On This Day
1975 – Tu-144, the world’s first commercial supersonic aircraft, surpassing Mach 2, goes into service.
The Tupolev Tu-144 (Russian: Tyполев Ту-144; NATO reporting name: Charger) is a Soviet supersonic passenger airliner designed by Tupolev in operation from 1968 to 1999.
The Tu-144 was the world’s first commercial supersonic transport aircraft with its prototype’s maiden flight from Zhukovsky Airport on 31 December 1968, two months before the British-French Concorde. The Tu-144 was a product of the Tupolev Design Bureau, an OKB headed by aeronautics pioneer Aleksey Tupolev, and 16 aircraft were manufactured by the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association in Voronezh. The Tu-144 conducted 102 commercial flights, of which only 55 carried passengers, at an average service altitude of 16,000 metres (52,000 ft) and cruised at a speed of around 2,200 kilometres per hour (1,400 mph) (Mach 2). The Tu-144 first went supersonic on 5 June 1969, four months before Concorde, and on 26 May 1970 became the world’s first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2.
The Tu-144 suffered from reliability and developmental issues, and with the 1973 Paris Air Show Tu-144 crash, restricted the viability for regular use. The Tu-144 was introduced into passenger service with Aeroflot between Moscow and Almaty on 26 December 1975, but withdrawn less than three years later after a second Tu-144 crashed and retired on 1 June 1978. The Tu-144 remained in commercial service as a cargo aircraft until cancellation of the Tu-144 program in 1983. The Tu-144 was later used by the Soviet space program to train pilots of the Buran spacecraft, and by NASA for supersonic research until 1999. The Tu-144 made its final flight on 26 June 1999 and surviving aircraft were put on display across the world or into storage.
Born On This Day
1780 – Mary Somerville, Scottish mathematician, astronomer, and author (d. 1872)
Mary Somerville (née Fairfax, formerly Greig; 26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872) was a Scottish science writer and polymath. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel. The word scientist was coined for her.
When John Stuart Mill, the philosopher and economist, organised a massive petition to Parliament to give women the right to vote, he had Somerville put her signature first on the petition.
When she died in 1872, The Morning Post declared in her obituary that “Whatever difficulty we might experience in the middle of the nineteenth century in choosing a king of science, there could be no question whatever as to the queen of science”.
Somerville College, a college of the University of Oxford, is named after her, reflecting the virtues of liberalism and academic success which the college wished to embody. She is featured on the front of the Royal Bank of Scotland polymer £10 note launched in 2017, alongside a quote from her work The Connection of the Physical Sciences.
The Wall Street Journal: British Double Agent George Blake Dies in Russia at 98 He passed along some of the West’s most coveted secrets to Moscow
George Blake (né Behar; 11 November 1922 – 26 December 2020) was a British spy who worked as a double agent for the Soviet Union. He became a Communist and decided to work for the MGB while a prisoner during the Korean War. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London in 1966 and fled to the Soviet Union. He was not one of the Cambridge Five spies, although he associated with Donald Maclean and Kim Philby after reaching the Soviet Union.
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