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Space History for March 9

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Race To Space
Someone will win the prize...
               ... but at what cost?
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Born, Amerigo Vespucci, explorer and cartographer

Amerigo Vespucci (9 March 1454 - 22 February 1512) was a Italian merchant who voyaged to and wrote about the Americas. His exploratory journeys along the eastern coast of South America convinced him that a new continent had been discovered. That was a bold contention when everyone, including Christopher Columbus, thought the voyages setting out from Europe's docks were travelling to East Asia.

Nicolaus Copernicus made his first recorded astronomical observation, an occultation of the star Aldebaran by the Moon.

Born, David Fabricius (at Esens, Germany), astronomer, discovered the first known variable star (1596)

Died, Hans Christian Oersted, Danish scientist, discovered electromagnetism

J. Palisa discovered asteroid #223 Rosa.

Born, Howard Aiken, computing pioneer

Howard Hathaway Aiken (9 March 1900 - 14 March 1973) is considered one of the pioneers of the computer field, having been the primary engineer behind IBM's Harvard Mark I computer.

Aiken is also well known for his 1947 comment, "Only six electronic digital computers would be required to satisfy the computing needs of the entire United States."

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #799 Gudula.

Born, Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin (at Klushino, Smolensk Oblast, Russian SFSR), Colonel Soviet AF, Soviet cosmonaut (Vostok 1; 1h 46m in spaceflight), the first human in space (deceased)

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (9 March 1934 - 27 March 1968) was a Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to travel into space on 12 April 1961. Launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, he orbited the Earth once before returning to the ground. After the flight, Gagarin became an instant worldwide celebrity, touring widely to promote the Soviet achievement. In 1967, he was also selected as the backup pilot for the first Soyuz launch.

Gagarin and his instructor were killed in a crash of a MiG-15 on a routine training flight near Moscow. The cause of the crash is uncertain, but a 1968 inquest suggested that turbulence from an Su-15 using afterburners may have caused the MiG to go out of control. Weather conditions were also poor, which probably contributed to the inability of Gagarin and the instructor to correct before they crashed.

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin at a 3 July 1961 press conference in Finland
Source: Wikipedia

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroids #1562 Gondolatsch and #1732 Heike.

A. G. Wilson discovered asteroid #1915 Quetzalcoatl.

Died, Eva Ahnert-Rohlfs, German astronomer (variable stars)

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #1990 Pilcher.

1961 06:28:00 GMT
USSR launched Sputnik 9 (also called Korabl Sputnik 4) as a precursor to manned flights.

Sputnik 9 was the fourth in a series of spacecraft designed as precursors to manned space flight. It was launched 9 March 1961 with the basic flight objectives of testing the structure and systems for manned flight and observation of the effects of space travel on the biological payload. The "crew" was a dog named Chernushka (meaning "Blackie"), a dummy cosmonaut (known as "Ivan Ivanovich"), a few mice and a guinea pig. The flight lasted for a single orbit, a successful recovery was made; and upon recovery, the animal passengers were reported to be alive and well.

See also Wikipedia: Korabl-Sputnik 4

L. Chernykh discovered asteroid #1790 Volkov.

The USSR Mars 7 probe reached Mars, but the lander separated 4 hours early and missed the planet by 1300 km.

Mars 7 was one of an associated group of Soviet spacecraft, launched towards Mars in July and August of 1973, comprised of Mars 4, 5, 6, and 7. The Mars 7 interplanetary station was intended to be a Mars lander consisting of a flyby bus and a descent module. The descent module was designed to enter the Martian atmosphere and make in-situ studies of the atmosphere and surface, but a malfunction on board caused the lander to miss the planet.

Mars 7 successfully lifted off 9 August 1973 into an intermediate Earth orbit on a Proton SL-12/D-1-e booster, then was launched into a Mars transfer trajectory. Total fueled launch mass of the lander and bus was 3260 kg. After one course correction burn on 16 August 1973, it reached Mars on 9 March 1974. Due to a problem in the operation of one of the onboard systems (attitude control or retro-rockets) the landing probe separated prematurely (4 hours before encounter) and missed the planet by 1300 km. The early separation was probably due to a computer chip error which resulted in degradation of the systems during the trip to Mars. The intended landing site was 50 S, 28 W and landed mass would have been 635 kg. The lander and bus continued on into heliocentric orbits.

