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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 February 18

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Race To Space
Someone will win the prize...
               ... but at what cost?
Visit to find out more!

Died, Thabit ibn Qurra, Arab astronomer and mathematician

Born, Jacques Cassini, French astronomer (rings of Saturn)

Born, Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta, Italian physicist known especially for the development of the electric battery, eponym for the unit of the electric potential

Born, Ernst Mach, Austrian physicist and philosopher (supersonic flow)

Born, Harry Brearley, inventor of stainless steel

C. H. F. Peters discovered asteroid #135 Hertha.

Dr. Lee De Forest received a patent for the 3-element vacuum tube (Audion, "thermionic valve").

The first official airplane flight with air mail took place in Allahabad, British India, when Henri Pequet, a 23-year-old pilot, delivered 6,500 letters to Naini, about 10 km away.

Considered at the time to be the ninth planet of our solar system, Pluto was discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, by astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh, while he was studying photographs taken in January.

Elm Farm's Ollie became the first cow to fly in an airplane, and the first cow to be milked in an airplane (the milk was sealed in paper containers and parachuted to the ground). A similar event is bound to happen at some future time in a spacecraft.

L. Oterma discovered asteroids #1758 Naantali, #2828 Iku-Turso and #2912.

S. Arend discovered asteroid #2277 Moreau.

Died, Henry Norris Russell, astronomer (Hertzsprung-Russell temperature-luminosity diagram, Bruce Medal 1925)

Goethe Link Observatory discovered asteroid #2753 Duncan.

Died, J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist, head of the Manhattan Project which developed the US atomic bomb

USSR's Luna 20 entered Lunar orbit, preceding its landing and return of Lunar samples to Earth.

Luna 20 was placed in an intermediate Earth parking orbit from its launch on 14 February 1972, and from that orbit was sent towards the Moon where it entered orbit on 18 February 1972. On 21 February 1972, Luna 20 made a soft landing in the Apollonius highlands near Mare Foecunditatis (Sea of Fertility), 120 km from where Luna 16 had impacted. While on the Lunar surface, the panoramic television system was operated, and Lunar samples were obtained using an extendable drilling apparatus. Luna 20's ascent stage of was launched from the Lunar surface on 22 February 1972 carrying 30 grams of collected Lunar samples in a sealed capsule. It landed in the Soviet Union on 25 February 1972; the Lunar samples were recovered the following day.

1974 10:05:00 GMT
NASA launched the Italian satellite San Marco C-2 from the San Marco platform in Kenya into a 232x905 km orbit.

H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa discovered asteroids #2330 Ontake, #2960 Ohtaki, #2924 Mitake-mura, #3249 Musashino, #3391 Sinon and #3607 Naniwa.

NASA's Space Shuttle Enterprise test vehicle went on its maiden "flight" while sitting on top of a Boeing 747.

1979 18:59:00 GMT
NASA launched the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) spacecraft into orbit from Wallops Island, Virginia on a Scout booster.

1979 21:50:00 GMT
Cosmos 1077, a Soviet ELINT (Electronic and Signals Intelligence) satellite, was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome.

Harvard College discovered asteroid #3085.

Died, John Knudsen "Jack" Northrop, aircraft designer

C. Shoemaker and S. J. Bus discovered asteroid #3270 Dudley.

2021 20:44:00 GMT
NASA's Mars 2020 mission landed the Perseverance rover, carrying the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, in the Jezero Crater on the western edge of the Isidis Planitia impact basin on Mars.

The Mars 2020 mission involves landing a large roving vehicle (Perserverance) on the surface of Mars to conduct mobile studies of the surface environment with particular emphasis on habitability, past life, and sample collection for future missions. The primary science objctives of Mars 2020 are to identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life, seeking signs of possible past microbial life, collecting core rock and regolith samples and caching them on the surface for future missions, and testing oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere. It will also carry the Mars Helicopter, a small rotorcraft designed to fly in the tenuous Martian atmosphere.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

The spacecraft has three primary major components: The cruise stage; the entry, descent, and landing system; and the rover. The cruise stage enclosed the rover and landing system for the journey to Mars. and included an aeroshell (backshell and heat shield) for initial entry into the Martian atmosphere. The entry, descent, and landing system comprised a heat shield, parachute, retrorockets, and a sky crane.

The Mars 2020 rover is based on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. It has a mass of approximately 1050 kg and measures roughly 3 meters in length, 2.7 meters in width, and 2.2 meters in height. It has six 52.5 cm diameter wheels and a 2.1 m long robotic arm. The top of the rover is the equipment deck.

Communications are via a UHF (~400 MHz), a steerable high-gain (X-band, 7-8 GHZ), and a low-gain (also X-band) antenna. The UHF antenna communicates with the Mars orbiters, the high-gain antenna is primarily for direct Earth transmission and reception, and the low-gain antenna is omnidirectional to receive signals from Earth. Power is provided by a radioisotope thermal generator using 4.8 kg of plutonium dioxide, and stored in two rechargeable lithium dioxide batteries. Mobility is provided by the six wheels in a rocker-bogie suspension, it can withstand a tilt of 45 degrees and can turn 360 degrees in place.

The rover is equipped with a number of scientific investigations, including: the Mastcam-Z camera; the WATSON camera; the MEDA environmental instrument; the RIMFAX radar imager; the PIXL x-ray fluorescence spectrometer; the SHERLOC UV Raman spectrometer; the SuperCam chemical analyzer; and the MOXIE oxygen generation experiment. MOXIE and much of the electronics for the instruments are mounted on or below the rover equipment deck. The RIMFAX antenna is mounted on the bottom rear of the rover. Mastcam-Z, and Supercam are mounted on top of the rover mast. The MEDA wind sensors, three temperature sensors, and radiation and dust sensor are on the mid- to lower mast. Two MEDA temperature sensors are mounted near the front of the rover, and a pressure sensor is on the deck. PIXL, WATSON, and SHERLOC are mounted on the end of the robotic arm.

Mission Profile

Mars 2020 launched on 30 July 2020 at 11:50 UT (7:50 AM EDT) on an Atlas V-541 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After a 7 month cruise, landing took place on 18 February 2021 at roughly 20:44 UT (3:44 PM EST). Confirmation of the touchdown was at 20:56:24 UT (3:56:24 PM EST, 12:56:24 PM PST). (There is a roughly 11 min., 20 sec. delay at this distance from Mars). Landing took place in Jezero Crater on the western edge of the Isidis Planitia impact basin on Mars. The rover is planned to operate for at least one Martian year (687 Earth days).

Mars Helicopter

The Mars Helicopter (Ingenuity) is an experimental technology test. Its primary objective is to demonstrate that autonomous, controlled flight can be achieved in the tenuous Martian atmosphere. The helicopter has a mass of roughly 1.8 kg and flies with twin counter-rotating blades which will rotate at almost 3000 rpm. The body of the helicopter has four landing legs. Power is provided by solar panels mounted above the rotors charging lithium-ion batteries. The helicopter has a heating mechanism for night-time survival. Communications will be relayed through the rover. There are no science experiments on board, as this is strictly a proof-of-concept demonstration. The helicopter is mounted on the belly of the rover, encapsulated for protection from dust. When a suitable location for the test flights is found, the rover will drop the helicopter off and move to a safe distance to relay commands. The helicopter will then charge its batteries and conduct preliminary tests. The first flight is planned to last about 30 seconds and involves hovering at 3 meters altitude. It will make up to four more test flights, lasting as long as 90 seconds and covering distances to a few hundred meters.

Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, NASA photo
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog (3460 x 1894 pixels)

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