What Happened on July 31?

  • The US and the Soviet Union signed the START - a treaty that would reduce nuclear arms by 35%. (1991) The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) took nine years to negotiate. The Soviet Union collapsed before the treaty was ratified, so it didn't go into effect until December 1994. The conditions of the treaty, to reduce nuclear arms by 35% over seven years, were finally met in 2001.

  • The first photos of the moon's surface were transmitted by NASA's Ranger 7 probe. (1964) The probe carried six cameras that sent back 4,308 photos over a period of 68.6 before it crashed into the moon. Total cost of the mission was about $170 million US Dollars.

  • The New York Stock Exchanged closed when World War I broke out. (1914) It didn't start trading again until December of that year. It was the only time since its inception in 1817 that trading ceased for an extended period.

  • The first US patent was filed. (1790) The patent holder was Samuel Hopkins and the patent was for potash — potassium carbonate. Since then, over 6 million patents have been granted by the US PTO.

  • The "Son of Sam" serial killer killed his last victim. (1977) David Richard Berkowitz killed Stacy Moskowitz and injured her boyfriend while they sat in a parked car on a date in Brooklyn, New York. Less than two weeks later, Berkowitz was arrested. He is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for killing six people.

  • NASA's Phoenix Mars lander found water on Mars. (2008) The spacecraft transmitted photos and test results from ice found on Mars' surface. Water in liquid form cannot exist on most of the planet's surface because of the low atmospheric pressure. The discovery of water resulted in media hubbub about the possibility of life having been detected on Mars — NASA quickly quashed these rumors.

  • The oldest recorded eruption of Mt. Fugi in Japan occurred. (781) Mt. Fugi is the tallest mountain in Japan, measuring 12,388 feet (3,776 meters). Since the recorded eruption in 781, there have been only 15 more, and none since 1708.

  • Daniel Defoe was put in a pillory as punishment for libel. (1703) Defoe had written a pamphlet, The Shortest Way with Dissenters, which satirized the High Church. The public punishment usually resulted in the offender being pelted with rocks; in Defoe's case, he was pelted with flowers by a sympathetic public.

  • NASA gave up on searching for water on the moon. (1999) The Lunar Prospector mission mapped the surface of the moon and searched for polar ice caps. On this day, NASA crashed the vehicle into the lunar south pole of the moon's surface in a final, unsuccessful attempt to find water. The mission launched on January 7, 1998, and cost $62.8 million US Dollars.

  • John K. Giles attempted to escape from Alcatraz. (1945) Alcatraz is a high-security prison on an island off the coast of San Francisco in California. Giles' escape attempt was unsuccessful. In the prison's 29-year history, 14 escape attempts were made and none were successful.

  • A class F4 tornado killed 27 people in Edmonton, Alberta. (1987) The tornado touched ground for an hour, killing 27 people, injuring more than 300 and destroying 300 homes. The damage was estimated at $330 million US Dollars.

Discussion Comments


But have I not also heard that there were a few people who escaped Alcatraz at one time?


The second to last bullet point brings up some interesting facts, especially in the sense that there have been many unsuccessful attempts to escape from Alcatraz. This also leads me to my next point, prison break. It may have been possible many years ago, but in this day and age, it's a nearly impossible task. With concrete walls, security guards, and watch towers everywhere, it would take a miracle for another prison break to occur.

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