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NASA commemorates Juneteenth with historic view from space

To commemorate Juneteenth after it was made a federal holiday in 2021, NASA shared this image of Galveston, Texas captured from the International Space Station in 2013.  (Image credit: NASA)

NASA is commemorating Juneteenth on Saturday (June 19) with a historic view from space.

Saturday, June 19 marks Juneteenth, officially Juneteenth National Independence day and also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day and Black Independence Day, which celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S.

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865 — a day when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas were finally able to claim their freedom when Union troops proclaimed freedom for slaves in Texas, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a federal order ending slavery. While Lincoln's proclamation freed many slaves in the U.S., it was initially ignored by many Confederate states.

To honor the holiday, which was officially made a federal holiday yesterday (June 17) by President Joe Biden, NASA shared an image from space of Galveston, Texas shining bright at night. 

Related: Charles Bolden, NASA's 1st Black administrator, speaks out on systemic racism

Making Juneteenth a federal holiday recognizes that "(1) history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future; and (2) the celebration of the end of slavery is an important and enriching part of the history and heritage of the United States," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

The image shared by NASA was captured by the Expedition 36 crew in 2013 on board the International Space Station. In the image, you can see the metropolitan areas of Texas lit up bright against the dark night sky, with Galveston visible in the lower right corner. 

To date, there have been only 19 Black NASA astronauts, 15 of which have flown to space. Only three of those were women, and of the four that have never flown to space, three have been women. 

Just this past year, NASA astronaut Victor Glover became the first Black astronaut to join the space station crew and stay for an extended period of time on the orbiting lab when he flew as a pilot as part of Expedition 64 with SpaceX's Crew-1 mission which launched on Nov. 15, 2020. 

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Chelsea Gohd

Chelsea Gohd joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2018 and returned as a Staff Writer in 2019. After receiving a B.S. in Public Health, she worked as a science communicator at the American Museum of Natural History and even wrote an installation for the museum's permanent Hall of Meteorites. Chelsea has written for publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine, Live Science, All That is Interesting, AMNH Microbe Mondays blog, The Daily Targum and Roaring Earth. When not writing, reading or following the latest space and science discoveries, Chelsea is writing music and performing as her alter ego Foxanne (@foxannemusic). You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd.