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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 31

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Charles Messier added M57 (NGC 6720, Ring Nebula in Lyra) to his catalog. The true structure of the object has only recently been discovered through observation by the Hubble space telescope.

Ring Nebula (Messier 57, M57 or NGC 6720), a planetary nebula in the northern constellation Lyra
AURA/STScI/NASA image, October 1988

Telescope maker Alvan Clark and his son Alvan Graham Clark discovered the dwarf companion of the star Sirius while testing the optics for a new refractor they had been building for the University of Mississippi.

Born, Irving Langmuir, inventor (tungsten filament lamp, Nobel 1932 "for his discoveries and investigations in surface chemistry")

J Palisa discovered asteroid #232 Russia.

Reinmuth discovered asteroids #1015 Christa, #1016 Anitra and #1056 Azalea.

US Navy Captain Ralph S. Barnaby made the first glider flight from a dirigible, a 12 minute journey launched from the airship USS Los Angeles 3,000 feet over the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey.

Died, Edwin Armstrong, American inventor (regenerative circuit, super-regenerative circuit, Super Heterodyne receiver, FM radio)

Edwin Howard Armstrong (18 December 1890 - 31 January 1954) was an American electrical engineer and inventor. He was one of the most prolific inventors of the radio era, with a vision that was ahead of his time.

Armstrong was the inventor of FM radio. He also invented the Regenerative circuit (invented while he was a junior in college, and patented 1914), the Super-regenerative circuit (patented 1922), and the Super Heterodyne receiver (patented 1918). Many of Armstrong's inventions were ultimately claimed by others in patent lawsuits. Armstrong's life is both a story about the great inventions he brought about, and the tragedy wherein those inventions' rights were claimed by others.

1961 16:55:00 GMT
NASA launched Mercury-Redstone 2 with the chimpanzee "Ham" aboard on a suborbital flight.

Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) was launched 31 January 1961. It was the third attempted flight of the Mercury/Redstone launch configuration and the first to include a living organism, a 17 kg chimpanzee named Ham (in honor of the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center). The basic flight objectives were: a suborbital flight; acquisition of physiological and performance data on a primate in flight; and systems qualification tests. The flight was successful; early depletion of liquid oxygen in the launcher triggered the escape rocket, which yanked the spacecraft 209 km beyond the recovery area.

When MR-2 splashed down, no ships were in the vicinity, the capsule having landed some 100 km from the nearest recovery ship, the destroyer USS Ellison. A P2V search plane located the capsule about 27 minutes after splashdown, and helicopters were dispatched from the USS Donner, since at least two additional hours were still required for the Ellison to arrive. When the search plane located the capsule, it was floating upright, but by the time the helicopters arrived, they found MR-2 on its side and taking on water. Ham was returned safely to the Donner, apparently no worse for the wear.

Quoting the NASA page, "Sometime later, after his flight, [Ham] was shown the spacecraft and it was visually apparent he had no further interest in cooperating with the program."

Monkeynaut (chimpanzee) Ham prepared for Mercury Redstone 2, NASA photo

1961 20:24:00 GMT
The US Air Force successfully launched the SAMOS 2 spy satellite as a step toward replacing U-2 flights.

1966 11:45:00 GMT
USSR launched Luna 9, the first spacecraft to successfully soft-land on the Moon.

Luna 9, launched 31 January 1966, was the first spacecraft to successfully achieve a soft landing on the Moon, and to transmit photographic data to Earth. The landing probe, which weighed 99 Kg (218 lb), was a hermetically sealed container with radio equipment, a program timing device, heat control systems, scientific apparatus, power sources, and a television system.

Luna 9 was carried to Earth orbit by an A-2-E vehicle, then conveyed toward the Moon by a fourth stage rocket that separated itself from the payload. Flight apparatus separated from the payload shortly before Luna 9 landed. After landing in the Ocean of Storms on 3 February 1966, the four petals, which formed the shell of the spacecraft, opened outward and stabilized the spacecraft in an upright position on the Lunar surface. The spring-loaded antennas assumed their operating positions, and the television camera retractable mirror system, which operated by revolving and tilting, began a photographic survey of the Lunar environment. Seven radio sessions, totaling 8 hours and 5 minutes, were transmitted as were three series of TV pictures. When assembled, the photographs provided a panoramic view of the nearby Lunar surface. The pictures included views of nearby rocks and of the horizon 1.4 km away from the spacecraft.

Luna 9, photo courtesy of NASA

NASA's Lunar Orbiter 5 impacted the Moon on command at 2.79 degrees S latitude, 83 degrees W longitude (selenographic coordinates).

