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February in History

February 15, 1830 - A meteorite weighing 2-1/2 pounds fell in Launton, Oxfordshire, England.

February 12, 1875 - 100 meteorites fell near Homestead, Iowa.

February 3, 1882 - About 3,000 meteorites fell in Mocs, Transylvania.

February 9, 1913 - A meteor shower occurred which had no radiant (it did not appear to radiate from a single point in the sky). The meteors seemed to enter the atmosphere from a circular orbit around the Earth. It was named the Cyrillid shower because it was observed on the feast day of St. Cyril of Alexandria.

February 7, 1930 - A meteorite weighing 820 pounds fell early in the morning near Paragould, Arkansas. The sound made by the impact awoke sleeping people in Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. Several police departments were alerted. The meteorite was found about five weeks later, measuring 26 x 36 inches. The rock was moved to the Field Museum at Chicago.

February 12, 1947, 10:35 a.m. local time - A large meteorite weighing about 70 tons fell in the Sikhote-Alin northern range, a few hundred miles north of Vladivostok. The forest was laid waste over an area two miles long and one mile wide. The first scientific expedition to reach the site was led by Dr. E. L, Krinov.

February 20, 1962 - John H. Glenn Jr. was launched into orbit atop an Atlas rocket in the Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7. Glenn was the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth. The flight lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes with three orbits of the Earth. During the flight there was concern that the heat shield had been released from the spacecraft, and was only being held in place by the retro-rocket pack, which was attached by metal cables and explosive bolts. It was decided by Mercury Control that Glenn should re-enter the atmosphere with the retro-rocket pack in place. It was hoped that this tactic would keep the heat shield from separating from the spacecraft. Glenn returned safely to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. It was later determined that a faulty indicator gave the impression that the heat shield was loose when in fact it was not.

February 14, 1969 - Preparations were underway for the launch of the U.S. spacecraft Mariner 6 toward the planet Mars on February 24. On this day a faulty switch opened the main valves on the Atlas stage of the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle. The loss of pressure caused the rocket to begin collapsing like a punctured tire. As the air rushed out, two ground crewmen ran into the vehicle, started pressurizing pumps, and thus prevented the further "deflation" of the lauch vehicle. NASA later presented the two ground crewmen with Exceptional Bravery Medals. The spacecraft was checked out, the wrinkled launch vehicle was replaced, and the mission was able to launch on scheduled date.

February 24, 1969 - An Atlas-Centaur rocket launched the U.S. spacecraft Mariner 6 toward the planet Mars.

February 22, 1990 - Western Europe's 36th Ariane rocket, carrying two Japanese satellites, exploded less than two minutes after lift-off from Kourou, French Guiana.

February 15, 1996 - A rocket carrying an Intelsat 708 communications satellite exploded soon after launch from China's launch site in Xichang.

February 26, 1998 - There was a total eclipse of the Sun. The path of totality began at sunrise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about 3,000 kilometers southeast of Hawaii, moved eastward, passed over part of the Galapagos Islands and entered South America crossing southeastern Panama, northern Colombia, northwestern Venezuela, and a few islands in the Caribbean Sea. The path then crossed the Atlantic and ended at sunset about 1,000 kilometers west of Morocco and Africa.


James M. Thomas, last updated November 15, 1999.

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