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 . Space History News - People and events in development of space travel Space History News - People and events in development of space travel Space History News - People and events in development of space travel  

Space History for January 4

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Died, Stephen Hales, English physiologist, chemist, and inventor (ventilation, air and water in plant and animal life)

Charles Messier discovered M80 (globular cluster in Scorpio), confirmed by Pierre Mechain's observations on 27 January. A rare nova observed on 21 May 1860 completely changed the appearance of the globular cluster for some days.

Born, Wilhelm Beer, German banker, amateur astronomer (created the first globe of the planet Mars (1830) and the first exact Moon map (1834-1836), both with Johann Heinrich Madler)

Wilhelm Wolff Beer (4 January 1797 - 27 March 1850) was a banker and astronomer in Berlin, Germany. Beer's fame derives from his hobby, astronomy. He built a private observatory with a 9.5 cm refractor in Tiergarten, Berlin. Together with Johann Heinrich Madler, he produced the first exact map of the Moon (entitled Mappa Selenographica) in 1834-1836, and in 1837 published a description of the Moon (Der Mond nach seinen kosmischen und individuellen Verhaltnissen). Both remained the best descriptions of the Moon for many decades.

In 1830, Beer and Madler created the first globe of the planet Mars. In 1839, they made a map of Mars and calculated its rotation period to be 24 hrs, 37 min and 22.7 secs, within 0.1 seconds of the actual period as it is known today (2017).

F Tietjen discovered asteroid #86 Semele.

V Knorre discovered asteroid #158 Koronis.

Born, Leroy Randle Grumman, American aeronautical engineer, co-founder of Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation

A Kopff discovered asteroid #654 Zelinda.

The smallest Earth-Moon distance of the twentieth century occurred, 356,375 km (221,441 miles) center-to-center, which was also the closest approach in 1,400 years.

M Wolf discovered asteroid #1141 Bohmia.

USSR's Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite of the Earth, re-entered the atmosphere after 92 days in orbit.

Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite successfully placed in orbit around the Earth. (The Russian word "Sputnik" means "companion," "satellite" in the astronomical sense.) In 1885, in his book "Dreams of Earth and Sky," Konstantin Tsiolkovsky had first described how such a satellite could be launched into a low altitude orbit. Coming at the height of the Cold War, the launch caught the West by surprise, and began the space race by galvanizing interest and action on the part of the American public to support an active role in space research, technology, and exploration.

Sputnik 1 was launched on an R-7 (ICBM) booster from Baikonur Cosmodrome at Tyuratam (370 km southwest of the small town of Baikonur) in Kazakhstan, then part of the former Soviet Union, on 4 October 1957 at 10:28:04 pm, Moscow time. It was the first in a series of four satellites in the Soviet Sputnik program, a contribution to the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958). Three of these satellites (Sputnik 1, 2, and 3) reached Earth orbit.

The Sputnik 1 satellite was a 58.0 cm (14.7 inches) diameter aluminum sphere that weighed 84 kg (184.3 lb) with four whip-like antennas that were 2.4-2.9 meters long. The antennas looked like long "whiskers" pointing to one side. The spacecraft obtained data pertaining to the density of the upper layers of the atmosphere and the propagation of radio signals in the ionosphere. The instruments and electric power sources were housed in a sealed capsule and included transmitters operated at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz (about 15 and 7.5 meters wavelength), the emissions taking place in alternating groups of 0.3 seconds duration. The downlink telemetry included data on temperatures inside and on the surface of the sphere.

Since the sphere was filled with nitrogen under pressure, Sputnik 1 provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection (no such events were reported), since losses in internal pressure due to meteoroid penetration of the outer surface would have been evident in the temperature data. The satellite transmitters operated for three weeks, until the on-board chemical batteries failed on 26 October 1957, and were monitored with intense interest around the world.

The orbit of the then inactive satellite was later observed optically to decay 92 days after launch (4 January 1958), after having completed about 1400 orbits of the Earth over a cumulative distance traveled of 70 million kilometers. The orbital apogee declined from 947 km after launch to 600 km by 9 December.

The Sputnik 1 booster rocket also reached Earth orbit and was visible from the ground at night as a first magnitude object, while the small but highly polished sphere, barely visible at sixth magnitude, was more difficult to follow optically. Several replicas of the Sputnik 1 satellite can be seen at museums in Russia and another is on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

USSR's Luna 1 passed within 5995 km of the Moon.

Luna 1, launched 2 January 1959, was the first spacecraft to reach the Moon, and the first of a series of Soviet automatic interplanetary vehicles successfully launched in the direction of the Moon. The spacecraft was sphere-shaped; five antennae extended from one hemisphere. Instrument ports also protruded from the surface of the sphere. There were no propulsion systems on the Luna 1 spacecraft itself. Because of its high velocity and its announced package of various metallic emblems with the Soviet coat of arms, it was concluded that Luna 1 was intended to impact the Moon. Luna 1 passed within 5995 km of the Moon's surface on 4 January after 34 hours of flight. It then went into orbit around the Sun, between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

Died, Erwin Schrodinger, Austrian physicist (had a cat) (Nobel 1933 "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory")

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrodinger (12 August 1887 - 4 January 1961) was an Austrian physicist famous for his contributions to quantum mechanics, especially the Schrodinger equation, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1933. At this time, however, it is still unclear whether Schrodinger's cat is alive or dead. (see, e.g., for more information)

1963 07:12:00 GMT
USSR launched Sputnik 25 (originally called Sputnik 33 in the US Naval Space Command Satellite Situation Summary), planned for a soft Lunar landing.

Sputnik 25, launched 4 January 1963, was an attempted Lunar soft landing, with the purpose of returning data on the mechanical characteristics of the Lunar surface, the hazards presented by the topology such as craters, rocks, and other obstructions, and radiation, in preparation for future manned landings. The 1500 kg spacecraft consisted of a cylindrical section containing maneuvering and landing rockets and fuel, orientation devices and radio transmitters and a spherical top containing a 100 kg "lander," which was planned to be ejected onto the surface after the main body touched down, carrying a camera and devices to measure radiation.

The spacecraft was injected into Earth orbit successfully by the SL-6/A-2-e launcher but failed to escape orbit for its trip to the Moon. Its orbit decayed on 5 January 1963 after one day.

L Chernykh discovered asteroids #1771 Makover, #1792 Reni, #1889 Pakhmutova and #2245 Hekatostos.

J Gibson discovered asteroid #3090 Tjossem.

C Pollas discovered asteroid #4179 Toutatis.

Died, Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton, foremost high-speed photographer (invented stroboscopic photography)

2004 04:35:00 GMT
Spirit, a NASA Mars Rover, landed successfully on Mars. (3 January 11:35 p.m. EST, 8:35 p.m. PST)

NASA's MER-A ("Spirit") was the first of the agency's two Mars Exploration Rover Missions. Spirit was launched 10 June 2003, and successfully landed on Mars on 3 January 2004 at 20:35 PST (4 January 04:35 UTC).

No communication has been received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (22 March 2010). The project concluded the Spirit recovery efforts on 25 May 2011. The remaining, pre-sequenced ultra-high frequency (UHF) relay passes scheduled for Spirit on board the Odyssey orbiter were completed on 8 June 2011.

At the time it stopped communicating, Spirit had traveled 7,730.50 meters (4.80 miles) on the surface of Mars, ending at a winter position embedded in the area called "Troy" on the west side of "Home Plate" where the battery system apparently failed due to insufficient solar power collection.

See also
See also

Mosaic of images taken by the MER Spirit navigation camera
showing a 360 degree panoramic view of the landing site
NASA/JPL image, from

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