart variety, which has a more acidic composition that may have aided in preservation.
  • The cherries are likely candidates for DNA extraction, which could be compared against a database of heirloom varieties to determine the precise species.
  • The pits are undergoing an examination to determine if any are viable for germination.

The last point is most fascinating. Imagine if a new cherry tree could be grown from a pit that was likely picked when George Washington was alive.

Ed Stone, who ran the Voyager missions for a half century, passes away at 88

Ed Stone, who was the project scientist for both Voyager missions to the outer solar system and beyond for a half century, passed away at 88 on June 9, 2024.

From 1972 until his retirement in 2022, Stone served as the project scientist from NASA’s longest-running mission, Voyager. The two Voyager probes took advantage of a celestial alignment that occurs just once every 176 years to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. During their journeys, the spacecraft revealed the first active volcanoes beyond Earth on Jupiter’s moon Io, and an atmosphere rich with organic molecules on Saturn’s moon Titan. Voyager 2 remains the only spacecraft to fly by Uranus and Neptune, revealing Uranus’ unusual tipped magnetic poles, and the icy geysers erupting from Neptune’s moon Triton.

Stone was also head of JPL from 1991 to 2001, during the time it built and flew the Mars Pathfinder mission, which sent the first rover to Red Planet. That mission revitalized the entire American Mars exploration program for the next three decades.

Stone was one of the giants of American space exploration during its formative years. He leaves behind a legacy that will be difficult to match, highlighted most of all by both Voyager spacecraft, which outlived him.

Bill Anders, the thoughtful astronaut who liked to go fast

Bill Anders suiting up for the December 1968 launch of Apollo 8
Bill Anders suiting up for the December 1968
launch of Apollo 8

The death of Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders on June 7, 2024 requires that I give the public my own personal taste of the man, whom I met and interviewed when I was writing my 1998 history of the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon, Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8.

The first time I met Bill Anders was in 1997. Anders had told me to fly into Los Angeles for our first interview. A few days before my arrival, however, his wife Valerie realized that both she and Anders would not be in Los Angeles, but in San Diego.

Rather than have me change flights, Anders agreed to drive up to LA, pick me up at the airport, and drive me to San Diego so I could interview Valerie. During the two hour drive I would be able to interview him.

Anders was waiting for me as I exited the terminal. As I have noticed routinely, he seemed much smaller than I expected, as does every astronaut at first meeting. Anders guided me to a low-slung sports car, which he slid into with ease. I — being 6′ 4″ — had to crowbar my way in.

And then Anders demonstrated instantly one reason he was chosen to fly to the Moon. He started the car, and backed out of the parking space and out of the lot at what seemed to me to be about seventy miles an hour. And he did it with total control.
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Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, 90, killed in plane crash

Earthrise as seen from Apollo 8, December 1968

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, 90, who took the iconic Earthrise picture (to the right and oriented as he framed it when he snapped it), was killed today when the plane he was piloting went down in the waters near the San Juan Islands off the coast of the state of Washington.

A report came in around 11:40 a.m. that an older-model plane crashed into the water and sank near the north end of Jones Island, San Juan County Sheriff Eric Peter said. Greg Anders confirmed to KING-TV that his father’s body was recovered Friday afternoon.

Only the pilot was on board the Beech A45 airplane at the time, according to the Federal Aviation Association.

I will have more to write about Anders later, whom I had met and interviewed many times when I was writing Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8. Of all the astronauts, he was probably the most thoughtful about matters outside of engineering, space exploration, or aviation.

The recovered diary of Columbia’s Israeli astronaut now on loan to Israel’s national library

One page from Ilon Ramon's space diary
One page from Ilon Ramon’s space diary

According to a May 29, 2024 announcement by the National Libary of Israel, the recovered diary of astronaut Ilan Ramon — who died when the space shuttle Columba broke up on its return to Earth — has now been transferred from the Israel Museum to the National Library of Israel so that it can finally be put on display.

The diary, a personal and national treasure, should have disintegrated along with the shuttle and its crew, but a few weeks after the disaster, to the surprise of the search party, someone found the remains of the diary on a muddy patch of land in Texas.

