July 24th 1911: Bingham at Machu Picchu
On this day in 1911, American historian Hiram Bingham III with his Peruvian guides arrived at the Inca site of Machu Picchu in the mountains of Peru. Machu Picchu is a 15th Century Inca estate built for emperor Pachacuti which was abandoned as a result of the Spanish conquest. The site lay largely undisturbed for hundreds of years, with only locals knowing of its existence. However, with Bingham’s arrival at the site it became known to the wider world and was studied scientifically; he is thus attributed with ‘re-discovering’ the erroneously called ‘Lost City of the Incas’. Bingham took artefacts from the site to Yale University for examination and only recently has the university agreed to return them to Peru. In the years since Bingham’s expedition, his grandoise claims of how he trekked through wilderness to find the ‘lost city’ have been discredited and instead it has been stressed how the site was accessible and well known to locals. However he is still renowned as the man who introduced the world to this spectacular sight. Restoration work began soon after Bingham’s expedition and the site has since become a major tourist attraction.
July 22, 1933: Wiley Post completes first solo around-the-world flight in 7 Days
On this day in 1933, American aviator Wiley Post returned to New York after traveling 15,596 miles in the first solo around-the-world flight. The flight lasted 7 days, 18 hours, and 49 minutes, during which time Post made 11 stops for fuel and rest.
Post’s plane, the Winnie Mae (named for his daughter), is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. In 1931, he completed an 8-day around-the-world trip on this plane along with navigator Harold Gatty.
Photo: “Winnie Mae” a Lockheed Vega aircraft of Wiley Post, when it was on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Wikimedia Commons.
July 21st 1969: Man walks on the Moon
On this day in 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon. The Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon on July 20th at 20:18 UTC. and Armstrong’s boot hit the surface of the Moon at 02:56 UTC the next day. Aldrin soon joined Armstrong and the pair planted the flag of the United States on the lunar surface, and they received a brief phone call from US President Richard Nixon. The moon landing was broadcast live, reaching an estimated global audience of 450 million. The astronauts returned safely to Earth on July 24th where they were met by the President and celebrated globally. The landing was a major victory for the United States in the Cold War space race with Soviet Russia and fulfilled the goal put in place by the late President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
"That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind"
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