Tag Archives: Helios

The Wonders of the World: The Colossus of Rhodes

In 304 BC, the people of Rhodes (a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea) built the Colossus of Rhodes to celebrate their victory in 305 BC over Demetrios Poliorketes, the son of one of Alexander the Great’s successors.  The Rhodians took the money from the sale of Demetrius’ siege equipment and commissioned Chares, a native of Rhodes and a student of the famous sculptor Lysippus, to construct a bronze statue to honor Helios, a pagan Greek Titan and patron of the city. 

The 110 foot tall statue which rested on a 50 foot high marble pedestal at the entrance to the harbor, took 12 years.  Chares incorporated Demetrios’ bronze weapons into the statue. The workers cast the outer bronze skin parts which was fortified with an iron and stone framework.  Ancient accounts has the Colossus straddling the harbor but later accounts assert that it stood on a pedestal to one side of the harbor.

The statue snapped at the knees, fell during an earthquake circa 226 BC and lay on the ground for 800 years.  Pliny reported the statue was so large that several people could wrap their arms around the statue’s thumb and each finger was larger than a full-size statue. Although it only stood for 56 years, the oracle of Delphi told the people of Rhodes not to rebuild it. In 654, the story is that an Arab Muslims captured Rhodes, broke down the statue and sold the bronze to a merchant in Edessa. 

The Colossus does have some more modern associations. The design, posture and dimensions of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor were based on what the Colossus and a film entitled the “Colossus of Rhodes” which was directed by Sergio Leone (of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly fame) and starred bad boy Rory Calhoun. Shakespeare made several references to the Colossus, in Julius Caesar Cassius says of Caesar:

     Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world
     Like a Colossus, and we petty men
     Walk under his huge legs and peep about
     To find ourselves dishonorable graves

Tomorrow, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia   Rita Bay

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The US Unmanned Space Program

Mariner & Venus

The United States has launched numerous unmanned space programs over the years. The Mariner program was a series of robotic interplanetary probes designed to investigate our neighboring planets—Mars, Venus and Mercury. The program included a number of firsts, including the first planetary flyby, the first pictures from another planet, the first planetary orbiter, and the first gravity assist maneuver. 

The Pioneer program consisted of two space missions that explored the outer planets and left the solar system carrying a plaque with info about Earthlings, in case extraterrestrials intercept the probe.  Also, Pioneer Venus in 1978 orbited Venus for a decade and Pioneer Venus 2 sent small probes into the atmosphere of Venus.

Mars Rover

The Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER) is an ongoing robotic space mission  exploring the planet Mars. The mission began in 2003 with the sending of two rovers—MER-A Spirit and MER-B Opportunity—to explore the Martian surface and geology. The probes been one NASA’s most cost effective programs, operating years beyond the anticipated program length.



The Voyager program is a series of NASA unmanned space missions that consists of a pair of unmanned scientific probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable planetary alignment of the late 1970s. The probes studied Jupiter and Saturn, then continued their mission into the outer solar system, never to return.

The Viking program consisted of a pair of space probes sent to Mars—Viking 1 and Viking 2 launched in 1975. Each vehicle was composed of two main parts, an orbiter designed to photograph the surface of Mars from orbit, and a lander designed to study the planet from the surface. The orbiters also served as communication relays for the landers once they touched down. The Viking program caused a revolution in scientific ideas about water on Mars.

The Helios space probes, a joint venture with Germany, were a pair of probes launched in 1974 and 1976 into heliocentric orbit for the purpose of studying solar processes. The Helios space probes completed their primary missions by the early 1980s, but they continued to send data up to 1985.

Galileo was an unmanned spacecraft sent by NASA to study the planet Jupiter and its moons. It was launched on October 18, 1989 by the Space Shuttle Atlantis and arrived six years later.  Galileo conducted the first asteroid flyby, discovered the first asteroid moon, was the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, and launched the first probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere. Galileo’s prime mission was a two-year study of the Jovian system. In 2003, Galileo′s mission ended when the orbiter was sent into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Tomorrow, The Space Station  Rita Bay

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