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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 24

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

Died, Henry Cavendish, British scientist (discovered hydrogen, calculated Newton's gravitational constant, mass of the Earth, composition of the atmosphere)

Died, Robert Fulton, inventor (commercially successful steamboat)

Born, William M. Fairbank (at Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA), physicist (liquid and solid helium, superconductivity)

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #3227 Hasegawa.

A. Bohrmann discovered asteroids #1998 Titius and #2665; and Y. Vaisala discovered asteroids #1483 Hakoila, #1551 Argelander, #1552 Bessel, #2678 Aavasaksa, #2690 Ristiina, #3272 and #3281.

The US launched Bumper V-2/WAC-Corporal to 393 km (244 mi) altitude from White Sands, New Mexico, the first human-made object to reach space (by today's definition).

Born, Steve Jobs, computer pioneer

NASA launched Explorer S45 using a Juno 2 rocket to investigate the shape of the ionosphere. A malfunction after booster separation caused a loss of payload telemetry, the third and fourth stages failed to ignite. The spacecraft did not achieve orbit.

Discovery of the first pulsar was announced (CP 1919) by Jocelyn Burnell at Cambridge.

1969 01:29:02 GMT
NASA launched Mariner 6 on a flyby mission to Mars.

Mariner 6 was launched 24 February 1969 as part of the Mariner 6 and 7 dual spacecraft mission to Mars, the sixth and seventh missions in the Mariner series of spacecraft used for planetary exploration in the flyby mode. The primary objectives of the missions were to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars during close flybys to establish the basis for future investigations, particularly those relevant to the search for extraterrestrial life, and to demonstrate and develop technologies required for future Mars missions and other long-duration missions far from the Sun. Mariner 6 also had the objective of providing experience and data which would be useful in programming the Mariner 7 encounter 5 days later. Each spacecraft carried a wide- and narrow-angle television camera, an infrared spectroscope, an infrared radiometer, and an ultraviolet spectroscope. The spacecraft were oriented entirely to planetary data acquisition, and no data were obtained during the trip to Mars or beyond Mars.

On 29 July, 50 hours before closest approach, the scan platform was pointed to Mars and the scientific instruments turned on. Imaging of Mars began 2 hours later. For the next 41 hours, 49 approach images (plus a 50th fractional image) of Mars were taken through the narrow-angle camera. At 05:03 UT on 31 July the near-encounter phase began, including collection of 26 close-up images. Due to a cooling system failure, channel 1 of the IR spectrometer did not cool sufficiently to allow measurements from 6 to 14 micrometers so no infrared data were obtained over this range. Closest approach occurred at 05:19:07 UT at a distance of 3431 km (2132 mi) from the Martian surface. Eleven minutes later Mariner 6 passed behind Mars and reappeared after 25 minutes. X-band occultation data were taken during the entrance and exit phases. Science and imaging data were played back and transmitted over the next few days. The spacecraft was then returned to cruise mode which included engineering and communications tests, star photography TV tests, and UV scans of the Milky Way and an area containing comet 1969-B. Periodic tracking of the spacecraft in its heliocentric orbit was also done.

Mariner 6 returned 49 far encounter and 26 near encounter images of Mars. Close-ups from the near encounter phases covered 20% of the surface between the two spacecraft. The spacecraft instruments measured UV and IR emissions and radio refractivity of the Martian atmosphere. Images showed the surface of Mars to be very different from that of the Moon, in some contrast to the results from Mariner 4. The south polar cap was identified as being composed predominantly of carbon dioxide. Atmospheric surface pressure was estimated at between 6 and 7 mb. Radio science refined estimates of the mass, radius and shape of Mars.

As a historical note, 10 days before the scheduled launch of Mariner 6 while it was mounted on top of the Atlas/Centaur booster, a faulty switch opened the main valves on the Atlas stage. This released the pressure which supported the Atlas structure, and as the booster deflated it began to crumple. Two ground crewman started pressurizing pumps, saving the structure from further collapse. The Mariner 6 spacecraft was removed, put on another Atlas/Centaur, and launched on schedule. The two ground crewman, who had acted at risk of the 12-story rocket collapsing on them, were awarded Exceptional Bravery Medals from NASA.

Mariner 6, NASA photograph
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog

Died, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bulganin, Russian Manager of Defense 1947-1949 and 1953-1955, chaired Special Committee 2 1947-1949; chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, heavily involved in negotiating freedom of space for overflight of territories

H. Debehogne discovered asteroid #3679.

A fire on the Russian space station Mir caused minimal damage, but required station's inhabitants to wear protective masks for about 36 hours until the cabin air was cleaned.

Died, Claude E. Shannon, the "father" of information theory which is used to design communication systems, and the founder of practical digital circuit design theory

We are going to run out of oil!
Visit to help fix the problem. - For Human Survival

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