Lunar Orbiter 5, the last of the Lunar Orbiter series, launched 1 August 1967, was designed to take additional Apollo and Surveyor landing site photographs, and to take broad survey images of unphotographed parts of the Moon's far side. It was also equipped to collect selenodetic, radiation intensity, and micrometeoroid impact data, and was used to evaluate the Manned Space Flight Network tracking stations and Apollo Orbit Determination Program. The Deep Space Net Tracking Station at Woomera, Australia, acquired the spacecraft about 50 minutes after liftoff. Signals indicated that all systems were performing normally and that temperatures were within acceptable limits. The spacecraft was placed in a cislunar trajectory, and on 5 August 1967 was injected into an elliptical near polar Lunar orbit 194.5 km x 6023 km with an inclination of 85 degrees and a period of 8 hours 30 minutes. On 7 August, the perilune was lowered to 100 km, and on 9 August the orbit was lowered to 99 km x 1499 km with a 3 hour 11 minute period. The photographic portion of the mission ended on 18 August.

The spacecraft took its first photograph of the moon at 6 August 7:22 AM EDT. The spacecraft acquired photographic data from 6-18 August 1967, and readout occurred until 27 August 1967. A total of 633 high resolution and 211 medium resolution frames at resolution down to 2 meters were acquired, bringing the cumulative photographic coverage by the 5 Lunar Orbiters to 99% of the Moon's surface. Accurate data were acquired from all other experiments throughout the mission. The spacecraft was tracked until it impacted the Lunar surface on command at 2.79 degrees S latitude, 83 degrees W longitude (selenographic coordinates) on 31 January 1968.

The main bus of the Lunar Orbiter was approximately a truncated cone, 1.65 meters tall and 1.5 meters in diameter at the base. The spacecraft was comprised of three decks supported by trusses and an arch. The equipment deck at the base of the craft held the battery, transponder, flight progammer, inertial reference unit (IRU), Canopus star tracker, command decoder, multiplex encoder, traveling wave tube amplifier (TWTA), and the photographic system. Four solar panels were mounted to extend out from this deck with a total span across of 3.72 meters. Also extending from the base of the spacecraft were a high gain antenna on a 1.32 meter boom, and a low gain antenna on a 2.08 meter boom. Above the equipment deck, the middle deck held the velocity control engine, propellant, oxidizer and pressurization tanks, Sun sensors, and micrometeoroid detectors. The third deck consisted of a heat shield to protect the spacecraft from firing the velocity control engine. The nozzle of the engine protruded through the center of the shield. Mounted on the perimeter of the top deck were four attitude control thrusters.

375 W of power was provided by the four solar arrays containing 10,856 n/p solar cells, which could directly run the spacecraft and also charge the 12 amp-hr nickel-cadmium battery. The batteries were used during the brief periods of occultation when no solar power was available. Propulsion for major maneuvers was provided by the gimballed velocity control engine, a hypergolic 100-pound-thrust Marquardt rocket motor. Three-axis stabilization and attitude control were provided by four one-lb nitrogen gas jets. Navigational knowledge was provided by five Sun sensors, a Canopus star sensor, and the IRU equipped with internal gyros. Communications were via a 10 W transmitter and the directional 1 meter diameter high gain antenna for transmission of photographs and a 0.5 W transmitter and omnidirectional low gain antenna for other communications. Both antennas operated in the S-band at 2295 MHz. Thermal control was maintained by a multilayer aluminized mylar and dacron thermal blanket which enshrouded the main bus, special paint, insulation, and small heaters.

The Lunar Orbiter program was managed by NASA Langley Research Center and consisted of building and launching 5 Lunar Orbiters which returned photography of 99% of the surface of the Moon (near and far side) with resolution down to 1 meter. Altogether, the Orbiters returned 2180 high resolution and 882 medium resolution frames. The micrometeoroid experiments recorded 22 impacts showing the average micrometeoroid flux near the Moon was about two orders of magnitude greater than in interplanetary space but slightly less than the near Earth environment. The radiation experiments confirmed that the design of Apollo hardware would protect the astronauts from average and greater-than-average short term exposure to solar particle events. The use of Lunar Orbiters for tracking to evaluate the Manned Space Flight Network tracking stations and Apollo Orbit Determination Program was successful, with three Lunar Orbiters (2, 3, and 5) being tracked simultaneously from August to October 1967. The Lunar Orbiters were all eventually commanded to crash on the Moon before their attitude control gas ran out so they would not present navigational or communications hazards to later Apollo flights.