How is it possible that it survived? It withstood the explosion, and then a journey of several kilometers till it hit the earth. No one knows for sure, but leading researchers in the field believe that due to the light weight of the pages, the diary didn’t fall directly to the ground but probably glided slowly downwards, carried on wind currents that eventually allowed for a soft landing. Most of the damage to its pages probably only happened after it reached the ground, resulting from the humid conditions in the marshy area where it landed.

Since then the Israel Museum has been carefully documenting its contents, which included daily accounts by Ramon of his experience in space. One example:
» Read more

Dwayne O’Brien – We Remember

An evening pause: To the men who flew the planes.

And all who’ve coursed through hostile skies,
Know that freedom requires a sacrifice,
To those who paid the highest price,
We remember.

With a place of honor so deserved,
For what flesh and blood and steel have earned,
That may the glory be reserved,
For the colors they so bravely served.

Keep them flying, keep them flying,
So that all who see them will know,
That our freedom was won by the blood that flowed,
And we remember.

Hat tip Chris Whiting.

Salomé’s Dance

An evening pause: Music by Charles Barber. This comes from the 1913 silent film, Salomé, based on an Oscar Wilde play. Rarely seen, the movie represents a very early attempt to do something “edgy”. It succeeds about as well as modern “edgy” films, showing us a very shallow representation of human existence. But the visuals give us a glimpse into that early film world, when sets and costume were usually the only way to show something strange and striking.

Hat tip Judd Clark.

Real Space – Every Space Station Size Comparison

An evening pause: Some quick visual space station history. Note how almost all the non-U.S. stations are essentially assembled using revisions of the same early Soviet-era modules. Note too how the future private stations are all very different from each other. The contrast illustrates the difference between what you get when governments control everything, and when competition and freedom rule.

Hat tip Edward Thelen.

Apollo astronaut Tom Stafford passes away at 93

Apollo 10 astronaut Tom Stafford, who also flew two Gemini missions as well as the Apollo-Soyuz mission, passed away yesterday at the age of 93.

Stafford’s first flight was on Gemini 6, which achieved the first rendezvous in space when it maneuvered close to Gemini 7 during its two week mission. He then flew on Gemini 9, which was to attempt the first docking but was stymied when the shroud on the Agena target vehicle failed to release, blocking the docking port. The crew could only rendezvous again.

Stafford then commanded Apollo 10, the dress rehearsal for the lunar landing, flying his lunar module to within about ten miles of the Moon’s surface. His final mission was Apollo-Soyuz, the first joint mission between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Of the 24 Apollo astronauts that flew to the Moon, only seven still live. A truly great generation of Americans, possibly the greatest generation of all, is slowly leaving us.

Voidwalkeraudio – Desire

An evening pause: The visuals come from the 1927 German film by Fritz Lang, Metropolis, and cover the scene dubbed “Maria’s Dance.” You can see the full movie here, as well as many other places on line.

Hat tip Judd Clark, who adds, “To understand what’s going on here, one needs to see the whole movie, preferably the latest restored version, and to really understand, one needs to read Lang’s wife Thea Von Harbou’s book “Metropolis”.

Simon Sinek – How great leaders inspire action

An evening pause: Though I do not think his hypothesis goes far enough, this short TED talk posits some intriguing ideas about leadership. And it seems somehow appropriate today on the Ides of March, which also makes me wonder what Julius Caesar (and other successful leaders, both good and evil) would think of these ideas.

Hat tip Doug Johnson.

Abraham Lincoln – an annual tribute to celebrate his birthday

An evening pause: The memory of this man and what he stood for and accomplished must not be forgotten, which is why I try to celebrate his memory each year with a tribute on his birthday. As I wrote in 2021,

[T]hough he freed the slaves, I think Lincoln’s most enduring contribution to American history, a contribution that now has sadly been lost, was his limitless good will for everyone, even to those who hated him and wished to kill him. Had he not been assassinated, American history might have been far better because Lincoln would have had the clout to ease the worst elements of Reconstruction, while forcing through reforms in the former southern slave states.

