This Day in History: Explorers turn to the final frontier

Look back through history to see what groundbreaking moments happened on November 14. Hint: There is a lot of space history here!
Apollo 12 - Nasa
Apollo 12 - Nasa / Heritage Images/GettyImages

Social media platforms like Facebook provide users with "Memories" of their posts in previous years, and apps like Timehop collect this information in a convenient setting. This can be a lot of fun, as it reminds people of their greatest hits, as well as offering the chance to reflect on how they once saw the world. But what about things that happened before you were even born?

There are websites that will provide you with information about important events that happened "on this day" in history, but they tend to list highlights, rather than going into detail. But that is not our style here at Ask Everest. Here, the goal is to provide true information in a way that readers will remember far better than just a list of distinct events.

With that being said, what did happen on November 14th in the past? As it turns out, November 14 is a date that has a lot of space history attached to it. Read on to learn more about the second moon landing and the developments in studying outer space that followed.

November 14, 1969: Apollo 12 launches

Pete Conrad, Richard F Gordon Jnr, Alan L Bean
Apollo 12 Astronauts / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

Everybody remembers that Apollo 11 was the mission that put the first man on the moon. "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." But what about that next step?

According to Andrew Chaikin's book A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts, Commander Charles Conrad Jr.'s words upon landing on the moon were, "Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me"—words planned as part of a bet.

Apollo 12 ran from November 14 to November 24. The crew of Apollo 12 included Charles Conrad Jr. (Commander), Richard F. Gordon Jr. (Command Module Pilot), and Alan L. Bean (Lunar Module Pilot). The original Lunar Module Pilot was Clifton C. Williams Jr., but he passed away in a plane crash on October 5, 1967.

The Apollo 12 mission may not be as well known, but it is noteworthy for its own reasons. Since it didn't have to worry about being the first moon landing, Apollo 12 was far more focused on gathering information about the moon and making important technical moves.

Some of the mission's highlights included:

  • Leaving the first Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) on the Moon, to provide data without manned missions. The ALSEP charted information on the Moon's magnetic field, atmosphere, charged particles, solar wind, dust, and seismography.
  • Taking the first color camera to the Moon. Unfortunately, the camera ceased recording after being pointed at the sun.
  • Taking several pictures of the surface of the moon, using different color filters, to determine where future missions should land. These were predominantly performed by Richard F. Gordon Jr., who stayed aboard the shuttle in orbit while his colleagues were on the surface.
  • Capturing footage of a solar eclipse caused by the shuttle's position relevant to the the Earth and sun.

Fun facts:

  • Commander Charles Conrad Jr. did not allow the media to follow the training or deployment of Apollo 12, due to bad experiences in the past.
  • The Apollo 12 spacecraft was struck by lightning twice after launch.
  • The Apollo 12 mission insignia portrays a clipper ship traveling to the moon, in honor of the command module's name, Yankee Clipper. This was chosen because all three crew members were originally part of the US Navy.
  • There are four stars on the Apollo 12 insignia, in honor of Clifton C. Williams Jr's contributions to the mission.

To learn more about the Apollo 12 mission, check out the following sources:

  • A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin
  • Apollo 12—On the Ocean of Storms by David M. Harland
  • The short film Apollo 12: Pinpoint For Science

Other space history connected to November 14

Space Shuttle Discovery Arrives In DC Area, To Be Permanently Housed At Smithsonian
Space Shuttle Discovery Arrives In DC Area, To Be Permanently Housed At Smithsonian / Alex Wong/GettyImages

1971: NASA's Mariner 9 spacecraft enters orbit around Mars

Mariner 9 became the first man-made craft to orbit a different planet. While the Soviet Union had launched two probes at a similar time, they arrived too late to make the record and struggled to acquire high-quality data.

1981: The second NASA Space Shuttle Mission re-enters the atmosphere

STS-2 was the second US space shuttle mission, which lasted from November 12 to 14. The mission became the first time an orbiter (Columbia) was used twice, establishing a precedent for more efficient space travel.

1984: Discovery removes a satellite from orbit, and NASA launches NATO-3D

The space shuttle Discovery took its second flight from November 8 to 16. During the mission, the Anik D2 and Syncom IV-1 satellites were released, and the Palapa B2 and Westar 6 satellites were retrieved.

NATO-3D is a communications satellite that was launched by the US Air Force. The satellite is still orbiting the planet today.

1994: Atlantis 13 returns to Earth

After launching on November 3, the Atlantis delivered equipment to monitor the sun and the Earth's atmosphere. This was the shuttle's last solo mission before becoming a critical part of Mir and the International Space Station.

2012: The Canada-France Brown Dwarfs Survey discovers the closest rogue planet to Earth

Scientists from France and Canada discovered CFBDSIR 2149, a planet around 120 light years from Earth. While this might seem like quite a distance, it is much closer than other 'rogue' planets. These are planets that are not in orbit around a star, an intriguing anomaly in the field of astronomy.

2018: A new planet is discovered six light years away from Earth

Scientists associated with the Red Dots and CARMENES projects discovered a planet known as "Barnard’s Star b," which is only six light years from Earth. This makes it the second-closest planet to Earth outside of our solar system.

Even space scholars might not expect November 14th to be such an exciting day! While some of these events are certainly more noteworthy than others, they definitely show that November 14 is a day that was written in the stars.

Check back for more segments of "Today in History" on Ask Everest.

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