C Kowal discovered asteroid #1876 Napolitania.

1971 21:03:02 GMT
NASA launched Apollo 14, the third mission to land humans on the Moon, with astronauts Shepard, Mitchell and Roosa aboard.

Apollo 14, launched 31 January 1971, was the third mission in which humans walked on the Lunar surface and returned to Earth, and the first to land in the Lunar highlands. On 5 February 1971 two astronauts (Apollo 14 Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr. and LM pilot Edgar D. Mitchell) landed near Fra Mauro crater on the Moon in the Lunar Module (LM) while the Command and Service Module (CSM) (with CM pilot Stuart A. Roosa) continued in Lunar orbit. During their stay on the Moon, the astronauts set up scientific experiments, took photographs, and collected Lunar samples. The LM took off from the Moon on 6 February and the astronauts returned to Earth on 9 February.

Shepard hit golf balls on the Moon during this historic trip. Roosa carried seeds for the US Forest Service in his personal gear; the seeds were later planted by the Forest Service, and are called "Moon Trees" to reflect their journey.

This was the last Apollo mission in which the astronauts were put in quaratine after their return.

Apollo 14 Command and Service Module (CSM), NASA photo

1972 17:20:00 GMT
ESA launched HEOS A2 for interplanetary observations. (396km x 244,998km orbit)

HEOS 2, launched 31 January 1972, was a spin-stabilized spacecraft with a highly eccentric orbit whose apogee occurred at high latitude. Its primary scientific mission was the investigation of interplanetary space and the high-latitude magnetosphere and its boundary in the region around the northern neutral point. HEOS 2 provided new data on the sources and acceleration mechanisms of particles found in the trapped radiation belts and in the polar precipitation regions and auroral zones. It also monitored solar activity and cosmic radiation. The satellite carried a magnetometer and particle detectors which covered a broad range from thermal to cosmic-ray energies. The satellite had three antennas to study extreme low frequency (ELF) waves and carried a sensitive micrometeorite detector. The spacecraft functioned normally until it reentered the Earth's atmosphere on 5 August 1974.

1998 17:35:09 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA's STS 89 (Endeavour 12, 89th Shuttle mission) landed at Kennedy Space Center after the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking flight.

STS 89 was launched 22 January 1998 after being delayed per requests from the Russian space program to allow completion of activities on Mir. During the flight, astronaut David Wolf joined the shuttle crew from where he had been staying on Mir. His place aboard the space station was taken by Andy Thomas, the last US astronaut assigned to complete a lengthy stay on Mir.

Docking of Endeavour to Mir occurred at 3:14 p.m. EST 24 January (20:14 UT), at an altitude of 214 nautical miles. Hatches opened at 5:25 p.m. EST (22:25 UT) the same day. Transfer of Andy Thomas to Mir and return of David Wolf to the US orbiter occurred at 6:35 p.m. EST 25 January (23:35 UT). Initially, Thomas thought his Sokol pressure suit did not fit, and the crew exchange was allowed to proceed only after Wolf's suit was adjusted to fit Thomas. Once on Mir, Thomas was able to make adequate adjustments to his own suit (which would be worn should the crew need to return to Earth in the Soyuz capsule) and this remained on Mir with him. Wolf spent a total of 119 days aboard Mir, and after landing his total on-orbit time was 128 days.

Hatches between the two spacecraft closed at 5:34 p.m. EST 28 January (22:34 UT), and two spacecraft undocked at 11:57 a.m. EST 29 January (16:57 UT). More than 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms) of scientific equipment, logistical hardware and water were taken from Endeavour to Mir.

The STS 89 mission ended on 31 January 1998 when Endeavour landed on orbit 139 on Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center, Florida on the first opportunity at KSC. Rollout distance: 9,790 feet (2,984 meters). Rollout time: One minute, 10 seconds. Mission duration: eight days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, 54 seconds, logged 3.6 million statute miles.

The flight crew for STS 89 was: Terrence W. Wilcutt, Commander; Joe F. Edwards, Jr., Pilot; Bonnie J. Dunbar, Payload Commander; Michael P. Anderson, Mission Specialist; James F. Reilly, II, Mission Specialist; Salizhan Shakirovich Sharipov, Mission Specialist; Andrew S. W. Thomas, Mission Specialist (returned on STS 91); David A. Wolf returned from Mir (launched on STS 86).

Died, Gordon R. Dickson, science fiction author

Gordon Rupert Dickson (1 November 1923 - 31 January 2001) was a Canadian-born science fiction author who spent most of his life in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is probably most famous for his Childe Cycle books, and won three Hugo awards.

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