Site Features

Space History


  • Log In
  • Sign Up

Useful Articles

Support Department

  • FAQ System
  • Contact List
  • Suggestion Box

Site Keywords

 . 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 13

If you are not already a subscriber, you are welcome to enter your email address here to sign up to receive the Space History newsletter on a daily basis. Under no circumstances will we release your legitimate email address entered here to outside persons or organizations, and it will only be used for mailing the specific information you have requested.

Enter your email address here:

Unsubscribe instructions are included in every newsletter issue in case you decide you no longer wish to receive it.

Note: We record the IP address from which subscriptions are entered to help prevent SPAM abuses.

Born (Julian calendar date), Joseph Priestly, English scientist (discovered oxygen)

The twenty-seventh recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet occurred.

William Herschel discovered Uranus.

Born, Percival Lowell, US astronomer

Percival Lowell (13 March 1855 - 12 November 1916) was a wealthy amateur astronomer who was convinced that there were canals on Mars, and was the founder of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Lowell's greatest lasting contribution to planetary studies came during the final 8 years of his life, which he devoted to the search for Planet X, the designation for a planet beyond Neptune. The search continued after his death at Flagstaff in 1916; the new planet, named Pluto, was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. The symbol for the planet is a stylized "PL", chosen in part to honor Lowell.

M Wolf discovered asteroid #560 Delila.

The discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh was announced by Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona.

M Wolf discovered asteroid #1178 Irmela.

E Delporte discovered asteroid #1217 Maximiliana.

Died, Robert T. A. Innes (at Edinburgh, Scotland), astronomer (discovered Proxima Centauri, 1915, a red dwarf that is the closest star to Earth)

1969 17:00:54 GMT
NASA's Apollo 9 splashed down in the Atlantic after completing the first crewed mission of the Lunar Module.

Apollo 9, launched 3 March 1969, was the third crewed Apollo flight and the first crewed flight to include the Lunar Module (LM). The crew was Commander James McDivitt, Command Module (CM) pilot David Scott, and LM pilot Russell Schweickart. The primary objective of the mission was to test all aspects of the Lunar Module in Earth orbit, including operation of the LM as an independent self-sufficient spacecraft and performance of docking and rendezvous manuevers. The goal was to simulate maneuvers which would be performed in actual Lunar missions. Other concurrent objectives included overall checkout of launch vehicle and spacecraft systems, crew, and procedures. A multispectral photographic experiment was also performed.

On 7 March at 13:03 UT, the LM ("Spider"), carrying McDivitt and Schweickart, separated from the CSM ("Gumdrop"). It was put into a circular orbit about 20 km higher than the CSM. The LM descent stage was jettisoned and for the first time in space the ascent stage engine was fired, lowering the LM orbit to 16 km below and 120 km behind the CSM. A simulated rendezvous of the LM returning from a Lunar mission with the orbiting CSM culminated in docking at 19:02 UT. The crew transferred back to the CSM, The LM ascent stage (1969-018C) was jettisoned and its ascent engine was commanded to fire to fuel depletion, into an Earth orbit of 235 x 6970 km. The LM ascent stage orbit decayed on 23 October 1981, the LM descent stage (1969-018D) orbit decayed 22 March 1969. The remaining four days of the Apollo 9 flight included more orbital manuevers and a landmark tracking exercise. All systems on all spacecraft worked nearly normally during the mission, and all primary objectives were accomplished.

Apollo 9 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean on 13 March 1969 after a mission elapsed time of 241 hrs, 0 mins, 54 secs. The splashdown point was 23 deg 15 min N, 67 deg 56 min W, 180 miles east of Bahamas and within sight of the recovery ship USS Guadalcanal. The Apollo 9 Command Module is on display at the San Diego Aerospace Museum in San Diego, California.

The Apollo program included a large number of uncrewed test missions and 12 crewed missions: three Earth orbiting missions (Apollo 7, 9 and Apollo-Soyuz), two Lunar orbiting missions (Apollo 8 and 10), a Lunar swingby (Apollo 13), and six Moon landing missions (Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17). Two astronauts from each of these six missions walked on the Moon, the only humans to have set foot on another solar system body (as of 2015). Total funding for the Apollo program was approximately $20,443,600,000, an average bill of only about $100 per person for the population of the United States at the time.

J Gibson discovered asteroid #1943 Anteros.

N Chernykh discovered asteroids #2293 Guernica, #2388 Gase, #2508 Alupka, #2646 Abetti, #2792 Ponomarev, #2966 and #3100.

E Bowell discovered asteroid #2796 Kron; and Felix Aguilar Observatory discovered asteroid #3633.

Died, Eduard Martin Fischel, rocket engineer, German expert in guided missiles during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the US after the war

ESA's Giotto flew within 596 km of the nucleus of Comet Halley and returned close-up images.

