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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 April 15

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Born, Leonardo da Vinci, Italian Renaissance architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, geometer, astronomer, painter

Born, Leonhard Euler, Swiss mathematician, physicist

Died, Peder [Nielsen] Horrebow, Danish astronomer

Born, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, astronomer (double stars)

N R Pogson discovered asteroid #43 Ariadne.

Born, Johannes Stark, German physicist (Stark effect, Nobel 1919 "for his discovery of the Doppler effect in canal rays and the splitting of spectral lines in electric fields")

J Palisa discovered asteroid #275 Sapientia.

The first car race in U.S. history, a 50 mile event staged by the Automobile Club of America, was won by an electric car in just over 2 hours.

A Massinger discovered asteroids #731 Sorga and #732 Tjilaki.

Born, Georgi Timofeyevich Beregovoy (at Fyodorovka, Poltava Oblast, Ukrainian SSR), Soviet cosmonaut (Soyuz 3) (deceased)

A flash of light was observed in the crater Plato on the Moon.

Born, Marsha S. Ivins (at Baltimore, Maryland, USA), NASA astronaut (STS 32, STS 46, STS 62, STS 81, STS 98)

Marsha S. Ivins (April 15, 1951 - ) has been employed at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center since July 1974, and until 1980, was assigned as an engineer, working on orbiter displays and controls and man machine engineering. Her major assignment in 1978 was to participate in development of the Orbiter Head-Up Display (HUD). In 1980 she was assigned as a flight engineer on the Shuttle Training Aircraft (Aircraft Operations) and a co-pilot in the NASA administrative aircraft (Gulfstream-1).

A veteran of five space flights, (STS-32 in 1990, STS-46 in 1992, STS-62 in 1994, STS-81 in 1997, and STS-98 in 2001), Ms. Ivins has logged over 1,318 hours in space.

Ms. Ivins was assigned to the Astronaut Office, Space Station/Shuttle Branches for crew equipment, habitability and stowage, head of the Exploration Branch of the Astronaut office, and head of the Operations Advisory Group (OAG) providing direct support to the Agency's Space Operations and Exploration Directorates on operational issues during development of new space vehicles. She departed NASA on 31 December 2010.

Astronaut Marsha Ivins, NASA photo

Born, Gregory J. Harbaugh (at Cleveland, Ohio, USA), NASA astronaut (STS 39, STS 54, STS 71, STS 82)

Astronaut Gregory Harbaugh, NASA photo

The US House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration opened hearings leading to formation of NASA to conduct the US space program.

1960 15:06:45 GMT
USSR launched Luna 1960A, an unsuccessful attempt to repeat Luna 3's feat of photographing the far side of the Moon.

Luna E-3 No.1, originally identified by NASA as Luna 1960A, was launched 15 April 1960 as an attempt to duplicate the Luna 3 achievement of photographing the far side of the Moon, with the goal of passing closer to the Lunar surface with higher resolution cameras. A premature cutoff of the stage 2 engine of the SL-3/A-1 launcher due to the propellant tank only being half filled caused the spacecraft to fail to reach Earth orbit.

1968 09:34:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 213, which successfully docked automatically with Cosmos 212, launched the day before.

Cosmos 213, launched 15 April 1968, was one of a series of Soviet Earth satellites whose purpose was to study outer space, the upper layers of the atmosphere, and the Earth. Scientific data and measurements were relayed to Earth by multichannel telemetry systems equipped with space-borne memory units. Cosmos 212 and Cosmos 213 automatically docked in orbit on 15 April 1968. Both satellites later landed on Soviet territory.

USSR reportedly launched Luna 1969B, tentatively identified as an attempted Lunar sample return by outside observers; however, the Proton booster failed at launch.

Luna 1969B was tentatively identified as an attempted Lunar sample return. The sample return apparatus, or Moonscooper, consisted of a descent stage with a 3.96 m diameter base containing retro-rockets, instrumentation and fuel tanks for landing as well as a robot arm. On top of this was a cylindrically-shaped instrumentation unit. An ascent stage was on top of this, consisting of ascent rockets and a sphere-shaped sample return compartment. The compartment had a hatch into which the robot arm could place Lunar samples. The entire assembly was 3.96 m high and weighed 1880 kg. The launch on a Proton booster, on 15 April 1969, failed for reasons unknown outside of the Soviet space program.

According to the Wikipedia page at, when details of the Soviet Luna program were revealed, there was no record of a Luna spacecraft on this date. Of note is the fact Wikipedia does not say there were no launches on this date, but rather that there were no Luna spacecraft launches.

1970 00:21:00 GMT
NASA's Apollo 13 reached an altitude of 400,172 km (248,655 miles), the furthest distance humans have ever been from Earth (2016).

Apollo 13 (AS 508) consisted of the Command and Service Module (CSM) "Odyssey" and the Lunar Module (LM) "Aquarius." The flight was launched on 11 April 1970, intended to be the third mission to carry humans to the surface of the Moon, but an explosion of one of the oxygen tanks and resulting damage to other systems resulted in the mission being aborted before the planned Lunar landing could take place. The crew, commander James A. Lovell, Jr., Command Module pilot John L. Swigert, Jr., and Lunar Module pilot Fred W. Haise Jr., were returned safely to Earth on 17 April 1970.

