This Week in Geek History: HAL Goes Live, First Alien Moon Landing, First Fighter Jet Ejection Seat

By Jason Fitzpatrick on January 13th, 2011

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Every week we bring you interesting facts from the annals of Geekdom. This week in Geek History saw the birth of HAL, the first landing on an alien moon, and the first real-world test of a fighter jet ejection seat.

HAL Goes Online

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HAL, the sentient computer aboard the fictional Discovery spacecraft in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, is one of the best known fictional representations of artificial intelligent in the literary and cinematic world. HAL made such an impression as the egomaniacal nemesis in the film that it was ranked 13th on AFI’s list of greatest movie villains. Per the timeline in the movie HAL became operational on January 12th, 1992—and then spent the next 9 years simply waiting to utter the words “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Huygens Lands on Titan

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On January 14th, 2005 the European Space Agency’s probe Huygens landed on Titan (one of Saturn’s moons) after a nearly 8 year journey. The landing marked the first time scientific equipment had directly placed on an alien moon and the first landing on any planet or moon in the outer solar system. Although Huygens was intended to be merely a probe and not a lander it continued to transmit data back to the Cassini orbiter for relay back to Earth for a full 90 minutes.

First Ejection Seat

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In January of 1942 a German test pilot, Helmut Schenck, became the first person to test an ejection seat under duress. His Heinkel He-280 jet fighter was being towed behind a conventional air craft when his wings iced up, rendering his engines useless. He popped the canopy and fired off his compressed-air powered ejection seat. Later models would trade compressed air for small explosive charges to achieve a faster and safer escape.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/13/11
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