Man pictured on the moon.
Image from Apollo 15.

Certain days in a month, over time, can become magnets for important events.

Take November 16, as an example. It has been a huge day in the history of the United States’ space program, beginning with November 16, 1945, when 88 German scientists captured during the fall of the Nazi Germany arrived in the U.S. bearing the knowledge of rocketry.

They joined another famed German scientist, Wernher von Braun, who worked on the devastating V-1 and V-2 rockets for the Nazis during World War II.

Kennedy watches a missile fly from the submarine USS Andrew Jackson.
President John F. Kennedy (center) watches a demonstration of the firing of a Polaris A-2 missile from the submarine USS Andrew Jackson, at sea off the coast of Florida.

Had the U.S. not taken them, the Soviet Union would have, which likely is why these scientists avoided prosecution for any war crimes they might have committed.

Whether here by choice or as unofficial POWs, they were under “protective custody,” the Germans were instrumental in developing the U.S. space program; particularly the Saturn V rocket that ultimately sent Americans to the moon in 1969.

That led to other significant November 16 rocketry and space milestones. In 1963, just six days before his assassination, President Kennedy watched as the USS Andrew Jackson made the first submarine launch of a Polaris missile.

In 1973, NASA launched Skylab, a mission lasting 84 days and 1,214 orbits of the earth. Skylab eventually fell to earth six years after launch.

Inside the command of the Columbia space craft.
Columbia Astronauts John Young, left,
and Robert Crippen.

The first U.S. Space Shuttle, Columbia, completed its first four-person crew operational flight in 1982, landing at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. The spacecraft carried a crew of four astronauts and a payload of communications satellites. In all, the Columbia spent more than 300 days in space and orbited the earth more than 4,800 times. Sadly, on February 1, 2003, the spacecraft broke apart upon reentry, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

Finally, in 2009, Space Shuttle Atlantis launched on a mission to take supplies and other equipment to the International Space Station.

Hence, one day annually on the calendar has been an important one, over time, for the U.S. space program.

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