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Today in History: January 31, US enters space age with launch of first satellite

Today in History

Today is Wednesday, Jan. 31, the 31st day of 2024. There are 335 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Jan. 31, 1958, the United States entered the Space Age with its first successful launch of a satellite, Explorer 1, from Cape Canaveral.

On this date:

In 1797, composer Franz Schubert was born in Vienna.

In 1863, during the Civil War, the First South Carolina Volunteers, an all-Black Union regiment composed of many escaped slaves, was mustered into federal service at Beaufort, South Carolina.

In 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing slavery, sending it to states for ratification. (The amendment was adopted in December 1865.)

In 1919, baseball Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia.

In 1945, Pvt. Eddie Slovik, 24, became the first U.S. soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion as he was shot by an American firing squad in France.

In 1961, NASA launched Ham the Chimp aboard a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral; Ham was recovered safely from the Atlantic Ocean following his 16 1/2-minute suborbital flight.

In 1971, astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell and Stuart Roosa blasted off aboard Apollo 14 on a mission to the moon.

In 2000, an Alaska Airlines MD-83 jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Port Hueneme (wy-NEE'-mee), California, killing all 88 people aboard.

In 2001, a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands convicted one Libyan and acquitted a second, in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was given a life sentence, but was released after eight years on compassionate grounds by Scotland's government. He died in 2012.

In 2012, Facebook announced plans to go public with a stock offering.

In 2013, Caleb Moore, 25, an innovative freestyle snowmobile rider who'd been hurt in a crash at the Winter X Games in Colorado, died at a hospital in Grand Junction.

In 2015, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, was found unresponsive in a bathtub at her Georgia townhome and was taken to an Atlanta-area hospital. (She died six months later.)

In 2016, Novak Djokovic maintained his perfect streak in six Australian Open finals with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory over Andy Murray.

In 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a fast-rising conservative judge, to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Gorsuch would be confirmed in April 2017 by a 54-45 vote.)

In 2018, much of the world was treated to a rare triple lunar treat - a total lunar eclipse combined with a particularly close full moon that was also the second full moon of the month.

In 2020, the United States declared a public health emergency over the new coronavirus, and President Donald Trump signed an order to temporarily bar entry to foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens, who had traveled in China within the preceding 14 days.

In 2023, a New Mexico district attorney filed involuntary manslaughter charges against actor Alec Baldwin and a weapons specialist in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western movie "Rust." (Prosecutors later dropped the charges, but on Jan. 19, 2024, Baldwin was indicted by a grand jury on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. )

Today's birthdays: Composer Philip Glass is 87. Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, the former queen regent, is 86. Former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., is 83. Blues singer-musician Charlie Musselwhite is 80. Actor Glynn Turman is 77. Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is 77. Actor Jonathan Banks is 77. Singer-musician Harry Wayne Casey (KC and the Sunshine Band) is 72. Rock singer John Lydon is 67. Actor Kelly Lynch is 65. Actor Anthony LaPaglia is 65. Singer-musician Lloyd Cole is 63. Rock musician Al Jaworski (Jesus Jones) is 58. Actor Minnie Driver is 54. Actor Portia de Rossi is 51. Actor-comedian Bobby Moynihan is 47. Actor Kerry Washington is 47. Bluegrass singer-musician Becky Buller is 45. Singer Justin Timberlake is 43. Actor Tyler Ritter is 39. Country singer Tyler Hubbard (Florida Georgia Line) is 37. Folk-rock singer-musician Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons) is 37. Actor Joel Courtney is 28.