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This Week in Tech History: Birth of the Automobile

The automobile is born, Pathfinder makes it to the red planet and the space shuttle takes off for the last time… It all happened This Week in Tech History.

1886 – Karl Benz officially unveiled the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first purpose-built automobile. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was a three-wheeled automobile with a rear-mounted single cylinder 2/3hp engine, reaching a top speed of about 10 miles per hour. Due in part to financial difficulties after the first world war, Benz, known as the father of the automobile, merged his company with Daimler Motors Corporation in 1926, forming the company we know today as Mercedes-Benz.

JFK Airport, 1970


1953 – The first commuter passenger service by helicopter began in America’s largest city. New York Airways provided rides for busy people who wanted to avoid the traffic below. Founded in 1949 as a mail and cargo carrier, New York Airways was headquartered at LaGuardia Airport and offered a one way flight to Idlewild Airport, today known as JFK – for $4.50 – equivalent to about $45 today.

1997 – The Mars Pathfinder spacecraft, launched by NASA from the Earth in December 1996, entered the atmosphere of Mars. A heat shield, parachutes, and airbags helped it land safely. The Sojourner rover searched the surface of Mars for rocks while millions of earthlings watch it on TV and the Internet.

2011 – Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched in the final mission of the U.S. Space Shuttle program. Atlantis is currently displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with its payload bay doors opened, and mounted at an angle to give the appearance of being in orbit around the Earth. The angle at which the shuttle is mounted – at 43.21 degrees, pays tribute to the countdown that preceded every shuttle launch. A multi-story digital projection of Earth rotates behind the orbiter in a 64,000-square-foot indoor facility.

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Written by Chris Graveline

Chris has covered consumer technology for over 20 years. He is the host of This Week in Tech History as well as a regular co-host on "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline" and our Technical Director.

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