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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 16

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Born, Caroline Herschel, Germany, the first modern woman astronomer

Caroline Lucretia Herschel (16 March 1750 - 9 January 1848) was a German-born English astronomer. She worked with her brother Sir William Herschel. Her main contribution to astronomy was the discovery of some new comets. In particular, the periodic comet 35P/Herschel-Rigollet bears her name.

Born, Georg Simon Ohm, German physicist, discoverer of Ohm's law (V=I/R)

Born, Andrew S Hallidie, inventor (cable car)

Died, Nathaniel Bowditch, American mathematician, astronomer, navigation expert, author, inventor (marine sextant)

M Wolf discovered asteroid #401 Ottilia.

Born, Rudi Hoelker, German rocket engineer, member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after World War II, Deputy Director, Aeroballistics Division, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (1960)

Born, Frederick Reines, American physicist (Nobel 1995 with Martin Perl "for the detection of the neutrino")

Robert Goddard launched the world's first liquid-fuel rocket, which flew 184 feet (56 meters) in 2.5 seconds, at Auburn, Massachusetts. This event is considered the "Kitty Hawk" of rocketry.

Born, Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov (at Moscow, Russian SFSR), Soviet cosmonaut (Voshkod I, Soyuz 1), the first human to die during a space mission (Soyuz 1)

A Schwassmann discovered asteroid #1303 Luthera.

C W Tombaugh discovered asteroid #3754.

Born, R. Walter M. Cunningham (at Creston, Iowa, USA), Colonel USMC, NASA astronaut (Apollo 7)

Astronaut Walter Cunningham, NASA photo

L Boyer discovered asteroids #1380 Volodia and #1392 Pierre.

The Convair CV-240 made its maiden flight, the first twin-engine pressurized airliner.

Born, Richard Stallman, Free Software activist, founder of GNU

The first launch of a Titan 2 rocket was performed, the booster later used for launching NASA's Gemini spacecraft.

USSR launched the first satellite given a Cosmos designation. Cosmos 1 (aka Sputnik 11) employed radio methods to study the structure of the ionosphere.

1966 16:41:02 GMT
NASA launched Gemini 8 carrying Neil Armstrong and David Scott for the first manual docking in space.

Gemini 8, launched 16 March 1966, was the sixth crewed Earth orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, manned by astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott. The primary mission objectives were to perform rendezvous and four docking tests with an Agena target vehicle, and to execute an ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) experiment. Other objectives included parking the Agena in a 410 km circular orbit, performing a rerendezvous with the Agena, conducting systems evaluations, evaluating the auxiliary tape memory unit, and demonstration of controlled reentry. Ten technological, medical, and scientific experiments were carried on board.

During the first six hours after launch, the spacecraft performed 9 maneuvers to rendezvous with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle (GATV), launched earlier the same day. The rendezvous phase ended at 4:39 p.m. EST, with the spacecraft 45 meters apart with zero relative motion. Stationkeeping and other maneuvers were performed for about half an hour, and then Gemini 8 moved in and docked with the GATV on the 5th revolution at 5:14 p.m. EST, the first docking ever to take place in space.

About 27 minutes after docking, at 5:41 p.m. EST, the combined vehicle began to go into a violent yaw and tumble. Armstrong disengaged the Gemini capsule from the GATV causing it to roll, pitch, and yaw even more rapidly than when it was connected to the GATV, approaching a rate of one revolution per minute. The astronauts fought to control the spacecraft for three minutes. Armstrong managed to deactivate the Orbit Atitude and Maneuver System (OAMS), and in a final attempt to counteract the violent tumbling all 16 reentry control system (RCS) thrusters were utilized to damp out the roll. This manuever succeeded in stabilizing the spacecraft at 6:06:30 p.m. EST, but ended up using 75% of the RCS fuel. It was then discovered that one of the 25-pound OAMS roll thrusters (thruster no. 8) on Gemini 8 had been firing continuously, causing the tumbling. Apparently it had short-circuited while being used to maneuver the Gemini-GATV combination and had stuck open.

Due to the premature use of the reentry control system, an immediate landing was required by Gemini safety rules, so the planned EVA and other activities were cancelled. Retrofire took place on the 7th revolution at 9:45:49 p.m. EST, just over 10 hours after launch, and the spacecraft splashed down in the western Pacific Ocean about 800 km west of Okinawa at 25.22 N, 136.00 E, 2 km from the target.

Gemini 8 launch preparations, NASA photo

T Gehrels discovered asteroid #2272.

NASA's Mariner 10 passed Mercury at a range of 203 miles (327 km), its closest approach, on the third encounter with the planet.

