May 25, 1931: Georgy Grechko was born in Leningrad. He grew up to become a cosmonaut who flew on several Soviet missions to space and spent almost a month aboard the Salyut 4 space station in 1975, almost three months aboard Salyut 6 in 1977, and eight days on Salyut 7.
May 25, 1961: President John F. Kennedy told a joint session of Congress that the United States should send human beings to the Moon by the end of the decade.
May 25, 1977: The film Star Wars: A New Hope was released. We were youngsters then who came of age knowing of a galaxy far, far away where one might use The Force for good or evil. It quickly became the highest-grossing film of all time and held that record until E.T.
May 25, 2008: The Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars, NASA’s first successful landing on the Red Planet in a polar region. It confirmed the existence of water ice and researched the possible history of water there. Notably, the mission cost $386 million, including the launch itself; this relatively reasonable cost for a space mission (the last shuttle missions cost more each) was achieved by incorporating unused hardware from earlier programs.
May 25, 2012: SpaceX’s Dragon (supposedly named after the song from our childhood, “Puff, the Magic Dragon”) docked with the International Space Station, the first time a commercial spacecraft had done such a thing. SpaceX is developing Dragon so that it can fly crew as well as supplies to ISS.
BONUS: On May 26, 1951, astronaut and physicist Sally Ride was born. Ride became part of the first astronaut class to include women and became the first American woman to travel to space, when she flew aboard Challenger in 1983. She later served on the Rogers Commission that investigated the Challenger accident and, even later, revealed that she’d passed along the crucial information about the booster o-rings. Ride died in 2012, the too-common result of pancreatic cancer. This Thursday, celebrate the life of Sally Ride!
DOUBLE-BONUS: On May 28, 1912, the first female radio astronomer was born in Australia. Ruby Payne-Smith, while working at a cancer research center, determined that the Earth’s magnetism doesn’t have much affect on bodily functioning of humans. She discovered Type I and Type II radio bursts, helped with the first radio interferometer observation to determine a solar burst in 1946, and she did top secret work on radar during World War II. She died on this date–May 25, 1981.