ESA's Giotto, launched 2 July 1985, was designed to study Comet P/Halley. The major objectives of the mission were to: (1) obtain color photographs of the nucleus; (2) determine the elemental and isotopic composition of volatile components in the cometary coma, particularly parent molecules; (3) characterize the physical and chemical processes that occur in the cometary atmosphere and ionosphere; (4) determine the elemental and isotopic composition of dust particles; (5) measure the total gas-production rate and dust flux and size/mass distribution and derive the dust-to-gas ratio; and, (6) investigate the macroscopic systems of plasma flows resulting from the cometary-solar wind interaction. The spacecraft encountered the comet on 13 March 1986, at a distance of 0.89 AU from the sun and 0.98 AU from the Earth and an angle of 107 degrees from the comet-sun line. During the encounter with Halley's comet, the spin axis was aligned with the relative velocity vector. The 1.5 m X-band dish antenna was inclined and despun in order to point at the Earth (44 degrees with respect to the velocity vector). The goal was to come within 500 km of Halley's comet at closest encounter; the actual closest approach was measured at 596 km.

The scientific payload was comprised of ten hardware experiments: a narrow-angle camera, three mass spectrometers for neutrals, ions and dust, various dust detectors, a photopolarimeter and a set of plasma experiments. All experiments performed well and returned a wealth of new scientific results. Fourteen seconds before closest approach, Giotto was hit by a `large' dust particle. The impact caused an angular momentum vector shift of 0.9 degrees in the spacecraft, which performed a nutation around the new axis with a period of 16 seconds and an amplitude of 0.9 degrees; thus, the maximum deviation from the desired attitude was 1.8 degrees. Scientific data were received intermittently for the next 32 minutes. Some experiment sensors suffered damage during this 32 minute interval. Other experiments (the camera baffle and deflecting mirror, the dust detector sensors on the front sheet of the bumper shield, and most experiment apertures) were exposed to dust particles regardless of the accident and also suffered damage. Many of the sensors survived the encounter with little or no damage. Questionable or partially damaged sensors included the camera (later proved to not be functional) and one of the plasma analyzers (RPA). Inoperable experiments included the neutral and ion mass spectrometers and one sensor each on the dust detector and the other plasma analyzer (JPA).

During the Giotto extended mission, the spacecraft flew by the Earth on 2 July 1990 at a distance of 16,300 km at 10:01:18 UTC. This was the first encounter of Earth by a spacecraft coming from deep space, during which observations were made of the Earth's magnetic field and energetic particles. Giotto obtained a gravitational assist from the flyby, and successfully encountered Comet P/Grigg-Skjellerup on 10 July 1992. Its closest approach was 200 km at a relative velocity of 13.99 km/s. The heliocentric distance of the spacecraft was 1.01 AU, and the geocentric distance, 1.43 AU at the time of the encounter. The payload was switched on in the evening of 9 July. Eight experiments were operated and provided data. The Johnstone Plasma Analyser detected the first presence of cometary ions 600,000 km from the nucleus at 12 hours before the closest approach. The Dust Impact Detectors reported the first impact of a fairly large particle at 15:30:56. Bow shocks/waves and acceleration regions were also detected.

On 23 July 1992 Giotto operations were officially terminated after completion of final orbit adjustments and configuration of the spacecraft for its third hibernation. Only 1 to 7 kg of fuel is left on board, insufficient for any extensive future maneuvers. Giotto flew by the Earth on 1 July 1999 at a closest approach of about 219,000 km at approximately 02:40 UT (10:40 p.m. EDT, 30 June).

Composite Image of Halley's Nucleus
Photo: MPAE, courtesy Dr H.U. Keller

1986 12:39:00 GMT
USSR Soyuz T-15 was launched to carry cosmonauts Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyov to the Mir space station, and to the Salyut 7 complex.

1989 09:57:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched STS 29 (Discovery 8, 28th Shuttle mission) to deploy the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-4 (TDRS-D) satellite. It was the first time the countdown was done by a woman.

STS 29 was originally scheduled to be launched 18 February 1989, but was delayed to replace suspect liquid oxygen turbopumps on Discovery's three main engines, and a faulty master events controller. The launch on 13 March 1989 was then delayed almost two hours by ground fog and high winds aloft.

The primary payload for the flight, Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-4 (TDRS-4) attached to an Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), became the third TDRS deployed. After deployment, the IUS propelled the satellite to its geosynchronous orbit.

Secondary payloads on STS 29 were: Orbiter Experiments Autonomous Supporting Instrumentation System-1 (OASIS-1); Space Station Heat Pipe Advanced Radiator Experiment (SHARE); Protein Crystal Growth (PCG); Chromosomes and Plant Cell Division (CHROMEX); two Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) experiments; and an Air Force experiment using the orbiter as a calibration target for a ground-based experiment for the Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) in Hawaii. The crew also photographed the Earth with a hand-held IMAX camera.

STS 29 ended on 18 March 1989 when Discovery landed on revolution 80 on Runway 22, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Rollout distance: 9,339 feet. Rollout time: 53 seconds. Launch weight: 256,357 pounds. Landing weight: 194,789 pounds. Orbit altitude: 184 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.5 degrees. Mission duration: four days, 23 hours, 38 minutes, 50 seconds. Miles traveled: 2 million. The orbiter was returned to KSC 24 March 1989.

The flight crew for STS 29 was: Michael L. Coats, Commander; John E. Blaha, Pilot; James P. Bagian, Mission Specialist 1; James F. Buchli, Mission Specialist 2; Robert C. Springer, Mission Specialist 3.

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

Please help support our efforts by shopping from our sponsors.

This newsletter and its contents are
Copyright © 2006-2017 by The L5 Development Group.  All rights reserved.
 - Publication, in part or in whole, requires previous written permission.
 - Academic or personal-use citations must refer to
   as their source.
Thank you for your cooperation.