Those reforms did not happen until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and are now being abandoned in the 2020s by black supremacists in the academic community who are imposing new racist Jim Crow laws nationwide, designed to favor blacks and other minorities.

Listen to the words of the first song, which was a Lincoln campaign song. He stood for freedom for all, and put his life on the line for that principle. From the pictures you can see the evolution of this kind-hearted but determined man from youth to mid-age, with all the troubles of the Civil War reflected in his face and mouth.

Computer problem on Voyager-1 remains unsolved

Engineers remain baffled over a computer issue that has prevented the receipt of any data since November 2023 from Voyager-1, floating some 15 billion miles away just outside the solar system in interstellar space.

In November, the data packages transmitted by Voyager 1 manifested a repeating pattern of ones and zeros as if it were stuck, according to NASA. Dodd said engineers at JPL have spent the better part of three months trying to diagnose the cause of the problem. She said the engineering team is “99.9 percent sure” the problem originated in the FDS [Flight Data Subsystem], which appears to be having trouble “frame syncing” data.

So far, the ground team believes the most likely explanation for the problem is a bit of corrupted memory in the FDS. However, because of the computer hangup, engineers lack detailed data from Voyager 1 that might lead them to the root of the issue. “It’s likely somewhere in the FDS memory,” Dodd said. “A bit got flipped or corrupted. But without the telemetry, we can’t see where that FDS memory corruption is.”

Since November the only signal received from Voyager-1 is a carrier signal that simply tells engineers the spacecraft is alive. Though the effort continues to try to fix the spacecraft, the odds of bringing it back to life are becoming slim, especially because its power supply will run out in 2026 at the very latest. Even if they manage to fix the issue now, the spacecraft has only a short time left regardless.

Considering the computers on this spacecraft, as well as its twin Voyager-2, have been operating continuously for almost a half century since their launch in 1977, their failure now is nothing to be ashamed of. The engineers that built both did well, to put it mildly.

As for Voyager-1’s future, even dead it will fly on into interstellar space, eventually getting within 1.5 light years of a star in the constellation Camelopardalis.

The future of astronomy, as seen by PBS News in 1991

An evening pause: Today is the 75th anniversary of the moment astonomers took the lens cap off the Hale Telescope at Palomar, what astronomers call “first light.” In honor of this anniversary, tonight’s evening pause is a somewhat well-done news piece produced by PBS in 1991, describing the state of ground-based astronomy at that time, which was actually another key moment in the history of astronomy. After decades of no advancement following the Hale telescope, the field was about to burst out with a whole new set of telescopes exceeding it significantly, based on new technologies. We today have become accustomed to those new telescopes, but in 1991 they were still incomplete or on the drawing board.

This was also after the launch of Hubble but before it was fixed, so this moment was also a somewhat dark time for astronomy in general. Watching this news piece gives you a sense of history, as seen by those living at that time. It also lets you see some good examples of the standard tropes of reporters as well as some astronomers. They always say this new telescope (whatever and whenever it is) is going to allow us to discover the entire history of the universe, even though it never can, and never will.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Golden Brown

An evening pause: This video is not what it seems. The sax player, Lawrence Mason, has created a cover of this Dave Brubeck song by editing and playing over the Dave Brubeck quartet playing another song in 1965. As he notes on the youtube page, he did it as a tribute to “Paul Desmond (saxophonist with the Dave Brubeck quartet – the anniversary of his death is at the end of this month) [May 2020].”

Hat tip Alton Blevins.

Secretariat – Triple Crown Races

An evening pause: If you have never seen the Triple Crown victories by Secretariat in 1973, you need to watch this video. It will take your breath away. In the first two races jockey Ron Turcotte appears to let the pack take the lead at the start because he knows Secretariat can’t stand being behind. In the last, it is as if the horse wanted to prove to everyone that there was no horse now or ever that was faster. From the youtube webpage:

Secretariat (March 30, 1970 – October 4, 1989), also known as Big Red, was a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse who is the ninth winner of the American Triple Crown, setting and still holding the fastest time record in all three races. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest racehorses of all time. He became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and his record-breaking victory in the Belmont Stakes, which he won by 31 lengths, is widely regarded as one of the greatest races in history.

