In 2009, record-breaking Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk returned to Earth after spending six months aboard the International Space Station, where one of the goals of the six astronauts was to gather information on the effects of space on the body. Thirsk's stay on the I.S.S. also marked a pair of firsts -- not only was it the longest space stay for a Canadian, but it also marked the first time two Canadians had ever crossed paths in outer space -- when astronaut Julie Payette arrived aboard a shuttle.
Also on this date:
In 1680, a comet appeared close to Earth and was clearly visible until the end of February.
In 1841, the first copyright in Canada was issued for “A Canadian Spelling Book.”
In 1855, the Canadian post office opened a money order branch.
In 1869, the vast territory owned by the Hudson's Bay Co. was officially transferred to the Canadian government.
In 1904, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis closed after seven months and some 20 million visitors.
In 1913, the first drive-in automobile service station, built by Gulf Refining Company, opened in Pittsburgh.
In 1917, Father Ed Flanagan founded Boys Town, a home for poor, orphaned or problem children, in Omaha, Neb. In later years, the facility expanded to a farm and Flanagan travelled the world spreading his ideas on how to deal with delinquent boys.
In 1918, the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes united to form what would become Yugoslavia. The name change came in October, 1929.
In 1919, millionaire Ambrose Small sold his Canada-wide chain of theatres and then within 24 hours disappeared without a trace. He sold his interests to Trans-Canada Theatres for $1.7 million. After receiving a down payment of $1 million, Small disappeared from his Toronto office. He is thought to have been murdered but the mystery has never been solved.
In 1922, driving on the right-hand side of the road began in New Brunswick.
In 1923, Queen's University set the record for points by one team in a Grey Cup game. The Golden Gaels blasted the Regina Roughriders 54-0 at Toronto's Varsity Stadium.
In 1942, the Beveridge report, a white paper on social welfare commissioned by the British wartime government, was published. It laid the foundations for the modern welfare state in Britain.
In 1943, the leaders of the United States, Britain and Russia concluded a meeting in Tehran. Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin agreed on the scope and timing of operations to smash the German army in the Second World War. They also planned an era of peace, in which all countries would be invited to join a world family of democratic states.
In 1955, Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus. Parks was arrested, sparking a year-long boycott of the buses by blacks.
In 1959, 12 countries signed a pact in Washington making Antarctica a scientific preserve.
In 1960, the new terminal building at Montreal International Airport (Dorval) was officially opened.
In 1960, Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings became the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 1,092 points. The feat was later surpassed by Wayne Gretzky who, with his 1,851st point, became the NHL's all-time leading scorer as a Los Angeles King on Oct. 15, 1989.
In 1962, for the only time ever, the Grey Cup game failed to finish on the day it started. Fog at Toronto's CNE Stadium forced the game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats to be suspended in the fourth quarter. The game resumed the next day, but there was no further scoring as the Bombers won 28-27 to win their fourth CFL title in five years.
In 1973, David Ben Gurion, a founder of modern Israel and its first premier, died at the age of 87.
In 1981, a Yugoslav DC-9 airliner crashed into a mountain in fog as it came in to land at the airport in Ajaccio, Corsica, killing all 180 people aboard.
In 1984, John Austin, co-founder of Austin Airways Ltd., Canada's oldest bush airline, died in Toronto at age 72.
In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that Canada Post does not have to provide door-to-door delivery.
In 1987, George “Punch” Imlach who managed and coached the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team to four Stanley Cup victories, died in Toronto at age 69.
In 1988, Benazir Bhutto was named prime minister of Pakistan, the first woman to lead a Muslim country in modern times, after her party won a plurality of seats in the parliamentary elections.
In 1989, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced after a historic meeting with the Pope that the Vatican and the Soviet Union agreed to establish diplomatic relations. Gorbachev also pledged that religious believers of all faiths would be allowed to worship in the Soviet Union.
In 1989, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, 28, was granted political asylum in the United States after her Nov. 28 defection from Romania.
In 1989, the Arabian peninsula states of North and South Yemen agreed to merge into a single state. They were united as the Republic of Yemen on May 22, 1990.
In 1992, in Mineola, N.Y., Amy Fisher was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for shooting and seriously wounding Mary Jo Buttafuoco -- her lover's wife. Fisher served seven years.
In 1996, Peter Bronfman, the business tycoon, who with his brother Edward, controlled the largest corporate empire ever assembled in Canada, died at 67.
In 1998, Exxon agreed to buy Mobil for $73.7 billion.
In 1999, Canadian boxing officials cancelled an entire weight division at the national championships in Campbell River, B.C., rather than allow a young Sikh, Pardeep Nagar, to compete wearing a beard.
In 1999, the internationally renowned Montreaux Clinic for eating disorders in Victoria, B.C., was ordered to close by Jan. 31, after losing its licence.
In 1999, Northern Ireland began an unprecedented era of self-rule at the stroke of midnight as 25 years of direct administration from Britain ended.
In 2000, Vicente Fox Quesada was sworn in as president of Mexico. He was the first national leader in 71 years who was not from the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary party.
In 2002, Paul Kane's 1851 painting, Portrait of Maungwudaus, sold for $2.2-million, the most valuable canvas ever sold in western Canada.
In 2002, Quebec Premier Bernard Landry created a Council for Sovereignty for a more aggressive political independence policy.
In 2004, Tom Brokaw hosted his last night of NBC's “Nightly News.” He had been on the anchor desk for 23 years.
In 2004, the Ukraine parliament passed a vote of no confidence, bringing down Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's government. It was just the latest turn in the Orange Revolution which began after the elections of Oct. 31, which the opposition under Viktor Yushchenko declared fraudulent. The Supreme Court declared the results invalid and ordered another election, which Yushchenko won on Dec. 26.
In 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush, on his first official visit to Canada, thanked the people of Halifax for welcoming Americans after the Sept. 11th attacks. He also asked Canada to support his missile defence shield.
In 2005, South Africa's highest court approved same-sex marriages.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI ended a four-day trip to Turkey that was seen as a landmark in the reconciliation of Islam and Christianity.
In 2007, four suspects were charged in Miami in the shooting death of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor. (One ended up pleading guilty to second-degree murder; a fifth suspect was also charged.)
In 2008, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois, which together held more than half of the seats in Commons, signed a historic accord that would support a Liberal-NDP coalition government for at least 18 months, in the event the minority Conservative government fell on a non-confidence vote. They also sent a letter to Governor-General Michaelle Jean indicating they were ready to take over as the government from the Tories. The opposition parties said they took this extraordinary action because Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government had failed to deliver an economic-stimulus package in its fall fiscal update.
In 2008, the cargo vessel, “Cap Blanc,” from the French island of St-Pierre-Miquelon, capsized off the southeast coast of Newfoundland with the loss of four sailors.
In 2008, Betty Goodwin, one of Canada's most established and contemporary visual artists, died in Montreal at age 85. She was Canadian art's first lady of soul, a multi-disciplinary artist, painter, printmaker and sculptor whose work expressed aspects of our national character in ways that were unprecedented and powerful.
In 2008, the TSX dropped more than 800 points, its worst plunge since the 1987 crash.
In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 more U.S. troops to be deployed in Afghanistan - but he also pledged to begin withdrawing American forces in about 18 months, beginning in July of 2011.