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1990

Nelson Mandela released from prison

Nelson Mandela, leader of the movement to end South African apartheid, is released from prison after 27 years on this day in 1990. In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburg's youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating non... Read more >

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1965

The world's fourth space power

From the Hammaguira launch facility in the Sahara Desert of southern Algeria, France successfully launches the Asterix-1 satellite into space with a Diamant-A rocket, becoming the world's fourth space power after the Soviet Union, the United States, and Canada. Asterix-1 weighed 42 kilograms and orbited Earth with an apogee (farthest point from Earth) of 1,697 kilometers and a perigee (nearest ... Read more >

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1778

Voltaire is welcomed home

On this day in 1778, some 300 people visit Voltaire following his return to Paris. Voltaire had been in exile for 28 years. Born Francois-Marie Arouet to middle-class parents in Paris in 1694, Voltaire began to study law as a young man but quit to become a playwright. He made a name for himself with classical tragedies and also wrote poetry. In 1717, he was arrested for his satirical poem 'La H... Read more >