27 October 1971

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is renamed Zaire.

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The Republic of Zaire was the name for the Democratic Republic of the Congo that existed between 1971 and 1997 in Central Africa. The country was a one-party dictatorship, run by Mobutu Sese Seko and his ruling Popular Movement of the Revolution party. Zaire was established following Mobutu’s seizure of power in a military coup in 1965, following five years of political upheaval following independence known as the Congo Crisis. Zaire had a strongly centralist constitution and foreign assets were nationalised. The period is sometimes referred to as the Second Congolese Republic.

A wider campaign of Authenticité, ridding the country of the influences from the colonial era of the Belgian Congo, was also launched under Mobutu’s direction. Weakened by the end of American support after the end of the Cold War, Mobutu was forced to declare a new republic in 1990 to cope with demands for change. By the time of its downfall, Mobutu’s rule was characterised by widespread cronyism, corruption and economic mismanagement.

Zaire collapsed in the 1990s, amid the destabilisation of the eastern parts of the state in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide and growing ethnic violence. In 1996, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the head of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) militia, led a popular rebellion against Mobutu. With rebel forces successfully making gains beyond the east, Mobutu fled the country, leaving Kabila’s forces in charge as the country restored its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo the following year. Mobutu died within four months after he fled into exile in Morocco.

6 June 1971

Soyuz 11 is launched.

Soyuz 11 was the only manned mission to board the world’s first space station, Salyut 1 Soyuz 10 had soft-docked but had not been able to enter due to latching problems.The mission arrived at the space station on 7 June 1971 and departed on 30 June. The mission ended in disaster when the crew capsule depressurised during preparations for reentry, killing the three-man crew. The Soyuz 11 crew members were Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev.

The three crew members of Soyuz 11 are the only humans known to have died in space.The Soyuz 7K-OKS spacecraft was launched on 7 June 1971, from Baikonur Cosmodrome in central Kazakh SSR. Several months earlier, the first mission to the Salyut, Soyuz 10, had failed to successfully dock with the station. Soyuz 11 successfully docked with Salyut 1 on 7 June and the cosmonauts remained on board for 22 days, setting space endurance records that would hold until the American Skylab 2 mission in May–June 1973.

Upon first entering the station, the crew encountered a smoky and burnt atmosphere and after replacing part of the ventilation system spent the next day back in their Soyuz until the air cleared. Their stay in Salyut was productive, including live television broadcasts. A fire broke out on day 11 of their stay, causing mission planners to consider abandoning the station. The planned highlight of the mission was to have been the observation of an N1 rocket launch, but the launch was postponed. The crew also found that using the exercise treadmill as they were required to do twice a day caused the whole station to vibrate. Pravda released news of the mission and regular updates while it was in progress.

5 February 1971

Apollo 14 astronauts land on the moon.

Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the United States Apollo program, and the third to land on the Moon. It was the last of the “H missions,” targeted landings with two-day stays on the Moon with two lunar EVAs, or moonwalks.

Commander Alan Shepard, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell launched on their nine-day mission on January 31, 1971 at 4:04:02 p.m. local time after a 40-minute, 2 second delay due to launch site weather restrictions, the first such delay in the Apollo program. Shepard and Mitchell made their lunar landing on February 5 in the Fra Mauro formation – originally the target of the aborted Apollo 13 mission. During the two lunar EVAs, 42.80 kilograms of Moon rocks were collected, and several scientific experiments were performed. Shepard hit two golf balls on the lunar surface with a makeshift club he had brought with him. Shepard and Mitchell spent 33½ hours on the Moon, with almost 9½ hours of EVA.

In the aftermath of Apollo 13, several modifications had been made to the Service Module electrical power system to prevent a repeat of that accident, including a redesign of the oxygen tanks and the addition of a third tank.

While Shepard and Mitchell were on the surface, Roosa remained in lunar orbit aboard the Command/Service Module Kitty Hawk, performing scientific experiments and photographing the Moon, including the landing site of the future Apollo 16 mission. He took several hundred seeds on the mission, many of which were germinated on return, resulting in the so-called Moon trees. Shepard, Roosa, and Mitchell landed in the Pacific Ocean on February 9.