The purposes of the Apollo 13 mission were (1) to explore the hilly upland Fra Mauro region of the Moon, (2) to perform selenological inspection, survey, and sampling of material in the Fra Mauro formation, (3) to deploy and activate an Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP), (4) to further develop man's capability to work in the Lunar environment, and (5) to obtain photographs of candidate Lunar exploration sites. These goals were to be carried out from a near-circular Lunar orbit and on the Lunar surface at 3 deg S latitude, 17 deg W longitude. Although the planned mission objectives were not realized, a limited amount of photographic data was obtained. Lovell was a Navy captain on his fourth spaceflight (he'd flown previously on Gemini 7, Gemini 12, and Apollo 8), Haise and Swigert were both civilians on their first spaceflights.

Apollo 13 was launched at 19:13:00 UT (02:13:00 p.m. EST) from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. During the second stage boost, the center engine of the S-II stage cut off 132 seconds early, causing the remaining four engines to burn 34 seconds longer than normal. The velocity after the S-II burn was still lower than planned by 68 m/sec, so the S-IVB orbital insertion burn at 19:25:40 was 9 seconds longer than planned. Translunar injection took place at 21:54:47 UT, CSM/S-IVB separation at 22:19:39 UT, and CSM-LM docking at 22:32:09 UT. After separation from the Apollo spacecraft, the S-IVB auxilliary propulsive system burned at 01:13 UT on 12 April for 217 seconds to put the S-IVB into a Lunar impact trajectory. (It impacted the Lunar surface on 14 April 1970.) The Apollo astronauts made a 3.4 second mid-course correction burn at 01:27 UT on 13 April.

A television broadcast was made from Apollo 13 from 02:24 UT to 02:59 UT on 14 April and a few minutes later, at 03:06:18 UT, Jack Swigert turned the fans on to stir oxygen tanks 1 and 2 in the Service Module. Wires which had been damaged during pre-flight testing in the Beech-built oxygen tank number 2 shorted, and the Teflon insulation caught fire. The fire spread within the tank, raising the pressure until at 3:07:53 UT on 14 April (10:07:53 EST 13 April; 55:54:53 mission elapsed time), oxygen tank number 2 exploded, damaging oxygen tank number 1 and the interior of the Service Module, and blowing off the bay number 4 cover. With the oxygen stores depleted, the Command Module was unusable, the mission had to be aborted, and the crew transferred to the Lunar Module and powered down the Command Module.

At 08:43 UT, a mid-course maneuver (11.6 m/s delta V) was performed using the Lunar Module descent propulsion system (LMDPS) to place the spacecraft on a free-return trajectory which would take it around the Moon on a path that took the astronauts farther from Earth than any humans had ever been before and return it to Earth, targeted at the Indian Ocean at 03:13 UT 18 April. After rounding the Moon, another LMDPS burn at 02:40:39 UT 15 April for 263.4 seconds produced a differential velocity of 262 m/s, and shortened the estimated return time to 18:06 UT 17 April, with splashdown in the mid-Pacific. To conserve power and other consumables, the Lunar Module was powered down except for environmental control, communications, and telemetry, and passive thermal control was established. At 04:32 UT on 16 April, a 15 second LMDPS burn at 10% throttle produced a 2.3 m/s velocity decrease and raised the entry flight path angle to -6.52 degrees. Following this, the crew partially powered up the CSM. On 17 April at 12:53 UT, a 22.4 second LMDPS burn put the flight path entry angle at -6.49 degrees.

The Service Module, which had been kept attached to the Command Module to protect the heat shield, was jettisoned on 17 April at 13:15:06 UT, and the crew took photographs of the damage. The Command Module was powered up, and the Lunar Module was jettisoned at 16:43:02 UT. Any parts of the Lunar Module which survived atmospheric re-entry, including the SNAP-27 generator, planned to power the ALSEP apparatus on the Lunar surface and containing 3.9 kg of plutonium, fell into the Pacific Ocean northeast of New Zealand. Apollo 13 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on 17 April 1970 at 18:07:41 UT (1:07:41 p.m. EST) after a mission elapsed time of 142 hours, 54 minutes, 41 seconds. The splashdown point was 21 deg 38 min S, 165 deg 22 min W, southeast of American Samoa and 6.5 km (4 miles) from the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima.

On 13 June 1970, the Apollo 13 Accident Review Board published the results of its investigation. The explosion was found to have been caused by a bare-wire heating element within the fuel cell liquid oxygen tank. The element itself had burned off its insulation through a combination of unimplemented specification changes early in the program, coupled with unauthorized procedures during ground testing.

The Apollo 13 Command Module "Odyssey" is now on display at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas.

1970 02:40:39 GMT
A second mid-course maneuver was executed using NASA's Apollo 13 Lunar Module engines to shorten the return trip to Earth by approximately 9 hours to help ensure the crew's safe return.
see above

C Torres discovered asteroid #2784 Domeyko.

E Bowell discovered asteroid #3041 Webb.

A Mrkos discovered asteroid #3257.

E Bowell discovered asteroids #3527 McCord and #3663.

A explosion approximately equal to 5000 tons of TNT occurred above Indonesia shortly before noon, believed to have been caused by a meteor entering the atmosphere.

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