John’s Believe It Or Not… December 19th

* 2012 – Chris Hadfield blasts off to serve as first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. * 1998 President Clinton impeached. * 1972 Last lunar-landing mission ends. * 1984 Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China. * 1997 Titanic sails into theaters.

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 2012 – Chris Hadfield blasts off to serve as first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.

Chris Austin Hadfield OC OOnt MSC CD (born 29 August 1959) is a retired Canadian astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space. An engineer and former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, Hadfield has flown two space shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station.

Hadfield, who was raised on a farm in southern Ontario, was inspired as a child when he watched the Apollo 11 Moon landing on TV. He attended high school in Oakville and Milton and earned his glider pilot licence as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces and earned an engineering degree at Royal Military College. While in the military he learned to fly various types of aircraft and eventually became a test pilot and flew several experimental planes. As part of an exchange program with the United States Navy and United States Air Force, he obtained a master’s degree in aviation systems at the University of Tennessee Space Institute.

In 1992, he was accepted into the Canadian astronaut program by the Canadian Space Agency. He first flew in space aboard STS-74 in November 1995 as a mission specialist. During the mission, he visited the Russian space station Mir. In April 2001 he flew again on STS-100 and visited the International Space Station (ISS), where he walked in space and helped to install the Canadarm2.

In December 2012 he flew for a third time aboard Soyuz TMA-07M and joined Expedition 34 on the ISS. He was a member of this expedition until March 2013 when he became the commander of the ISS as part of Expedition 35. He was responsible for a crew of five astronauts and helped to run dozens of scientific experiments dealing with the impact of low gravity on human biology. During the mission, he also gained popularity by chronicling life aboard the space station and taking pictures of the earth and posting them through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Tumblr to a large following of people around the world. He was a guest on television news and talk shows and gained popularity by playing the International Space Station’s guitar in space. His mission ended in May 2013 when he returned to earth. Shortly after returning, he announced his retirement, capping a 35-year career as a military pilot and an astronaut.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to serve as commander of the ISS, plays his guitar in space.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to serve as commander of the ISS.

* 1998 President Clinton impeached.

After nearly 14 hours of debate, the House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton, the second president in American history to be impeached, vowed to finish his term.

In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old unpaid intern. Over the course of a year and a half, the president and Lewinsky had nearly a dozen sexual encounters in the White House. In April 1996, Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. That summer, she first confided in Pentagon co-worker Linda Tripp about her sexual relationship with the president. In 1997, with the relationship over, Tripp began secretly to record conversations with Lewinsky, in which Lewinsky gave Tripp details about the affair.

In December, lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing the president on sexual harassment charges, subpoenaed Lewinsky. In January 1998, allegedly under the recommendation of the president, Lewinsky filed an affidavit in which she denied ever having had a sexual relationship with him. Five days later, Tripp contacted the office of Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel, to talk about Lewinsky and the tapes she made of their conversations. Tripp, wired by FBI agents working with Starr, met with Lewinsky again, and on January 16, Lewinsky was taken by FBI agents and U.S. attorneys to a hotel room where she was questioned and offered immunity if she cooperated with the prosecution. A few days later, the story broke, and Clinton publicly denied the allegations, saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”

In late July, lawyers for Lewinsky and Starr worked out a full immunity agreement covering both Lewinsky and her parents, all of whom Starr had threatened with prosecution. On August 6, Lewinsky appeared before the grand jury to begin her testimony, and on August 17 President Clinton testified. Contrary to his testimony in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case, President Clinton acknowledged to prosecutors from the office of the independent counsel that he had had an extramarital affair with Ms. Lewinsky.

In four hours of closed-door testimony, conducted in the Map Room of the White House, Clinton spoke live via closed-circuit television to a grand jury in a nearby federal courthouse. He was the first sitting president ever to testify before a grand jury investigating his conduct. That evening, President Clinton also gave a four-minute televised address to the nation in which he admitted he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. In the brief speech, which was wrought with legalisms, the word “sex” was never spoken, and the word “regret” was used only in reference to his admission that he misled the public and his family.

Less than a month later, on September 9, Kenneth Starr submitted his report and 18 boxes of supporting documents to the House of Representatives. Released to the public two days later, the Starr Report outlined a case for impeaching Clinton on 11 grounds, including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness-tampering, and abuse of power, and also provided explicit details of the sexual relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky. On October 8, the House authorized a wide-ranging impeachment inquiry, and on December 11, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment. On December 19, the House impeached Clinton.

On January 7, 1999, in a congressional procedure not seen since the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, the trial of President Clinton got underway in the Senate. As instructed in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (William Rehnquist at this time) was sworn in to preside, and the senators were sworn in as jurors.

Five weeks later, on February 12, the Senate voted on whether to remove Clinton from office. The president was acquitted on both articles of impeachment. The prosecution needed a two-thirds majority to convict but failed to achieve even a bare majority. Rejecting the first charge of perjury, 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted “not guilty,” and on the charge of obstruction of justice, the Senate was split 50-50. After the trial concluded, President Clinton said he was “profoundly sorry” for the burden his behavior imposed on Congress and the American people.

A photograph showing intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton that was submitted as evidence by the Starr investigation in 1998. Getty Images
A photograph showing intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton that was submitted as evidence by the Starr investigation in 1998. Getty Images

* 1972 Last lunar-landing mission ends.

