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  • Elizabeth Cocking

In this month: April

NASA: Apollo 13 crew return home safely

15th April 1970

Humans travel the furthest in space when the Apollo 13 crew reach 400,171 km from Earth in an attempt to return to Earth after their spacecraft suffered an explosion. All three crew members survived and they returned safely home. Image above: Apollo 13 crew arrive on the prime recovery ship U.S.S. Iwo Jima following the ocean landing and rescue in the South Pacific. Exiting the helicopter are (from left) Fred Haise, mission Commander James Lovell and John Swigert. Credit: NASA

12th April 1981

The space shuttle makes its maiden flight. Columbia is launched from the Kennedy Space Centre with astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen on board. The space shuttle would go on for another 30 years making 135 missions with 848 crew members until it was retired in 2011.

3rd April 2014

NASA announces the Cassini spacecraft has found evidence of a large underground ocean of liquid water on Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. Measurements taken by Cassini reveal that a 10 km deep saltwater ocean lies beneath the surface of Enceladus at the moon's south pole.


23rd April 1858 Max Planck. German theoretical physicist. His discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. He made many contributions to theoretical physics, but his fame rests primarily on his role as the originator of quantum theory, which revolutionised human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes.

Impact of Shoemaker Levy comet on Jupiter, credit: Max Planck Institute

28th April 1928 Gene Shoemaker. American geologist and one of the founders of the field of planetary science. He is best known for co-discovering Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 with his wife Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy. The comet hit Jupiter in July 1994. Shoemaker was killed in a car accident near Alice Springs in 1997. In 1999 some of his ashes were flown to the Moon on board the Lunar Prospector space probe.

26th April 1933 Arno Penzias. American physicist, radio astronomer and Nobel prize winner in physics. He was co-discoverer, along with Robert Wilson, of the cosmic microwave background radiation , which helped establish the Big Bang theory of cosmology.

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