15 years ago today, SpaceShipOne, funded by Microsoft’s Paul Allen, became the first private manned-spacecraft to fly into sub-orbital space. That same year, its innovative design won the US$10 million Ansari X Prize. Piloted and returned to Earth by Mike Melvill, he became the first ever licensed U.S. commercial astronaut.

The aerospace company Scaled Composites, founded by aircraft designer Burt Rutan, is currently located in Mojave, California, and is working toward the goal of taking the first passengers into space. WATCH a Smithsonian video about the ship’s innovative hinged wing design that made it perfect for reentry… (2004)

– Photo after flight by D Ramey Logan, CC license

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • Mexico adopted a new constitution, becoming a federal republic (1824)
  • Belgium was created following a separation with The Netherlands (1830)
  • First meeting of the Boys’ Brigade in Glasgow, Scotland (1883)
  • Gutzon Borglum began sculpting Mt. Rushmore (1927)
  • The Soviet Union launched the first successful artificial object to exit the Earth’s atmosphere—the satellite Sputnik 1 (1957)
  • Independence for Basutoland from Britain, renamed Lesotho (1966)
  • The addition of the Environmental Protection Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty was first signed; went into force 7 years later (1991)
  • The Rome General Peace Accords ended a 16-year civil war in Mozambique – Holiday (1992)
  • Hundreds of thousands of men attended Promise Keepers rally in D.C. (1997)
  • The Supreme Court added a third female justice when Elena Kagan took her place at the end of the bench (2010)
Photo by David Shankbone, CC license

Happy 62nd Birthday to Russell Simmons, the music producer and entrepreneur who cofounded Def Jam Recordings, the iconic hip-hop label behind artists like LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys and Jay Z.

Having once been a drug abuser, Simmons, a big proponent of daily yoga and meditation, has taught his mindfulness practice to students in some of the most violent schools in Chicago—and witnessed a subsequent drop in crime. He is also an author, with his most recent books being, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple, and The Happy VeganWATCH his interview on how to be happy… (1957) – Photo by David Shankbone, CC

And, Happy 73rd Birthday to actress and producer Susan Sarandon. She won an Oscar for her role in Dead Man Walking, and is known for the strong women she played in Thelma and Louise and Bull Durham, and for her tenacious activism in real life.

2016 photo by gobbott, CC license

Sarandon is also co-owner of table tennis clubs called SPiN in NYC, LA, Toronto, and elsewhere. (1946)

And, on this day in 1883, the Orient Express travel line commenced from Paris to Constantinople (Istanbul). The long-distance passenger train service created by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits became a showcase of luxury and comfort at a time when traveling was still rough and dangerous.

Photo by Murdockcrc, CC license

Synonymous with intrigue due to the many portrayals in films and books, the Orient Express contained dozens of sleeping compartments and a luxurious dining car, which is now in the OSE museum of Thessalonica, and in which scenes for Murder on the Orient Express and other movies were filmed. In 2009, the Orient Express ceased to operate and the route disappeared from European railway timetables, reportedly a “victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines”.


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