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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 18

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

The first public bus service began operating, in Paris, started by Blaise Pascal with a royal monopoly.

Born, Rudolph C. K. Diesel, German engineer (compression combustion engine)

J. Palisa discovered asteroid #136 Austria.

M. Wolf discovered asteroid #328 Gudrun.

Born, Leon A. "Jake" "The Bullfrog" Swirbul, co-founder of Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation

Born, Vasili Vasilyevich Parin, Russian scientist, Director of IMBP 1965-1969, a leading space medicine specialist

M. Wolf discovered asteroid #592 Bathseba.

Einar Dessau of Denmark used a shortwave transmitter to communicate by voice with a government radio post in what is believed to have been the first broadcast by a 'ham' operator.

J. Palisa discovered asteroids #782 Montefiore and #783 Nora.

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroids #973 Aralia and #974 Lioba.

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #994 Otthild.

R. Suvanto discovered asteroid #1927 Suvanto; and y. Vaisala discovered asteroids #1421 Esperanto, #1723 Klemola and 2020 Ukko.

H. Alikoski discovered asteroid #1512 Oulu; and Y. Vaisala discovered asteroid #1696 Nurmela.

L. Oterma discovered asteroids #1679 Nevanlinna and #2640 Hallstrom.

Born, Christer Fuglesang (at Stockholm, Sweden), physicist, first Swedish citizen in space (STS 116, STS 128; over 26d 17.5h total time in spaceflight)

ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang. STS-116 Mission Specialist, NASA photo
Source: NASA biography

1961 16:49:00 GMT
The US launched LJ-5A (Little Joe), an unmanned test vehicle, for a maximum dynamic pressure abort test, and qualification of the launch escape system and structure. The objectives were not met, the escape rocket ignited early,

Little Joe 5A launch, NASA photo

1965 06:57:00 GMT
The USSR launched Voskhod 2 with a crew of 2 for performance and evaluation of EVA, and use of a manual reentry system. The EVA was successful; the crew was rescued after they overshot the landing area and landed in a snow-covered forest area.

Voskhod 2 was launched 18 March 1965, with two men on board, cosmonauts Pavel I. Belyayev, pilot, and Aleksey A. Leonov, co-pilot. The spacecraft was equipped with an extendable air lock that permitted Leonov's exit into space without having to evacuate the main cabin air. Leonov was the first human to perform an EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) in space. He donned a space suit, with his life support system in a back pack, and ventured outside the craft while Belyayev remained inside. Leonov began his spacewalk 90 minutes into the mission at the end of the first orbit. The EVA was recorded by an extended TV camera mounted on the spacecraft. Leonov also carried a handheld movie camera. The EVA lasted 20 minutes, during which Leonov reportedly experienced tension and euphoria. The flight of Voskhod 2 lasted for 26 hr, and 16 orbits were completed. A manually controlled reentry was performed because of a malfunction of the automatic orientation devices for the retrofire, and the spacecraft landed in a pine forest far north of the target area. After locating the spacecraft, one day was required to cut through the forest and bring the crew out on skis.

1965 08:34:51 GMT
USSR cosmonaut Alexei Leonov performed the first spacewalk, an EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) from Voskhod 2. His EVA lasted 20 minutes.
see above

Aleksei Leonov's spacewalk from Voskhod 2
Source: Wikipedia

Died, Hermann F. Beduerftig, German/American rocket engineer, Vortex cavity seal float, US Patent # US3194439 A

A Vostok rocket exploded on its launch pad during fueling operations at the then-secret Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia, killing 50.

H. Debehogne discovered asteroid #2814 Vieira.

Died, Harold Jeffreys, English mathematician, statistician, geophysicist, and astronomer (Theory of Probability)

1989 06:35:50 PST (GMT -8:00:00)
NASA's STS 29 (Discovery 8, 28th Shuttle mission) landed after deploying the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-4 (TDRS-D).

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.

1990 19:37:00 GMT
The Hagoromo probe went into Lunar orbit, making Japan the third country to orbit the Moon.

