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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 30

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The brightest supernova in recorded history was first seen by Chinese and Egyptian observers, in the constellation Lupus near Centaurus. Although widely recorded in the rest of the world, there are no known surviving records of the event in Europe.

Born, Carl Friedrich Gauss, mathematician, astronomer, physicist

Died, John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, inventor (sandwich),_4th_Earl_of_Sandwich

Neujmin and Belyavskij discovered asteroids #752 Sulamitis and #753 Tiflis.

Born, Claude E. Shannon, the "father" of information theory which is used to design communication systems, and the founder of practical digital circuit design theory

Died, Bessie Cole[man], the first licensed black pilot, thrown from a spinning plane during aero-acrobatics performed before a large Jacksonville, Florida, audience. She had started a flying school, and was nicknamed "Brave Bessie" for her daring flights.

C Jackson discovered asteroids #1355 Magoeba and #1368 Numidia.

Born, Larry Niven, science fiction author

Born, Michael J. Smith (at Beaufort, North Carolina, USA), NASA astronaut (deceased, Challenger 10)

Michael John Smith (30 April 1945 - 28 January 1986) was an American astronaut, pilot of the Space Shuttle Challenger when it exploded because of booster failure on the STS 51-L mission. All seven crew members died.

Smith was selected for the astronaut program in May 1980. In addition to being pilot on the Challenger, he had been slated to pilot a future shuttle mission which had been scheduled for Fall of 1986.

Astronaut Michael J. Smith, NASA photo

NASA civilian pilot Joseph A. Walker flew flight 52 of the X-15 to an altitude of 75.194 km (246,700 feet, 46.7 miles) with a maximum speed of 5615 km/hr (3488 mph, Mach 4.94).

The USSR reportedly launched Luna 1966A, tentatively identified by NASA as a Lunar orbiter mission; the SL-6/A-2-e launcher failed to get the spacecraft to Earth orbit.

CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) announced the World Wide Web, an information access system it developed for disseminating scientific results across the Internet, would be free to everyone, placing the software in the public domain.

1996 04:31:00 GMT
The Dutch/Itallian Beppo-SAX (Satellite for X-Ray Astronomy) was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Bebbo-SAX, launched 30 April 1996 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, was the X-Ray Astronomy Satellite selected by the Italian National Space Plan for inclusion in the Science Plan. The mission objective was to perform spectroscopic and time variability studies of celestial X-ray sources in the energy band from 1 to 200 keV, including an all-sky monitoring investigation of transients in the 2-30 keV energy range. The payload included the following narrow-field detectors coaligned to a common pointing axis: (1) four X-ray imaging concentrators sensitive from 1 to 10 keV (one of them extending down to 0.1 keV), (2) one gas scintillation proportional counter sensitive from 3 to 12 keV, and (3) a sodium iodide scintillator crystal in phoswich configuration operating from 15 to 200 keV. At 90 degrees to the axis of the narrow field instruments is an array of three identical wide field camera units sensitive from 2 to 30 keV. The SAX mission payload and science program was under the responsibility of a consortium of Italian institutes together with institutes from Holland.

Died, Martin Schilling PhD, German rocket propulsion engineer, member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after World War II

Martin Schilling PhD (1 October 1911 - 30 April 2000) was a German rocket propulsion engineer at Peenemuende during World War II, and a member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after the war.

Schilling headed the effort to test and debug the V-2 engine production design after the death of Thiel in the August 1943 bombing raid at Peenemuende. The development could not be completed in time, and the complex prototype design went into production instead. After the war, Schilling was brought to the US under Project Paperclip, and as of January 1947, was working at Fort Bliss, Texas. He died from heart failure at a clinic in Burlington, Mass.

2015 15:26:00 EDT (GMT -4:00:00)
NASA's MESSENGER probe, having run out of propellant after four years in orbit around Mercury, crashed on the surface of the planet as predicted by APL mission controllers.

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.

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