Proposed removal of William Penn statue proves the Democrats really are anti-American

The William Penn statue in Welcome Park
The William Penn statue in the center of
Welcome Park. Note the panels on the wall
behind, describing the achievements of his life.
The park service was also planning to “rehabilitate”
this as well.

Though the Biden administration and the National Park Service immediately backed down from its proposal to remove the statue of William Penn from the Pennsylvania park dedicated in 1982 to honor his memory, the very proposal proved without doubt how much the Democrats who dominate our government truly hate America, its founding, and everything it stands for.

First, let’s review the proposal that has now been dumped. According to the National Park Service press release issued on January 5th,

The proposed rehabilitation of Welcome Park includes expanded interpretation of the Native American history of Philadelphia and was developed in consultation with representatives of the indigenous nations of the Haudenosaunee, the Delaware Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians, the Shawnee Tribe, and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. The reimagined Welcome Park maintains certain aspects of the original design such as the street grid, the rivers and the east wall while adding a new planted buffer on three sides, and a ceremonial gathering space with circular benches. The Penn statue and Slate Roof house model will be removed and not reinstalled. [emphasis mine]

In other words, a park built at the site of William Penn’s pioneer home and designed expressly to honor his achievements as the founder of Pennsylvania as a religious haven for all people was to be redesigned instead as a memorial to the primitive stone-age Indian tribes that once lived there, focusing instead on how Penn and the Quakers oppressed them by coming to America. And to rub salt in the wound, this change was to be done in connection with the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026.

As I said, the Democrats who dominate our federal bureaucracy as well as academia are our enemies. They truly intend to wipe any positive mention of America from every history book or place, and replace it with Marxist icons and false anti-American propaganda.

Very quickly there was an uproar against this plan. » Read more

John Batchelor highlights Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8

At 11 pm (Eastern) during the third hour of John Batchelor’s show tonight and tomorrow he will air a long two hour interview with me discussing my book Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8. After many years he finally decided his listeners deserved a full discussion of what is to many the most historically important Apollo mission to the Moon. It might not have landed on the Moon but what the astronauts accomplished and said changed the nation, and will likely be remembered forever.

Tune in if you are interested. Even better, consider reading the book. In fact, the best thing of all would be to give the book to any high school students in your family. They will learn more about American history and the Cold War by reading it than they get nowadays from their entire public school education.

I will also embed the podcasts here when they become available.

Repost: The real meaning of the Apollo 8 Earthrise image

I wrote this essay in 2018, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon. I think it worth reposting again, especially because stories about Apollo 8 still refuse to show the Earthrise image as Bill Anders took it.

Earthrise, as seen by a space-farer
Earthrise, as seen by a space-farer

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the moment when the three astronauts on Apollo 8 witnessed their first Earthrise while in orbit around the Moon, and Bill Anders snapped the picture of that Earthrise that has been been called “the most influential environmental picture ever taken.”

The last few days have seen numerous articles celebrating this iconic image. While all have captured in varying degrees the significance and influence of that picture on human society on Earth, all have failed to depict this image as Bill Anders, the photographer, took it. He did not frame the shot, in his mind, with the horizon on the bottom of the frame, as it has been depicted repeatedly in practically every article about this image, since the day it was published back in 1968.

Instead, Anders saw himself as an spaceman in a capsule orbiting the waist of the Moon. He also saw the Earth as merely another space object, now appearing from behind the waist of that Moon. As a result, he framed the shot with the horizon to the right, with the Earth moving from right to left as it moved out from behind the Moon, as shown on the right.

His perspective was that of a spacefarer, an explorer of the universe that sees the planets around him as objects within that universe in which he floats.

When we here are on Earth frame the image with the horizon on the bottom, we immediately reveal our limited planet-bound perspective. We automatically see ourselves on a planet’s surface, watching another planet rise above the distant horizon line.

This difference in perspective is to me the real meaning of this picture. On one hand we see the perspective of the past. On the other we see the perspective the future, for as long humanity can remain alive.

