This Day In History : January 3

1999 United States

NASA's Mars Polar Lander launched

The Mars Polar Lander, also known as the Mars Surveyor '98 Lander, was a 290-kilogram robotic spacecraft lander launched by NASA on January 3, 1999, to study the soil and climate of Planum Australe, a region near the south pole on Mars. It formed part of the Mars Surveyor '98 mission. On December 3, 1999, however, after the descent phase was expected to be complete, the lander failed to reestablish communication with Earth.

Also on This Day in History January 3

Discover what happened on January 3 with HISTORY's summaries of major events, anniversaries,
famous births and notable deaths.

Births on This Day, January 3
  • 1906 William Wilson Morgan

    American astronomer who, in 1951, provided the first evidence that the Milky Way Galaxy has spiral arms.

  • 1823 Robert Whitehead

    British engineer who invented the modern torpedo

  • 1777 Louis Poinsot

    French mathematician and physicist who invented geometrical mechanics

  • 1948 Manfred Kokot

    East German athlete, world record 50m indoor sprint 5.61s 1973

  • 1901 Ngo Dinh Diem

    South Vietnamese politician, 1st President of the Republic of Vietnam

Deaths on This Day, January 3
  • 2019 Herb Kelleher

    American businessman who co-founded Southwest Airlines

  • 1989 Robert L. Banks

    American chemist who co-discovered crystalline polypropylene polymer

  • 2023 Walter Cunningham

    American astronaut (Apollo 7)

  • 1903 James Wimshurst

    British designer who invented electrostatic generator

  • 1858 Henri Darcy

    French hydraulic engineer who derived Darcy's Law


Alaska Becomes the 49th U.S. State

On January 3, 1959, Alaska officially became the 49th state of the United States. This followed its admission to the Union after being a territory since the Alaska Purchase from Russia in 1867. The state's vast natural resources and strategic location have since played significant roles in both economic and defense contexts.

Second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) Signed

On January 3, 1993, the United States and Russia signed the Second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II). This treaty aimed to further reduce the number of nuclear weapons deployed by both countries, following the original START I treaty signed in 1991. START II sought to limit each country to between 3,000 and 3,500 strategic nuclear warheads.

Apple Computers Incorporate

On January 3, 1977, Apple Computers officially incorporated as a company, marking a significant milestone in the history of personal computing. Founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple would go on to revolutionize the technology industry with its innovative products and user-friendly interfaces.

Millions of people Gain South African Citizenship from Apartheid Homelands

In 1994, following the end of apartheid in South Africa, millions of people from the former apartheid-era homelands, which were previously designated as independent states by the apartheid government, gained South African citizenship. This process aimed to unify the country and dismantle apartheid-era policies that segregated and marginalized different racial groups.
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