Died (natural causes), Robert Aitken Rushworth (at Camarillo, California, USA), Major General USAF, test pilot (X-15)

1994 08:09:41 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA's STS 62 (Columbia 16, 61st Shuttle mission) landed after carrying the USMP-2 and OAST-2 experiments to orbit, returning both to Earth.

STS 62 was launched 4 March 1994 after being postponed from 3 March at the T-11 hour mark because of predicted unfavorable weather. Because of high seas, the solid rocket booster recovery ships left port on launch day, and recovered the boosters and their parachutes on 6 March.

The primary payloads for the mission were the US Microgravity Payload-2 (USMP-2) and Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology-2 (OAST-2) experiments. USMP-2 included five experiments investigating materials processing and crystal growth in microgravity, while OAST-2 featured six experiments focusing on space technology and spaceflight. Both payloads were located in the payload bay, activated by the crew and operated by teams on the ground. USMP-2 experiments received emphasis at the beginning of the flight; later in mission, Columbia's orbit was lowered about 20 nautical miles to facilitate the OAST-2 experiments.

The crew also worked with experiments located both in the middeck and the payload bay. These included the Dexterous End Effector (DEE), a new magnetic end effector and grapple fixture design being tested for use on the remote manipulator system arm; Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet/A (SSBUV/A) and Limited Duration Space Environment Candidate Material Exposure (LDCE), all in the payload bay. Middeck experiments were Advanced Protein Crystal Growth; Physiological Systems Experiment (PSE); Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG); Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus (CGBA); Middeck 0-Gravity Dynamics Experiment (MODE); Bioreactor Demonstration Systems (BDS); Auroral Photography Experiment (APE-B). The Air Force Maui Optical Site Calibration Test (AMOS) required no onboard hardware.

The crew also conducted a number of biomedical activities aimed at a better understanding and countering of the effects of prolonged spaceflight.

STS 62 ended 18 March 1994 when Columbia landed on revolution 224 on Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Rollout distance: 10,151 feet (3,094 meters). Rollout time: 55 seconds. Launch weight: 4,519,319 pounds. Orbit altitude: 163 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 39 degrees. Mission duration: 13 days, 23 hours, 16 minutes, 41 seconds. Miles traveled: 5.8 million.

The flight crew for STS 62 was: John H. Casper, Commander; Andrew M. Allen, Pilot; Pierre J. Thuot, Mission Specialist 1; Charles D. Gemar, Mission Specialist 2; Marsha S. Ivins, Mission Specialist 3.

1995 08:01:00 GMT
Japan launched their Space Flyer Unit (SFU) from Tanegashima Space Center on an H-II rocket for a 10 month mission in space.

Japan launched their Space Flyer Unit (SFU) 18 March 1995 aboard an H-2 rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center. The satellite was plucked from orbit by NASA's STS 72 crew on 13 January 1996, completing a 10 month scientific mission involving almost a dozen experiments ranging from materials science to biological studies. Both solar arrays on the SFU had to be jettisoned prior to retrieval when sensors indicated improper latching following their retraction.

See also NSSDCA Master Catalog

1995 13:47:01 PST (GMT -8:00:00)
NASA's STS 67 (Endeavour 8, 68th Shuttle mission) landed after flying 16 days with the ASTRO-2 ultraviolet telescope experiment, completing the longest Shuttle mission to date.

After a smooth countdown, STS 67's liftoff on 2 March 1995 was delayed for about a minute due to concerns about a heater system on the flash evaporator system. A backup heater was used, and the countdown proceeded.

Endeavour's long flight allowed sustained examination of the "hidden universe" of ultraviolet light. Astro-2 was the second flight of the three ultraviolet telescopes flown on Astro-1, mounted on an Instrument Pointing System on the Spacelab pallet in the cargo bay. The Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope (HUT), developed at The Johns Hopkins University, performed spectroscopy in the far ultraviolet region of the spectrum to identify physical processes and chemical composition of a celestial object. Improvements made to the HUT after Astro-1 made it three times more sensitive. The Wisconsin Ultraviolet Photo-Polarimeter Experiment (WUPPE), built at the University of Wisconsin, measured photometry and polarization of ultraviolet radiation from astronomical objects. The Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT), sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, took wide-field photographs of objects in ultraviolet light.

