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Fly Me to Cuba, Said the American Hijackers

Remember back in the late 1960s, when it seemed like every week or two someone would hijack an airliner and demand to be flown to Cuba? Those incidents gave us the term "skyjacking" and were the subject of many jokes on late night television. While concerning, the public didn't consider them all that serious as they were mostly cases of someone wanting a ride to a country that didn't take scheduled arrivals from the US, and the other passengers were routinely returned. The Cuban skyjackings had faded out by the mid-70s, but you might not know why.

Initially, Cubans greeted the planes generously. As Latner writes, “Stranded crew and passengers alike often received extravagant treatment: live Cuban bands, steak and shrimp dinners, or a night in one of Havana’s best hotels; others were given cigars or photos of Che Guevara while they waited on the tarmac, and the bill was often sent to the airlines.”

But in September 1969 Cuba instituted an anti-hijacking law, which allowed immigration officials to make decisions about what to do with hijackers. Since it was almost impossible to tell whether a hijacker was a spy, the officials who dealt with them could interrogate them and throw them in prison for months.

Read what led to the Cuban skyjackings and how stopping them brought the two countries closer together at Jstor Daily. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: clipperarctic)


Russia’s Hand-Tossed Satellites

The way we deploy satellites is pretty much just throwing them into space, after calculating the specific orbit needed. However, almost all these deployments are done mechanically, from a rocket launch. At the very end of the 20th century, the Russians developed a method that appeared much simpler -tossing them into orbit by hand.

On November 3, 1997, cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and Anatoly Solovyov were spacewalking outside the Mir space station to remove an old solar panel that was to be replaced three days later during another outing. The solar panel was retracted on command, removed from the Kvant module, and stowed on the exterior of the core module. Before returning inside, Vinogradov took hold of a small satellite named Sputnik 40 and waited until the station had oriented itself to give a clear view of the satellite’s intended flight path. Then giving it a good toss, Vinogradov launched the satellite into orbit. As the little satellite drifted away, it became satellite number 24958 in NASA's catalog and the first satellite to be launched by hand.

That satellite, nicknamed Sputnik Jr, was only eight inches in diameter and didn't do much besides transmitting a tracking radio signal to earth. An experiment, in other words. The Russians launched two more satellites by tossing them manually from Mir. The third one, launched in 1999, generated a scandal due to its fundraising problems and a novel sponsorship deal. Read about the hand-tossed satellites at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: NASA/Crew of STS-81)


Brilliant Product Idea: A Smart Fire Alarm

Video director, writer, and all-around Renaissance man Mark Slutsky is on fire lately with brilliant, innovative ideas for products and services that could be in our near future.

Why do we use old fashioned fire alarms that scream at us? That tech is decades old. We can do and build better now.

But wait--there's more! Slutsky is already improving his idea before it hits the prototype stage:

An NFT is some sort of blockchain thing. And don't ask me to define blockchain--just invest my life savings in one.

-via Super Punch

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