31 July 1971

The Apollo 15 astronauts become the first to ride in a lunar rover.

Apollo 15 was the fourth manned mission in NASA’s Apollo program, which aimed to land astronauts on the Moon and conduct scientific experiments. It was the first of the “J-Series” missions, designed to include a more advanced scientific payload than previous missions.

Launch and Crew:
Apollo 15 was launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 26, 1971, aboard the Saturn V rocket. The crew consisted of three astronauts:

David R. Scott – Mission Commander
Alfred M. Worden – Command Module Pilot
James B. Irwin – Lunar Module Pilot

Lunar Landing and Exploration:
After a journey of about three days, Apollo 15 entered lunar orbit on July 29, 1971. On July 30, the Lunar Module (LM) named “Falcon” separated from the Command Module (CM) “Endeavour” and descended to the Moon’s surface. The landing site was located in the Hadley-Apennine region, an area of highlands near the edge of the Mare Imbrium.

Apollo 15’s extended stay on the lunar surface and its use of the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) allowed the astronauts to explore more of the Moon’s surface than previous missions. During their time on the Moon, Scott and Irwin conducted three moonwalks (EVA – Extravehicular Activities). They spent a total of about 18.5 hours on the lunar surface, covering a distance of approximately 17.5 miles (28 kilometers) with the rover.

Scientific Contributions:
Apollo 15 was notable for its extensive scientific payload and focus on lunar geology. The astronauts collected a significant amount of lunar samples, totaling about 170 pounds (77 kilograms). They also conducted a range of experiments, including the use of a drill to obtain core samples, the study of lunar rilles, and the deployment of various scientific instruments.

Perhaps the most famous scientific discovery during Apollo 15 was the “Genesis Rock,” a piece of ancient lunar crust believed to be around 4.1 billion years old, making it one of the oldest lunar samples collected during the Apollo missions.

Return to Earth:
After completing their mission on the Moon, the lunar module ascent stage rendezvoused and docked with the command module in lunar orbit. The crew then returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on August 7, 1971.

The Apollo 15 mission was considered highly successful, achieving its scientific goals while demonstrating advanced capabilities in lunar exploration. It also provided valuable experience in the use of the lunar rover, which was used on the later Apollo missions to cover more significant distances on the Moon.

31 July 1941

The Holocaust: Under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Nazi official Hermann Göring, orders SS General Reinhard Heydrich to “submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired Final Solution of the Jewish question.”

31 July 1970

The last day of the officially sanctioned rum ration in the Royal Navy (Black Tot Day).

Black Tot Day 31 July 1970 is the name given to the last day on which the Royal Navy issued sailors with a daily rum ration the daily tot.

In the 17th century, the daily drink ration for English sailors was a gallon of beer. Due to the difficulty in storing the large quantities of liquid that this required, in 1655 a half pint of rum was made equivalent and became preferred to beer. Over time, drunkenness on board naval vessels increasingly became a problem and the ration was formalised in naval regulations by Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740 and ordered to be mixed with water in a 4:1 water to rum ratio and split into two servings per day.

In the 19th century, there was a change in the attitude towards alcohol due to continued discipline problems in the navy. In 1824 the size of the tot was halved to a quarter pint in an effort to improve the situation. In 1850, the Admiralty’s Grog Committee, convened to look into the issues surrounding the rum ration, recommended that it be eliminated completely. However, rather than ending it the navy further halved it to an eighth of a pint per day, eliminating the evening serving of the ration. This led to the ending of the ration for officers in 1881 and warrant officers in 1918.

On 17 December 1969 the Admiralty Board issued a written answer to a question from the MP for Woolwich East, Christopher Mayhew, saying “The Admiralty Board concludes that the rum issue is no longer compatible with the high standards of efficiency required now that the individual’s tasks in ships are concerned with complex, and often delicate, machinery and systems on the correct functioning of which people’s lives may depend”. This led to a debate in the House of Commons on the evening of 28 January 1970, now referred to as the ‘Great Rum Debate’, started by James Wellbeloved, MP for Erith and Crayford, who believed that the ration should not be removed. The debate lasted an hour and 15 minutes and closed at 10:29pm with a decision that the rum ration was no longer appropriate.

31 July 1970 was the final day of the rum ration and it was poured as usual at 6 bells in the forenoon watch 11am after the pipe of ‘up spirits’. Some sailors wore black armbands, tots were ‘buried at sea’ and in one navy training camp, HMS Collingwood, the Royal Naval Electrical College at Fareham in Hampshire, there was a mock funeral procession complete with black coffin and accompanying drummers and piper. The move was not popular with the ratings despite an extra can of beer being added to the daily rations in compensation.

A special stamp was issued, available from Portsmouth General Post Office, with the slogan “Last Issue of Rum to the Royal Navy 31 July 1970”.

Black Tot Day was subsequently followed in two other Commonwealth navies the Royal Australian Navy having already discontinued the rum ration, in 1921: 31 March 1972 was the final day of the rum ration in the Royal Canadian Navy; and 28 February 1990 was the final day of the rum ration in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

31 July 1588

The Spanish Armada is first spotted off the coast of England.


The Spanish Armada was a great Spanish fleet sent by King Philip II of Spain in 1588 to invade England. It was ironically called “Invincible.” During the late 1500’s, Spain was the major international power over much of the known world. Spain’s leader, King Philip II, wanted to conquer the Protestants from England and convert them to the Church of Rome. King Philip II also had hatred against Queen Elizabeth I, and wanted revenge because she had executed Mary Queen of Scotland in 1587.

King Philip II of Spain began the assembling and formation on the Spanish Armada. The Armada left Libson on the 20th of May 1588. The Armada consisted of about 130 ships. Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets had up to 8,000 sailors and around 19,000 soldiers. They joined another 30,000 soldiers from Spain totaling 50,000 men. The commanders of the fleet were Duke of Madina Sidonia, Francis Drake, Duck of Parma, an admiral named Don Alvaro de Bazon, and Marquis of Santa Cruz, who had organized the Armada . The English and Dutch knew that King Philip would attack, and sent small squadrons under Sir William Wynter and Lord Henry Seymour to patrol the Netherlands Coast.

The English sent 54 of the Queen’s best ships to Plymouth on the English Channel to Blockade and destroy the Armada before it left the Spanish Coast. On July 29, 1588, after the bad weather had passed, the Armada was spotted off the Sicily Isles near southwestern England.The battle between Spain and the English had begun when they first spotted each other. The two opposite sides first met off of Plymouth, near Eddystone Rocks on July 31, when three of the Spanish ships were lost. The larger part of the English fleet was at Plymouth. The English fleet harassed the Spanish fleet but were unable seriously damage the Spanish formation.