The STS 67 crew began activating Astro-2 only hours after liftoff for around-the-clock observations. Observational sequences were planned on a daily basis in two orbit (three hour) blocks, with one telescope assigned priority in each block. Astro-2 demonstrated the benefits of human interaction in on-orbit astronomy: Besides being able to position the orbiter most advantageously for observations, the crew members could also manually acquire the observation target if desired.

The Astro-2 experiment set aimed at exploring 23 different science programs, and all were achieved. HUT, considered a complement to the Hubble Space Telescope, completed more than 200 separate observations of more than 100 celestial objects. Investigators believed the telescope collected enough data to meet its primary mission objective: detecting the presence of intergalactic helium, a telltale remnant of the theoretical Big Bang explosion that is believed to have begun the universe. HUT, in conjunction with the Hubble telescope, took ultraviolet measurements of Jupiter's aurora; it also studied Jupiter's moon Io, and the Venusian and Martian atmospheres.

UIT cameras imaged about two dozen large spiral galaxies for inclusion in an atlas of such galaxies, and made the first ultraviolet images of the entire Moon. It also studied rare, hot stars that are 100 times as hot as the sun; elliptical galaxies and some of the faintest galaxies in the universe. Investigators were disappointed upon developing UIT film to learn that one of its two cameras had malfunctioned, undetected, on orbit, but an initial assessment showed that 80 percent of the science objectives would still be met.

WUPPE yielded a "treasure chest of data," according to its principal investigator, greatly expanding the database on ultraviolet spectropolarimetry. Targets for study of the interstellar medium included dust clouds in the Milky Way and a nearby galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. WUPPE also studied several types of stars, including Wolf-Rayet and Be stars. It also was able to capitalize on an opportunity to study three recently exploding novae.

STS-67 became the first advertised Shuttle mission connected to the Internet. Users of more than 200,000 computers from 59 countries logged on to the Astro-2 home page at Marshall Space Flight Center; more than 2.4 million requests were recorded during the mission, many answered by the crew on-orbit.

Other payloads carried by STS 67 were: Two Get Away Special canisters located in the payload bay held the Australian-built Endeavour telescope; also built to study the ultraviolet realm, it achieved one hundred percent of its pre-mission objectives. In-cabin payloads were Commercial Materials Dispersion Apparatus Instrumentation Technology Associates Experiments-03 (CMIX-03), which featured an array of biomedical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, cell biology, crystal growth and fluids science investigations, including one with potential for anti-colon cancer treatment. Protein Crystal Growth experiments included two setups in middeck lockers. Also flown was the Middeck Active Control Experiment (MACE) to study how disturbances caused by a payload impacts another payload attached to same support structure.

STS 67 ended on 18 March 1995 when Endeavor landed on revolution 262 on Runway 22, Edwards Air Force Base, California, after logging 6.9 million miles (11 million kilometers) in completing the longest Shuttle flight to date. Rollout distance: 9,975 feet (3,040 meters). Rollout time: 59 seconds. Orbit altitude: 187 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees. Mission duration: 16 days, 15 hours, eight minutes, 48 seconds. The orbiter was diverted to Edwards after landing opportunities in Florida were waved off on 17 March and earlier in the day on 18 March. The orbiter was returned to Florida on 27 March and taken to the Orbiter Processing Facility on 28 March 1995.

The flight crew for STS 67 was: Stephen S. Oswald, Commander; William G. Gregory, Pilot; Tamara E. Jernigan, Payload Commander; John M. Grunsfeld, Mission Specialist; Wendy B. Lawrence, Mission Specialist; Ronald A. Parise, Payload Specialist; Samuel T. Durrance, Payload Specialist.

2001 22:32:00 CST (GMT -6:00:00)
NASA's STS 102 (Discovery) undocked from the ISS as the International Space Station Flight 5A.1 mission drew to a close.

NASA launched Discovery as STS 102 on 8 March 2001 for the International Space Station Flight 5A.1 mission. Its primary objectives were to deliver the Expedition Two crew and the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the station.

Discovery spent almost 13 days in orbit, with nearly nine of those days docked to the International Space Station. In addition to the crew transfer and attaching the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, the shuttle crew transferred supplies and equipment to the station, and completed two space walks.