The Mars 7 Descent Module carried a panoramic telephotometer to image the Martian surface around the lander, atmospheric temperature, pressure, density, and wind sensors, an accelerometer to measure atmospheric density during the descent, a mass spectrometer to estimate atmospheric composition, a radio altimeter, an activation analysis experiment to study soil composition, and mechanical properties soil sensors. The flyby module contained a telephotometer to image Mars, a Lyman alpha sensor to search for hydrogen in the upper atmosphere, a magnetometer, an ion trap and narrow angle electrostatic plasma sensor to study the solar wind and its interaction with Mars, solar cosmic ray sensors, micrometeorite sensors, and a French-supplied solar radiometer to measure solar long-wavelength radio emissions. It was also equipped to perform a radio occultation experiment to profile the atmosphere and ionosphere.

E. Bowell discovered asteroids #3057 Malaren, #3106 Morabito and #3667.

USSR Vega 2 passed Comet Halley at a distance of approximately 3000 km.

The Vega mission combined a Venus swingby and a Comet Halley flyby by two identical spacecraft, Vega 1 and Vega 2, which were launched 15 December 1984 and 21 December 1984, respectively. After carrying Venus entry probes to the vicinity of Venus on 11 and 15 June 1985, respectively, the two spacecraft used Venus' gravity to get speed boosts to intercept Comet Halley. The first spacecraft encountered Comet Halley on 6 March 1986, and the second three days later. The flyby velocity was 77.7 km/s. Although the spacecraft could be targeted with a precision of 100 km, the position of the spacecraft relative to the comet nucleus was estimated to be known only to within a few thousand kilometers because of variations in the comet's orbit. This, together with the problem of dust protection, led to estimated flyby distances of 10,000 km for the first spacecraft and 3000 km for the second. Data were taken from 2.5 hours before through 0.5 hours after the closest approaches, with several periods of data taking before and after, each lasting about 2 hours.

The Venus instrumentation packages each consisted of a sphere 240 cm in diameter, which separated from the spacecraft bus two days before arrival at Venus and entered the planet's atmosphere on an inclined path, without active maneuvers, as was done on previous Venera missions. The lander probes (identical to those of Venera 9 through 14) had two objectives, the study of the atmosphere and the study of the superficial crust. In addition to temperature and pressure measuring instruments, the descent probes carried a UV spectrometer for measurement of minor atmospheric constituents, an instrument dedicated to measurement of the concentration of H2O, and other instruments for determination of the chemical composition of the condensed phase: a gas-phase chromatograph; an X-ray spectrometer observing the fluorescence of grains or drops; and a mass spectrograph measuring the chemical composition of the grains or drops. The X-ray spectrometer separated the grains according to their sizes using a laser imaging device, while the mass spectrograph separated them according to their sizes using an aerodynamical inertial separator. A toroidal system similar to that on Veneras 13 and 14 was designed to absorb shock on landing. After landing, a small surface sample near the probe was to be analyzed by gamma spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence. The UV spectrometer, the mass spectrograph, and the pressure- and temperature-measuring instruments were developed in cooperation between French and Soviet investigators.

After separation, the Vega 1 lander entered the Venus atmosphere on 11 June 1985 at 01:59:49 UT at 10.75 km/s with an entry angle of 18.23 degrees. The pilot parachute was deployed at 02:00:27 UT at an altitude of 65 km and the braking parachute opened 11 seconds later at 64.5 km. The upper heat protection hemisphere was released at that time and the lower hemisphere 4 seconds later at 64.2 km. The upper hemisphere contained the deployment system for the balloon aerostat. The parachute was released at 02:09:37 at 47 km, after which the lander used aerobraking to descend through the thick Venus atmosphere, with drag devices minimizing vibrations and spin and providing stability. At an altitude of 18 km a mechanical shock of unknown origin (possibly due to a jammed valve in an upper compartment suddenly releasing) triggered a ground-contact accelerometer which caused early deployment of the soil drill of the X-ray flourescence spectrometer. The drill was rendered unusable at landing due to the premature deployment. The lander touched down at 03:02:54 UT on 11 June 1985 at 7.5 N, 177.7 E, just north of eastern Aphrodite Terra. The altitude of the touchdown site was 0.6 km below the planetary mean radius, the measured pressure at the landing site was 95 atm and the temperature was 740 K.