Mariner 10 was the seventh successful launch in the Mariner series, the first spacecraft to use the gravitational pull of one planet (Venus) to reach another (Mercury), and the first spacecraft mission to visit two planets. Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to visit Mercury. The spacecraft flew by Mercury three times in a retrograde heliocentric orbit and returned images and data on the planet. Mariner 10 returned the first-ever close-up images of Venus and Mercury. The primary scientific objectives of the mission were to measure Mercury's environment, atmosphere, surface, and body characteristics and to make similar investigations of Venus. Secondary objectives were to perform experiments in the interplanetary medium and to obtain experience with a dual-planet gravity-assist mission.

Mariner 10 was launched 3 November 1973 on a mission to explore Mercury and Venus. The television and ultraviolet experiments were trained on the comet Kohoutek while the spacecraft was en route to its destination. Using a near-ultraviolet filter, it produced photographs of the Venusian chevron clouds, and performed other atmospheric studies. Mariner 10 took 4,000 photos of Venus, which revealed a nearly round planet enveloped in smooth cloud layers. On 29 March and 21 September 1974, and 16 March 1975, Mariner 10 passed Mercury, and was able to map 40-45% of the planet. Its radiometer readings suggested Mercury has a nighttime temperatures of -297 degrees F (-183 degrees C) and maximum daytime temperatures of 368 F (187 C). The closest encounter with Mercury on the first pass was at 2047 UT on 29 March 1974 at a range of 436.5 miles (703 kilometers). Having looped around the Sun, Mariner 10 flew by Mercury again on 21 September 1974 at a range of 29,850 miles (48,069 kilometers), and photographed the sunlit side of the planet and the south polar region. The spacecraft used solar pressure on its solar panels and high-gain antenna for attitude control. A third and final encounter, the closest to Mercury, took place on 16 March 1975 at a range of 203 miles (327 kilometers). Contact with the spacecraft was terminated on 24 March 1975.

Mariner 10 (also known as Mariner Venus Mercury 1973) was placed in a parking orbit after launch for approximately 25 minutes, then placed in orbit around the Sun en route to Venus. The protective cover of the sunward-facing electrostatic analyzers did not open fully after launch, and these intruments, part of the Scanning Electrostatic Analyzer and Electron Spectrometer experiment, could not be used. It was also discovered that the heaters for the television cameras had failed, so the cameras were left on to prevent low temperatures from damaging the optics.

A trajectory correction maneuver was made 10 days after launch. Immediately following this manuever the star-tracker locked onto a bright flake of paint which had come off the spacecraft and lost lock on the guide star Canopus. An automated safety protocol recovered Canopus, but the problem of flaking paint recurred throughout the mission. The on-board computer also experienced unscheduled resets occasionally, which would neccesitate reconfiguring the clock sequence and subsystems. Periodic problems with the high-gain antenna also occurred during the cruise. In January 1974, Mariner 10 made ultraviolet observations of Comet Kohoutek and another mid-course correction was made on 21 January. The spacecraft passed Venus at 1701 UT on 5 February 1974 at a closest range of 5768 km, and returned the first close-up images of Venus. This also marked the first time a spacecraft used a gravity assist from one planet to help it reach another.

Enroute to Mercury an attitude control anomaly occurred for the second time, using up much of the attitude control gas. Some new procedures were used from that point on to orient the spacecraft, including Sun-line maneuvers and the use of solar wind on the solar panels to orient the spacecraft. Mariner 10 crossed the orbit of Mercury at 2046 UT on 29 March 1974, at a distance of about 704 km from the surface. A second encounter with Mercury, when more photographs were taken, occurred on 21 September 1974, at an altitude of 48,069 km. Unfortunately, the lighted hemisphere was almost the same as the first encounter, so a large portion of the planet remained unimaged. A third and last Mercury encounter at an altitude of 327 km, with additional photography of about 300 frames and magnetic field measurements occurred on 16 March 1975. Engineering tests were continued until 24 March 1975, when the supply of attitude-control gas was depleted and the mission was terminated.

Mariner 10 results showed a Hadley-type circulation existed in Venus' atmosphere and showed that Venus had at best a weak magnetic field, and the ionosphere interacted with the solar wind to form a bow shock. At Mercury, it was confirmed the planet had only a faint atmosphere of mostly helium, and an intensely cratered, dormant Moon-like surface was shown in the images. Mercury was shown to have a small magnetic field and a relatively large iron-rich core.

1978 11:19:00 GMT
USSR Soyuz 27 returned to Earth with cosmonauts Yuri Romanenko and Georgi Grechko aboard who had launched to the Salyut 6 space station on Soyuz 26.

C-I Lagerkvist discovered asteroids #2902 Westerlund and #3634; and L Brozek discovered asteroid #3386.

E Barr discovered asteroid #3445.

Died, Lawrence Hugh Aller, US astronomer (gaseous nebulae)

The predicted closest approach to Earth of Near-Earth object 1950 DA will occur, which might impact Earth. If a collision with the 1.1 km diameter asteroid occurs, it would cause an extinction event, destroying most life on the planet.

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