Space walkers spent a total of 15 hours and 26 minutes during two STS-102 excursions outside the docked complex. The first space walk was the longest in space shuttle history.

Mission Specialists Susan Helms and James Voss - who later became Expedition Two crewmembers - prepared the Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 for repositioning from the Unity Module's Earth-facing berth to its port-side berth to make room for the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module supplied by the Italian Space Agency.

Two days later, Mission Specialists Paul Richards and Andy Thomas spent 6.5 hours outside the International Space Station, continuing work to outfit the station and prepare for delivery of its robotic arm.

The Expedition One/Two crew transfer was a carefully choreographed process carried out one replacement at a time to ensure the three current members of the station crew would be able to return home, at any time during the switch, aboard the Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station. As a member of the Expedition Two crew formally transferred from the space shuttle to the station, that crew member's custom-designed seat liner, called an Individual Equipment Liner Kit, was installed in the Soyuz spacecraft docked to the station: Crew members officially join the station when they install their seat liners in the Soyuz. The seat liner of the replaced crew member was removed from the Soyuz, and he then became a member of the shuttle crew.

STS 102 ended 12 days, 19 hours, 49 minutes after launch, on 21 March 2001, when Discovery landed on Runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center following a surprising turnaround in the Florida weather: Entry Flight Director Wayne Hale made the decision to land at Kennedy just before midnight after cloudy skies and gusty winds due to a low pressure system that raced through the Shuttle Landing Facility area faster than expected the previous night had cleared. The shuttle had traveled a total of 5,357,762 statute miles during its flight.

The flight crew for STS 102 was: James D. Wetherbee, Commander; James M. Kelly, Pilot; Andrew S.W. Thomas, Mission Specialist 1; Paul W. Richards, Mission Specialist 2; Yury V. Usachev, Expedition 2 Commander (remained at ISS); James S. Voss, Expedition 2 Flight Engineer (remained at ISS); Susan J. Helms, Expedition 2 Flight Engineer (remained at ISS); William M. Shepherd, Expedition 1 Commander (returned from ISS); Sergei Krikalev, Expedition 1 Flight Engineer (returned from ISS); Yuri P. Gidzenko, Expedition 1 Soyuz Commander (returned from ISS).

2011 00:45:00 GMT
NASA's MESSENGER probe started a 15 minute burn for Mercury orbit insertion, an operation that required a delta-V of 0.862 km/s.

The Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission was designed to study the characteristics and environment of Mercury from orbit. Specifically, the scientific objectives of the mission were to characterize the chemical composition of Mercury's surface, the geologic history, the nature of the magnetic field, the size and state of the core, the volatile inventory at the poles, and the nature of Mercury's exosphere and magnetosphere over a nominal orbital mission of one Earth year.

MESSENGER launched into a parking orbit on 3 August 2004 on a Delta 7925H (a Delta II Heavy launch vehicle with nine strap-on solid-rocket boosters). The Delta booster second stage's second burn raised the orbit, then the PAM-D solid motor burned to put the probe on an escape trajectory into a 0.92 x 1.08 AU x 6.4 deg heliocentric orbit. The spacecraft was injected into solar orbit 57 minutes after launch. The solar panels were then deployed and the spacecraft began sending data on its status.

One year after launch, on 2 August 2005, MESSENGER flew by Earth at an altitude of 2347 km. On 12 December 2005 at 11:30 UT, MESSENGER fired its large thruster for 524 seconds, changing the spacecraft velocity by 316 m/s and putting it on course for its 24 October 2006 Venus flyby at an altitude of 2990 km. The second Venus flyby took place on 5 June 2007 at 23:08 UT (7:08 p.m. EDT) at an altitude of approximately 337 km. The first of three Mercury flybys, all at roughly 200 km altitude, occurred on 14 January 2008 at 19:04 :39 UT, and the second on 6 October 2008 at 08:40:22 UT. The third took place on 29 September 2009 at 21:54:58 UT at a distance of 228 km. There were also five deep space manuevers. Data collected during the Mercury flybys was used to help plan the scientific campaign during the orbital phase.