The Apollo lunar-landing program ends on December 19, 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, 10 days before.

In July 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11. From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions, and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the Lunar Rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

Although Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing, the last official Apollo mission was conducted in July 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft successfully rendezvoused and docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of “We came in peace for all mankind,” should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.

Apollo 17 mission commander Eugene A. Cernan makes a short checkout of the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity
Apollo 17 mission commander Eugene A. Cernan makes a short checkout of the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (nasa.gov)

* 1984 Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China.

In the Hall of the People in Beijing, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang sign an agreement committing Britain to return Hong Kong to China in 1997 in return for terms guaranteeing a 50-year extension of its capitalist system. Hong Kong–a small peninsula and group of islands jutting out from China’s Kwangtung province–was leased by China to Great Britain in 1898 for 99 years.

In 1839, in the First Opium War, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic, social, and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China. In 1841, China ceded the island to the British with the signing of the Convention of Chuenpi, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War. At the end of the Second Opium War (1856-1860), China was forced to cede the Kowloon Peninsula, adjacent to Hong Kong Island, along with other area islands.

Britain’s new colony flourished as an East-West trading center and as the commercial gateway and distribution center for southern China. On July 1, 1898, Britain was granted an additional 99 years of rule over the Hong Kong colony under the Second Convention of Peking. Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese from 1941 to 1944 during World War II but remained in British hands throughout the various Chinese political upheavals of the 20th century.

On December 19, 1984, after years of negotiations, British and Chinese leaders signed a formal pact approving the 1997 turnover of the colony in exchange for the formulation of a “one country, two systems” policy by China’s communist government. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called the agreement “a landmark in the life of the territory, in the course of Anglo-Chinese relations, and in the history of international diplomacy.” Hu Yaobang, the Chinese Communist Party’s secretary-general, called the signing “a red-letter day, an occasion of great joy” for China’s one billion people.

At midnight on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China in a ceremony attended by numerous international dignitaries, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few thousand citizens of Hong Kong protested the turnover, which was otherwise celebratory and peaceful. The chief executive of the new Hong Kong government, Tung Chee Hwa, did enact a policy based upon the concept of one country, two systems, thus preserving Hong Kong’s role as a principal capitalist center in Asia.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shakes hands with Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shakes hands with Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang (CNN.com)

* 1997 Titanic sails into theaters.

On this day in 1997, director James Cameron’s epic drama Titanic, the story of the real-life luxury ocean liner that struck an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers and crew, opens in theaters; it will go on to become the highest-grossing movie in history. Titanic catapulted its young stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to international fame and won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Music (for the song “My Heart Will Go On,” sung by Celine Dion). The film also immortalized the line “I’m the king of the world!”–which Cameron famously repeated during the Oscar ceremony, as he picked up his gold statuette for Best Director.

Titanic centers around a love story, between Rose (Winslet), the reluctant bride-to-be of a rich snob, and Jack (DiCaprio), a working-class adventurer and artist. Although Rose and Jack are fictional, the main events and details of film are largely historically accurate and some of the characters in Titanic are based on real people–including the American millionaire John Jacob Astor and “new-money” socialite Molly Brown–who were onboard the supership on the night of April 14, 1912, when it went down in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

James Cameron, who also penned the Titanic screenplay, reportedly spent months researching the story of the luxury liner. In 1995, he hired two Russian submersibles and conducted a series of dives to shoot interior and exterior footage at the Titanic wreckage site, located off the coast of Nova Scotia. Much of Titanic was shot at a studio custom-built for Cameron near Rosarito Beach in Baja California, Mexico. A 770-foot replica of the Titanic was constructed and held in a 17 million-gallon tank. Manufacturers involved in producing supplies and furnishings for the original Titanic were reportedly consulted during construction of the replica, which was almost as large as the actual 10-story, 882-foot supership. Cameron’s quest to tell the story accurately was a massive undertaking and the project reportedly cost over $200 million, making it one of the most expensive in movie history.

Cameron, born on August 16, 1954, had his first major hit as the writer and director of 1984’s The Terminator, the movie that turned star Arnold Schwarzenegger into a household name. The famously temperamental Cameron went on to helm such hits as Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1992), True Lies (1994) and Avatar (2009).

DiCaprio, who was born on November 11, 1974, began his acting career as a teen, appearing on TV’s Growing Pains and going on to co-star in such films as This Boy’s Life (1993), with Robert De Niro; What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), for which he received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination; and Romeo + Juliet (1996), with Claire Danes. Following Titanic, DiCaprio collaborated with director Martin Scorsese on Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), which earned DiCaprio a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Howard Hughes, and The Departed (2006). Among DiCaprio’s other movies are director Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can (2002) and Blood Diamond (2006), for which he received a second Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Winslet, born on October 5, 1975, in Reading, England, made her big-screen debut in 1994’s Heavenly Creatures and earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for 1995’s Sense and Sensibility. She went on to receive Oscar nominations for Titanic, 2001’s Iris, 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2006’s Little Children and 2008’s The Reader, for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress.

Movie scene: Jack and Rose on the bow of Titanic
(Haunted Theater)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* Wikipedia                                                                                             https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Hadfield

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