I prefer the future perspective, which is why I framed this image on the cover of Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 the way Bill Anders took it. I prefer to align myself with that space-faring future.

And it was that space-faring future that spoke when they read from Genesis that evening. They had made the first human leap to another world, and they wished to describe and capture the majesty of that leap to the world. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Yet, they were also still mostly Earth-bound in mind, which is why Frank Borman’s concluding words during that Christmas eve telecast were so heartfelt. He was a spaceman in a delicate vehicle talking to his home of Earth, 240,000 miles away. “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.” They longed deeply to return, a wish that at that moment, in that vehicle, was quite reasonable.

Someday that desire to return to Earth will be gone. People will live and work and grow up in space, and see the Earth as Bill Anders saw it in his photograph fifty years ago.

And it is for that time that I long. It will be a future of majesty we can only imagine.

Merry Christmas to all, all of us still pinned down here on “the good Earth.”

Spectacular 2,300-year-old wall mosaic found in archaeological dig in Rome

Archaeologists have uncovered a 2,300-year-old wall mosaic in almost perfect condition in Rome that had been part of a banquet room overlooking a garden.

Estimated to be around 2,300 years old, the work is part of a larger aristocratic mansion, located near the Roman Forum, that has been under excavation since 2018. Almost five meters long (16.4 ft) and featuring depictions of vines, lotus leaves, tridents, trumpets, helmets and mythological marine creatures, the mosaic scene was painstakingly created using mother of pearl, shells, corals, shards of precious glass and flecks of marble. The piece is framed by polychrome crystals, spongy travertine, and exotic, ancient Egyptian blue tiles.

What makes this discovery “unmatched,” said archaeologist Alfonsina Russo, head of the Colosseum Archaeological Park in charge of the site, is not only the incredible conservation of the mosaic, but its decoration which also features celebratory scenes of naval and land battles likely funded — and won — by an extremely wealthy aristocratic patron who commemorated the victories on their walls.

Though it is believed such tiled mosaics were common in the homes of wealthy Roman aristocrats, most have not survived in good condition, making this discovery significant as well as beautiful. In addition, the location of the house and the details within the mosaic could make it possible to actually identify the Roman who lived here, which in itself would be a major historical find.

Ofra Haza – Jerusalem of Gold

An evening pause: On this, the last day of Hanukkah, we finish with a moving song that celebrates the city of Jerusalem, first published just days before the 1967 Six-Day war, and then revised slightly by its author, Naomi Shermer, after the eastern half of the city was recaptured by Israeli troops and made available to both Jews and Muslims for the first time since the 1948 war. Before then Jordan had barred Jews from entering, and had allowed many Jewish religious sites to be desecrated. When Israel took over that ended, and all sites were opened to all. (In subsequent years Muslim intransigence has slowly once again closed to Jewish Israelis the areas under Muslim control.)

The song is also sad, because it recognizes the thousands of years of conflict by many over this small spot on Earth. Most of those conflicts were caused by those who wished to kick the Jews from this place, even though they probably have more right to it than anyone else on Earth.

Hat tip Judd Clark.

NASA celebrates the 120th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight

Link here. The NASA article does a thorough job of not only describing that first powered flight from Kitty Hawk, it shows how that success is linked to the establishment first of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which after Sputnik became NASA.

NASA in turn has repeatedly honored the Wright Brothers and their work on subsequent space missions.

Pieces of the Wright Flyer, sometimes called Kitty Hawk, have flown in space, carried there by astronauts with a geographic connection and a sense of history. In 1969, under a special arrangement with the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, like the Wright brothers a native of Ohio, took with him a piece of wood from the Wright Flyer’s left propeller and a piece of muslin fabric (8 by 13 inches) from its upper left wing. The items, stowed in his Lunar Module Eagle personal preference kit, landed with him and fellow astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin at Tranquility Base, and returned to Earth with third crew member Michael Collins in the Command Module Columbia. Visitors can view these items near the Wright Flyer at the NASM.

