February 1, 2003 – Space Shuttle Columbia, while finishing its 28th mission, disintegrates during re-entry and all the crew members are killed. It was discovered that during lift-off a piece of foam insulation came off of the external tank and damaged the heat shielding on the wing. Upon re-entry the heat buildup was too much and the shuttle was destroyed.
February 2, 1974 – The scheduled maiden flight of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, at that time under development and called the YF-16, occurred on this day in 1974. The first flight of the jet actually took place on January 20, 1974 during a taxi test. The plane had some handling problems, and started to veer. The pilot took it into the air to avoid damaging it, and landed after a short six minute flight.
February 3, 1959 – Known as “The Day the Music Died, this day saw a plane crash with Buddy Holly, Ritchie, The Big Bopper on board. The musicians, on a winter tour, wanted to get to the next city quicker for some needed rest. They hired the plane and pilot, and the plane crashed within 6 miles of takeoff. Reasons for the crash were a combination of bad weather and pilot error.
February 4, 2004 – Mark Zuckerberg founds Facebook. Founded originally for Harvard students, it was expanded to other colleges, then opened to everyone. The site currently has over eight million active users.
February 5, 1972 – Bob Douglas, the founder of the New York Renaissance basketball team, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor. He is the first African American to be elected to join.
The New York Renaissance was an all-black professional baseball team established in 1923. They were one of the dominant teams of the 1920s and 1930s, often playing and beating white teams. The Rens won the first professional basketball championship in 1939. They were disbanded in 1949 when the National Basketball Association was formed.
February 6, 1959 – The first successful test firing of a Titan missile takes place at Cape Canaveral, Florida. An intercontinental ballistic missile, originally a backup program to the Atlas missile, later versions of the Titan went on to be used as space launch vehicles for Gemini and other space programs.
February 7, 1990 – The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union agrees to give up its stranglehold on political power and during 1990 the separate republic states of the USSR hold the first competitive elections in many years. This led to the further breakup of the Soviet Union.
February 8, 1924 – The first time that the gas chamber is used for a criminal sentenced to death by execution by a state in the United States takes place in Nevada. Gee Jon was a Chinese National and a member of a Tong who murdered a member of a rival Tong.
February 9, 1964 – Beatles appear before a record 73 million viewers on The Ed Sullivan Show.
February 10, 1967 – The Twenty-Fifth Amendment completed the needed ratifying process on this day in 1967 when Nevada became the 38th state to ratify the amendment. This amendment formalizes the process of what happens if there is a vacancy in the office of President or Vice President of the United States.
February 11, 1990 – After a stay of 27 years, Nelson Mandela is released from prison in South Africa. Mandela had been offered release earlier if he would agree to give up violence as a political weapon in pursuit of his goal of equal rights for black citizens, but Mandela had refused.
Credit: NASAFebruary 12, 2001 – The first spacecraft to land on an asteroid, NEAR Shoemaker lands on 433 Eros. The primary goal was to study the asteroid, and NEAR Shoemaker orbited the asteroid for about a year before traveling in ever decreasing orbits, and then touching down.
February 13, 2000 – One day after Charles M. Schulz dies, the last of the original Peanuts comic appears in Newspapers. The Peanuts comic strip had first appeared on October 2, 1950, and there were almost 18 thousand strips in all.
February 14, 1949 – The Israeli parliament, called the Knesset, meets for the first time. Knesset is a religious name, but the parliament is not a religious group. Israel received independence from Britain in 1948, and fought the surrounding countries to remain independent, and establish their government.
February 15, 1946 – The first electronic general purpose computer was announced to the public on February 14, 1646, and dedicated the next day. Contracted by the United States Army and built by the University of Pennsylvania, the computer was built to be used on ballistic problems, but was also used for computations for the first atomic bomb.
February 16, 1978 – The first computerized bulletin board system goes online. Users would call up the bulletin board to access it. Over 250,000 calls were taken by the board before it was taken down.
February 17, 1996 – Chess world champion Garry Kasparov wins in a chess match against the Deep Blue supercomputer. In a rematch, the computer won, and Kasparov said there was cheating involved. There was no third match.
February 18, 1930 – An American astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh was unable to attend college because of a crop failure. He built his own telescopes and used the experience to get a job at Lowell Observatory. While there in 1930, he discovered Pluto, then went on to get his degrees.
February 19, 1976 – President Gerald Ford rescinds Executive Order 9066, originally signed by President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1942. This was the executive order than allowed the United States military to relocate Japanese-Americans into internment camps in the United States.
February 20, 1986 - The Soviet Union launched the Mir space station core module. This module had six docking ports, and was used for the beginning of the multi-modular orbital space station.
February 21, 1948 – The sanctioning body of stock car racing, NASCAR, is incorporated. The only sport that has more viewers in the United States is football.
February 22, 1980 – The United States Olympic hockey team, made up of amateurs and college players, defeated the Soviet team, which had won almost every world and Olympic title since 1954.
February 23, 1954 – The Salk vaccine against Polio is used in bulk for the first time to inoculate children in Pittsburg. Due to the widespread use of the vaccine, the number of cases a year worldwide runs about 1000.
February 24, 1920 – Created by Anton Drexler, the Nazi Party was founded on this day on the principle of attracting workers away from communism and into the ideals of nationalism.
February 25, 1933 – The first purpose built United States Navy aircraft carrier is Credit: Wikipedialaunched. Unlike the USS Ranger, its predecessors were ships that were built on hulls that were re-purposed while in dry-dock, or on ships re-fitted for aircraft use.
February 26, 1993 – The World Trade Center is bombed by a group placing a truck bomb under the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The groups wanted the United States to end diplomatic relations with Israel and stop interference in the Middle East.
February 27, 1986 – The United States Senate decides to let its debates be televised under a trial program.
February 28, 1991 – The first Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Strom, ends. The original aim of the war was to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
February 29, 1940 – Hattie McDaniel is the first African American to win an Academy Award. McDaniel played Mammy in Gone With the Wind and won the Best Supporting Actress for the role. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was the first black Oscar winner to be in a US postage stamp.