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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 March 12

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Race To Space
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567 B.C.
The earliest dateable observation of the aurora borealis was recorded on a clay tablet, with numerous other celestial observations, describing an unusual "red glow" in the sky at night during the 37th year of King Nebuchadnezzar II (568/567 BC).

Halley's Comet passed perihelion in its twenty-seventh known passage, as calculated from records including ones by Chinese astronomers.

In 2000 years of observations since 240 BCE, Chinese records have never missed a return of Halley's Comet. From those records, Cowell and Crommelin computed the dates of perihelion passage as:

 1. 15 May 240 BCE
 2. 20 May 163 BCE
 3. 15 August 87 BCE
 4. 8 October 12 BCE
 5. 26 January 66 CE
 6. 25 March 141 CE
 7. 6 April 218 CE
 8. 7 April 295 CE
 9. 13 February 374 CE
10. 3 July 451 CE
11. 15 November 530 CE
12. 26 March 607 CE
13. 26 November 684 CE
14. 10 June 760 CE
15. 25 February 837 CE
16. 17 July 912 CE
17. 2 September 989 CE
18. 25 March 1066 CE
19. 19 April 1145 CE
20. 10 September 1222 CE
21. 22.7 October 1301 CE
22. 8.8 November 1378 CE
23. 8.2 January 1456 CE
24. 25.8 August 1531 CE
25. 26.9 October 1607 CE
26. 14.8 September 1682 CE
27. 12.6 March 1758 CE
28. 15.9 November 1835 CE
29. 19.7 April 1910 CE
30. 9 February 1986 CE

Note that the precision of the dates from passage 21 onward could be computed with increased accuracy because of additional observations. However, at the time of their computation, the 1986 passage was still a future event. (The actual date was found from other sources.)

On 19 April 607, Comet 1P/607 H1 (Halley) approached within 0.0898 AU (13.5 million km, 8.4 million miles) of Earth. On 374-April-1.9, it had approached closer, having come within 0.0884 AU (13.2 million km, 8.2 million miles), and on 837-April-10.5, it became the third closest approach in history prior to 1900, passing within 0.0334 AU (5 million km, 3.1 million miles).

On 16 October 1982, astronomers David Jewitt and G. Edward Danielson using a CCD camera with the 5.1 m Hale telescope at Mt. Palomar Observatory were the first to detect Halley's Comet on its thirtieth recorded return.

See also The past orbit of Halley's Comet (SAO/NASA ADS)

See also Comet Close Approaches prior to 1900 (CNEOS)

See also History of Halley's Comet (Wikipedia)

See also Halley's Comet (CQ Press)

See also Comet 1P/Halley (Halley's Comet) (Smithsonian NASM)

Born, Gustav Kirchhoff, Prussian physicist (Kirchhoff's circuit laws, Kirchhoff's laws of thermodynamics and spectroscopy)

Born, Simon Newcomb, Canadian-American mathematician, astronomer, made important contributions to timekeeping and celestial mechanics

R. Luther discovered asteroid #113 Amalthea.

A. Charlois discovered asteroid #362 Havnia.

Died, George Westinghouse, American inventor, developer of AC electricity, founder of Westinghouse Electric Company, railroad and telephone pioneer

Born, Walter M. "Wally" Schirra (at Hackensack, New Jersey, USA), Captain USN, NASA astronaut (Mercury 8, Gemini 6, Apollo 7; nearly 12d 7.25h total time in spaceflight), the only man to fly in all three of America's first space programs (deceased)

Astronaut Walter M. "Wally" Schirra, NASA photo
Source: Wikipedia ( unavailable March 2019)

Born, Dmitri Alekseyevich Polukhin, Russian engineer, Chief Designer and General Director of the Salyut design bureau (1973-1993), led development of the Proton booster, responsible for design of 5 Mir modules (Kvant, Kvant 2, Kristall, Spektr, Priroda)

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #1308 Halleria.

E. Delporte discovered asteroid #1221 Amor.

E. Delporte discovered asteroid #2331 Parvulesco.

G. Kulin discovered asteroid #2738.

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #3446.

M. Itzigsohn discovered asteroid #1970.

Died (C47 crash, co-pilot), Jack Ridley, American aeronautical engineer (Bell X-1) and test pilot

1965 09:36:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 60, which was intended as a Lunar soft-lander but failed to leave Earth orbit.

1974 09:05:53 GMT
USSR's Mars 6 descent module reached Mars and returned the first-ever data from the Martian atmosphere.

Mars 4, 5, 6, and 7 comprised an associated group of Soviet spacecraft launched towards Mars in July and August of 1973. The Mars 6 interplanetary station consisted of a flyby bus and an attached descent module. The descent module separated from the bus on reaching Mars and was designed to enter the Martian atmosphere and make in-situ studies of the Mars atmosphere and surface.

Mars 6 successfully lifted off 5 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 13 August 1973, it reached Mars on 12 March 1974. The descent module separated from the bus at a distance of 48,000 km from Mars. The bus continued on into a heliocentric orbit after passing within 1600 km of Mars. The descent module entered the atmosphere at 09:05:53 UT at a speed of 5.6 km/s. The parachute opened at 09:08:32 UT after the module had slowed its speed to 600 m/s by aerobraking. During this time the craft was collecting data and transmitting it directly to the bus for immediate relay to Earth. Contact with the descent module was lost at 09:11:05 UT in "direct proximity to the surface", probably either when the retrorockets fired or when it hit the surface at an estimated 61 m/s. Mars 6 landed at 23.90 S, 19.42 W in the Margaritifer Sinus region of Mars. The landed mass was 635 kg. The descent module transmitted 224 seconds of data before transmissions ceased, the first data returned from the atmosphere of Mars. Unfortunately, much of the data were unreadable due to a flaw in a computer chip which led to degradation of the system during its journey to Mars.

The Mars 6 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.

Data returned by the Mars 6 descent module allowed a profile of tropospheric structure from the base of the stratosphere at 25 km altitude at 150 K to the surface at 230 K and atmospheric density from 82 km to 12 km. A surface pressure of 6 mb and temperature of (230 K) -43 C were measured. Instruments also indicated "several times" more atmospheric water vapor than previously reported. The mass spectrometer data were stored on-board during the descent and scheduled to be transmitted after landing and were therefore lost. The current to the vacuum pump was transmitted as an engineering parameter, however, and a steep increase in current was found. It was hypothesized to indicate an inert gas which could not be removed by the pump, leading to an estimate of argon abundance in the atmosphere of 25% to 45%. (The actual value is now known to be about 1.6%.) The Mars 6 flyby bus performed a radio occultation experiment and the results, in concert with results from Mars 4 and 5 occultation measurements, showed the existence of a nightside ionosphere with a maximum electron density of 4600 per cubic cm at an altitude of 110 km and a near surface atmospheric pressure of 6.7 mbar.

N. Chernykh discovered asteroid #2577 Litva.

H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa discovered asteroid #3319 Kibi.

T. Urata discovered asteroid #2090 Mizuho.

1981 19:00:00 GMT
USSR Soyuz-T 4 carried cosmonauts Vladimir Kovalyonok and Viktor Savinykh to the Salyut 6 space station to carry out repairs and perform preventive maintenance.

2002 09:32:00 GMT
NASA's STS 109 (Columbia 27) landed after completing the fourth Hubble Space Telescope 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.

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