In 1986, North Carolina native NASA astronaut Michael J. Smith arranged with the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh to take a piece of wood and a swatch of fabric salvaged, and authenticated by Orville Wright, from the damaged Wright Flyer aboard space shuttle Challenger’s STS-51L mission. Although Challenger and its crew perished in the tragic accident, divers recovered the artifacts from the wreckage and visitors can view them at the North Carolina Museum of History.

…A piece of the Wright Flyer has even traveled beyond the Earth-Moon system. When the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover landed in Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, it carried underneath it a four-pound autonomous helicopter named Ingenuity. Engineers attached a small piece of cloth the size of a postage stamp from the Wright Flyer’s wing to a cable underneath the helicopter’s solar panel. On April 19, 2021, when Ingenuity lifted off to a height of 10 feet, it marked the first powered aircraft flight on a world other than Earth. Ingenuity’s first flight lasted 39 seconds in an area NASA named Wright Brothers Field. The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization gave the field the airport code of JZRO – for Jezero Crater – and the helicopter type designator IGY, with the call-sign INGENUITY.

There is one major difference between NASA and the Wright Brothers. The latter worked independently with private funds given voluntarily. The former has always been a governent operation, funded by coerced taxes. The consequences of this difference are so profound many have written books describing them.

Voyager-1 has computer issues

According to the Voyager-1 science team, the probe has developed a problem with one of its three onboard computers, called the flight data system (FDS), that is preventing it from sending back useable data.

Among other things, the FDS is designed to collect data from the science instruments as well as engineering data about the health and status of the spacecraft. It then combines that information into a single data “package” to be sent back to Earth by the TMU. The data is in the form of ones and zeros, or binary code. Varying combinations of the two numbers are the basis of all computer language.

Recently, the TMU began transmitting a repeating pattern of ones and zeros as if it were “stuck.” After ruling out other possibilities, the Voyager team determined that the source of the issue is the FDS. This past weekend the team tried to restart the FDS and return it to the state it was in before the issue began, but the spacecraft still isn’t returning useable data.

Engineers are trouble-shooting the problem, and expect it will take several weeks at best to identify and then fix the issue. The 22-hour travel time for communications to reach the spacecraft, now beyond the edge of the solar system more than 15 billion miles away, means that it will at minimum take about two days to find out if a transmitted fix works.

As the spacecraft was launched in 1977, most of the engineers now working on it were not even born then, and must deal with a technology that was designed before personal computers, no less smart phones, even existed. Like the entire 1960s space race, the two Voyager craft now beyond the solar system were built by engineers using slide rules.

Voyager-2 also had problems in August that engineers were able to fix, so the prognosis here is not bad.

The big 25th anniversary of ISS is really still two years away

The first crew of ISS, from left to right, Yuri Gidzenko, Sergei Krikalev, Bill Shepherd
The first crew of ISS, from left to right,
Yuri Gidzenko, Sergei Krikalev, Bill Shepherd

In a press release today NASA touted the 25th anniversary of the mating in orbit of the first two modules of the International Space Station (ISS), Zarya (built by Russia but paid for by the U.S.) and Unity (built by Boeing for NASA).

25 years ago today, the first two modules of the International Space Station – Zarya and Unity – were mated during the STS-88 mission of space shuttle Endeavour. The shuttle’s Canadarm robotic arm reached out and grappled Zarya, which had been on orbit just over two weeks, and attached it to the Unity module stowed inside Endeavour’s payload bay. Endeavour would undock from the young dual-module station one week later beginning the space station assembly era.

Though this anniversary is nice, it really isn’t the most significant. The most significant ISS anniversary is still two years away, when we celebrate 25 years of continuous human presence in space. That record began on October 31, 2000, when a Soyuz-2 rocket lifted off from Baikonur in Kazahkstan, carrying American Bill Shepherd and Russians Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev on what was to be the first crew occupancy of the station. Since that launch humans have occupied ISS without break.

With the present operation of China’s space station, and about four American commercial stations under development as well as plans by India and Russia to build their own, it is very likely that October 30, 2000 will remain the last day in human history where no human was in space.

That is the significant date. That is the moment in history that should be noted and marked as significant.

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