After separation, the Vega 2 lander entered the Venus atmosphere on 15 June 1985 at 01:59:30 UT at 10.80 km/s with an entry angle of 19.08 degrees. The pilot parachute was deployed at 02:00:05 UT at an altitude of 65 km and the braking parachute opened 11 seconds later at 64.5 km. The upper heat protection hemisphere was released at that time and the lower hemisphere 4 seconds later at 64.2 km. The upper hemisphere contained the deployment system for the balloon aerostat. The parachute was released at 02:09:15 at 47 km, after which the lander used aerobraking while descending through the thick Venus atmosphere, with drag devices minimizing vibrations and spin and providing stability. The lander touched down at 03:00:50 UT on 15 June 1985 at 8.5 S, 164.5 E, in eastern Aphrodite Terra. The altitude of the touchdown site was 0.1 km above the planetary mean radius, and the measured pressure and temperature at the landing site were 91 atm and 736 K. The surface sample was found to be an anorthosite-troctolite.

In addition to the lander probes, constant-pressure instrumented balloon aerostats were deployed immediately after entry into the atmosphere at an altitude of 54 km. Each 3.4 meter diameter balloon supported a total mass of 25 kg, including a 5 kg payload that hung suspended 12 meters below the balloon. It floated at approximately 50 km altitude in the middle, most active layer of the Venus three-tiered cloud system. Data from the balloon instruments were transmitted directly to Earth for the lifetime of the mission. Onboard instruments were to measure temperature, pressure, vertical wind velocity, and visibility (density of local aerosols). Very long baseline interferometry was used to track the motion of the balloon to provide the wind velocity in the clouds. Tracking was done by a 6 station network on Soviet territory and by a network of 12 stations distributed world-wide (organized by France and the NASA Deep Space Network). The balloons measured downward gusts of 1 meter/s and showed horizontal wind velocities up to 240 km/hr. After two days and 9000 km, the balloons entered the dayside of Venus where they expanded and burst due to solar heating.

See also NASA, Vega 1
See also NASA, Vega 2

An observation was made of asteroid #2060 Chiron (aka 95P/Chiron) eclipsing a magnitude 11.9 star, leading to speculation the object may have rings.

1996 08:58:21 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA's STS 75 (Columbia 19, 75th Shuttle mission) ended after reflying the Tethered Satellite System, and flying the US Microgravity Payload experiment.

STS 75 was launched 22 February 1996 on time following a smooth countdown. Six seconds after liftoff, the crew reported the left main engine chamber pressure tape meter was reading only 40 percent thrust, instead of the expected 104 percent. Mission controllers in Houston reported telemetry showed all three engines were performing nominally, and there was no effect on the ascent phase.

Reflight of the US/Italian Tethered Satellite System (TSS-1R), the primary payload for the first part of STS 75, was marred by loss of the satellite on flight day three, although valuable scientific data was still gathered. The other primary payload, the US Microgravity Payload-3 (USMP-3), performed nominally.

TSS was designed to study electrodynamics of a tether system in the electrically charged portion of Earth's atmosphere called the ionosphere. The satellite itself was provided by Italy, and the tether/deployer assembly by the US. Twelve investigations were planned. Deployment was delayed one day for troubleshooting of the onboard TSS computers by the flight crew. Excellent scientific data was being gathered when the tether snapped on flight day three as the satellite was just short of full deployment of about 12.8 miles (20.6 kilometers). The satellite immediately began speeding away from Columbia as a result of orbital forces, and the crew was never in any danger. The reason for the tether break was not immediately clear, and an investigative board convened on the ground to determine its cause. The crew retracted the deployer and the remaining tether the following day.

TSS scientists were able to gather useful data from the curtailed deployment. Currents measured during the deployment phase were at least three times greater than predicted by analytical modeling, and the amount of power generated was directly proportional to the current. Tether voltages of as high as 3,500 volts were developed across the tether, and current levels of about 480 milliamps were achieved. Researchers were also able to study how gas from the satellite's thrusters interacted with the ionosphere. Also collected were first-time measurements of the ionized shock wave around the TSS satellite, a phenomenon that cannot be studied in the laboratory and is difficult to model mathematically. Another first was collection of data on the plasma wakes created by a moving body through the electrically-charged ionosphere. Some experiments were conducted using the free-flying satellite and its attached tether before it re-entered Earth's atmosphere and broke up.

