This Day in Geek History: March 16
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is established by an act of Congress authorizing President Thomas Jefferson to “organize and establish a Corps of Engineers … that the said Corps … shall be stationed at West Point in the State of New York and shall constitute a Military Academy.”
Joseph Lister publishes an article on his discovery of antiseptic surgery in the medical journal The Lancet. The article is the first of a series in which Lister applies Pasteur’s theory that the micro-organisms which cause gangrene might be inhibited chemically. In the articles, he details his successful use of Phenol (carbolic acid) on medical instruments, surgical incisions, and wound dressings to reduce infections.
The wireless telephone is invented, enabling pilots to communicate in flight with each other and the ground for the first time.
Robert Goddard launches the first US liquid-fuel rocket in a field in Auburn, Massachusetts. The rocket is an experimental model of Goddard’s own design which places the rocket ahead of its fuel tank, shielded from flame by a metal cone. The design is intended to provide the rocket with greater stability, but it failed to function as it was intended to.
The first V-2 rocket is tested, but it explodes on liftoff. A V-2 will eventually become the first man-made object to make a sub-orbital spaceflight.
NASA launches the Gemini 8 at 10:41am EST. Shortly after its launch, it will take part in the first physical docking of two spacecraft in orbit when it rendezvous with the Gemini Agena to conduct extra- vehicular activity six hours and thirty-three minutes after launch. However, about twenty-seven minutes after docking, a malfunction in the capsule’s control thrusters occurs, and it is forced to abort the mission and return to Earth at 10:23pm EST, only 6.5 orbits after launch. The mission is crewed by command pilot Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong and pilot Astronaut David R. Scott. It is the twelfth manned American space mission.
The Star Trek episode “Errand of Mercy” first airs. (No. 26) In it, Kirk and Spock attempt to protect the planet Organia from the Klingons and sway them to the side of the Federation, but the planet’s natives refuse their help. This episode marks the first appearance of the Kligon race in the series. Memory Alpha entry
The NASA robotic space probe Mariner 10 makes its third and final pass of the planet Mercury. Read more about the voyage of the Mariner 10 at NASA’s official site for the mission. View an archive of images returned by the Mariner 10.
The Russian satellite Ekran 12 is launched. Ekran 12 is a geostationary satellite developed for a national system of Direct-to-Home television. The first satellite of the Ekran series was launched in 1976. Each satellite provides one television and two radio channels to cable systems across the USSR and to individual residences in northern Siberia. Visit the official website of the Ekran satellites.
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