Mercury orbit insertion took place with a 15 minute burn starting at 00:45 UT on 18 March 2011 (8:45 p.m. 17 March EDT) requiring a delta-V of 0.862 km/s from the Aerojet 660N engine. Science observations began on April 4 at 20:40 UT (4:40 p.m. EDT). The nominal orbit had a periapsis of 200 km at 60 degrees N latitude, an apoapsis of 15,193 km, a period of 12 hours and an inclination of 80 degrees. The periapsis slowly rose due to solar perturbations to over 400 km at the end of 88 days (one Mercury year) at which point it was readjusted to a 200 km, 12 hour orbit via a two burn sequence.

Data was collected from orbit for one Earth year, the end of the primary mission was in March 2012. Extensions to the mission allowed the spacecraft to operate for an additional 3 years until the propellant necessary to maintain its orbit was exhausted. The MESSENGER spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury as planned on 30 April 2015 at 19:26 UT (3:26 p.m. EDT).

Global stereo image coverage at 250 m/pixel resolution was completed. The mission has also yielded global composition maps, a 3-D model of Mercury's magnetosphere, topographic profiles of the northern hemisphere, gravity field, altitude profiles of elemental species, and a characterization of the volatiles in permanently shadowed craters at the poles.

The MESSENGER spacecraft was a squat box (1.27 m x 1.42 m x 1.85 m) with a semi-cylindrical thermal shade (roughly 2.5 meters tall and 2 meters wide) for protection from the Sun and two solar panel wings extending radially about 6 meters from tip to tip. A 3.6 meter magnetometer boom also extended from the craft. The total mass of the spacecraft was 1093 kg, 607.8 kg of which was propellant and helium. The structure was primarily graphite-cyanate-ester (GrCE) composite and consisted of two vertical panels which supported two large fuel tanks, and two vertical panels which supported the oxidizer tank and plumbing panel. The four vertical panels made up the center column and were bolted at their aft ends to an aluminum adapter. A single top deck panel mounted the LVA (large velocity adjust) thruster, small thrusters, helium and auxiliary fuel tanks, star trackers and battery.

Main propulsion was via the 645-N, 317-s bipropellant LVA thruster, four 22-N monopropellant thrusters providing spacecraft steering during main thruster burns, and ten 4-N monopropellant thrusters used for attitude control. There was also a reaction-wheel attitude control system. Knowledge for attitude control was provided by star tracking cameras, an inertial measurement unit, and six solar sensors. Power was provided by the solar panels, which extended beyond the sunshade and were rotatable to balance panel temperature and power generation, and provided a nominal 450 W in Mercury orbit. The panels were 70% optical solar reflectors and 30% GaAs/Ge cells. The power was stored in a common-pressure-vessel nickel-hydrogen battery, with 11 vessels and 2 cells per vessel.

Communications were in the X-band, with downlink through two fixed phased-array antenna clusters, and uplink and downlink through medium- and low-gain antennas on the forward and aft sides of the spacecraft. Passive thermal control, primarily a fixed opaque ceramic cloth sunshade, was utilized to maintain operating temperatures near the Sun. Radiators were built into the structure and the orbit was optimized to minimize infrared and visible light heating of the spacecraft from the surface of Mercury. Multilayer insulation, low conductivity couplings, and heaters were also used to maintain temperatures within operating limits.

Five science instruments were mounted externally on the bottom deck of the main body: the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRNS), X-ray Spectrometer (XRS), Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA), and Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS). The Energetic Particle and Plasma Spectrometer (EPPS) was mounted on the side and top deck and the magnetometer (MAG) was at the end of the 3.6 m boom. Radio Science (RS) experiments used the existing communications system.

The highly successful orbital mission came to an end after more than four years in orbit around Mercury, as the spacecraft ran out of propellant and the force of solar gravity caused it to impact the surface of Mercury at 3:26 p.m. EDT on 30 April 2015.

More information about the spacecraft and its research results can be found on the MESSENGER Web site at John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.

Died, Alfred Merrill Worden (at Houston, Texas, USA), Colonel USAF, NASA astronaut (Apollo 15 Command Module pilot; nearly 12d 7.25h in spaceflight)

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