USMP-3, flying on the Shuttle for third time, included US and international experiments, all of which had flown at least once before: Advanced Automated Directional Solidification Furnace (AADSF), a crystal growth facility; Critical Fluid Light Scattering Experiment (Zeno), to study the element Xenon at its critical point; Isothermal Dendritic Growth Experiment (IDGE), to study formation of dendrites, tree-shaped crystals that in metals manufacturing dictate the final properties of a material; and Materials for the Study of Interesting Phenomena of Solidification on Earth and in Orbit (MEPHISTO) to study how metals solidify in microgravity using a furnace. The USMP-3 experiments were conducted primarily through telescience, where the principal investigators could control the research from Marshall Space Flight Center's Spacelab Mission Operations Control Center.

In the MEPHISTO investigation, changes in the microgravity environment caused by orbiter thruster firings were correlated with fluid flows in the crystal sample. The experiment was also able to monitor the point at which the crystal sample underwent critical change during the solidification process. The sample used was a tin-bismuth mixture representative of alloys found in airplane turbine blades, electronic materials and many other products.

In AADSF, three lead-tin-telluride crystals were grown while the orbiter was flown at three different attitudes to determine the effect on crystal growth. Also collected were data on the crystal's freezing point. Lead-tin-telluride is used in infrared detectors and lasers.

The IDGE experiment yielded twice the expected amount of data. The best images ever transmitted of dendrites were gathered. This also was the first Shuttle experiment controlled by a principal investigator at a remote non-NASA site, foreshadowing types of research to be conducted on the International Space Station, where researchers could be based at universities.

Zeno allowed investigators to observe with unprecedented clarity the behavior of xenon at its critical point, when it exists as both a gas and a liquid. Such phase change phenomena is common to many different materials, and knowledge gained from Zeno could apply to such fields as liquid crystal growth and superconductor research.

Space Acceleration Measurement Systems (SAMS) and Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment (OARE), both of which have flown previously, provided data about the on-orbit environment. In the middeck, the crew worked with the Middeck Glovebox Facility (MGBX) featuring three combustion experiments, all of which were successful. The Glovebox and Forced Flow Flamespreading Test experiment were both slated to fly on the Russian Space Station Mir later in the year, and the Glovebox is also to fly on the International Space Station. Also flying in middeck was the Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG-09) experiment to process nine proteins into crystals to better understand their molecular structure.

Landing opportunities on 8 March were waved off due to unfavorable weather conditions. The first KSC landing opportunity on 9 March was also waved off, again due to weather. STS 75 ended 9 March 1996 when Columbia landed on revolution 252 on Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Rollout distance: 8,459 feet (2,578 meters). Rollout time: 64 seconds. Mission duration: 15 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes, 21 seconds. Orbit altitude: 160 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees. Miles traveled: 6.5 million.

The flight crew for STS 75 was: Andrew M. Allen, Commander; Scott J. Horowitz, Pilot; Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, Payload Commander; Maurizio Cheli, Mission Specialist (ESA); Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Mission Specialist; Claude Nicollier, Mission Specialist (ESA); Umberto Guidoni, Payload Specialist (Italy).

A total solar eclipse was visible over Sibera in East Asia (2m 50s).

2002 04:04:00 CST (GMT -6:00:00)
NASA STS 109 astronauts deployed the Hubble Space Telescope back into orbit after completing the fourth HST servicing mission.

STS 109 was launched 1 March 2002 as the fourth Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. Its crew performed a total of five spacewalks on five consecutive days to service and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. Grunsfeld and Linnehan conducted the mission's first, third and fifth EVAs; while Newman and Massimino performed the second and fourth spacewalks. Currie operated the shuttle's robot arm to assist the spacewalkers, as Carey and Altman documented the EVA activities with video and still images.

The spacewalks installed new solar arrays, a new camera, a new Power Control Unit, a Reaction Wheel Assembly and an experimental cooling system for Hubble. The crew accumulated a total of 35 hours, 55 minutes of EVA time. Through STS 109, a total of 18 spacewalks have been conducted during the four Shuttle missions to service Hubble, for a total of 129 hours, 10 minutes by 14 different astronauts.

STS 109 ended on 12 March 2002 when Columbia landed at Kennedy Space Center after a 10 day, 22 hour, 10 minute mission.

The flight crew for STS 109 was: Scott Altman, Commander; Duane Carey, Pilot; Nancy Currie, Mission Specialist 1; John Grunsfeld, Mission Specialist 2; Rick Linnehan, Mission Specialist 3; Mike Massimino, Mission Specialist 4; Jim Newman, Mission Specialist 5.

Hubble Space Telescope being lifted from Columbia's cargo bay for release back to orbit
NASA photo STS109-E-5872 (9 March 2002)

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