October 28, 1971: The United Kingdom launches the Prospero X-3.
The first and last satellite to be launched by a British rocket, the Prospero was designed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment in order to test solar cells and detect micrometeorites.
Prospero was decommissioned in 1996, but it is expected to remain in orbit for another sixty years. As of September 2011, British scientists have been attempting to reestablish communications with the satellite, in time for its 40th anniversary. For now, it remains a largely forgotten piece of Britain’s obscure, short-lived space programme.
October 21, 1797: The USS Constitution is launched.
Named by George Washington and designed by Joshua Humphreys, the Constitution began construction in 1794, along with five other frigates (the United States, Constellation, Congress, President, and the Chesapeake); today, she is the world’s oldest floating commissioned warship.
During the War of 1812, the Constitution gained fame and the nickname “Old Ironsides” following her victory over the HMS Guerriere. Although most ships of the time were expected to service for less than fifteen years, the Constitution was decommissioned in the 1880s, then nearly 100 years old. In 1997, she sailed unassisted for the first time in over a century, and in 2009, she became America’s “ship of state”.