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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 July 20

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German astronomer Theodor Brorsen discovered Comet Brorsen-Metcalf which has an orbital period of approximately 70.52 years.

Born, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Brazilian aviation pioneer

Alberto Santos-Dumont (20 July 1873 - 23 July 1932) was a Brazilian aviation pioneer. He built and flew many balloons and the first practical dirigible. Among his extensive other accomplishments, his powered heavier-than-air aircraft 14 Bis was demonstrated in Paris, with a public record-breaking flight, on 23 October 1906. This well-documented event, a flight of 60 metres (197 ft) at a height of 2-3m before a large crowd of witnesses, was the first flight verified by the Aero-Club De France of a powered heavier-than-air machine in Europe, and the first public demonstration in the world of an aircraft taking off from an ordinary airstrip with a non-detachable landing gear and on its own power (self-propelled) and in calm weather, officially resolving the problem of getting a machine that is "heavier than air" to take off the ground by its own means.

Died, Guglielmo Marconi, inventor (radio, Nobel 1909 with F. Braun "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy")

Born, Vladimir Afanasiyevich Lyakhov (at Antratsit, Voroshilovgrad Oblast, Ukrainian SSR), Soviet cosmonaut (Salyut 6 EO-3, Salyut 7 EO-2, Mir EP-3, approx. 333.25 total days in space)

Work on construction of Site No.1 began at the Baikonour Cosmodrome, the main Soviet launch site.'s_Start

In the first launch of a rocket from a submerged platform, the USS George Washington fired a test version of the Polaris missle.

NASA Administrator James E. Webb announced the Mission Control Center for future manned space flights would be located at the Manned Space Center in Houston, to be operational in time for Gemini rendezvous flights in 1964 and later Apollo Lunar missions.

1964 10:53:00 GMT
NASA launched SERT-1 from Wallops Island, Virginia, on the first mission to utilize an ion engine for propulsion.

Launched 20 July 1964, SERT-1 (Space Electric Rocket Test) was a NASA probe used to test electrostatic ion thruster design. It was built by NASA's Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn). It carried two different types of electric propulsion engines, one of which failed to operate. The successful engine, an electron-bombardment ion engine ("Kaufman ion thruster") was run for a total of 31 minutes and 16 seconds. This was the first time an ion engine of any type was operated in space, and demonstrated that the neutralizer worked as predicted.

SERT-1's Program Manager, Raymond J. Rulis examining the spacecraft, NASA photo

1965 17:59:00 GMT
NASA and the USAF launched X-15A Boundary Layer Noise Test mission # 140 from above Edwards Air Force Base, California, in which Robert Rushworth achieved a maximum speed of 6051 kph (Mach 5.40) and a maximum altitude of 32.126 km.

1966 18:01:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
EVA Gemini 10-2 began in which astronaut Michael Collins retrieved the micrometeoroid collector from GATV-8: Collins lost his grip the first time, and tumbled head over heels at end of rhe umbilical around Gemini, but was successful on the second try.

Gemini 10 was the eighth manned Gemini Earth orbiting spacecraft, crewed by astronauts John Young and Michael Collins. Its primary purpose was to conduct rendezvous and docking tests with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle-10 (GATV-10). The mission plan also included a rendezvous with the Gemini 8 Agena target, two extravehicular activity (EVA) excursions, and performing 15 scientific, technological, and medical experiments. The scientific experiments were related to (1) zodiacal light, synoptic terrain, and synoptic weather photography, (2) micrometeorite collections, (3) UV astronomical camera, (4) ion wake measurements, and (5) meteoroid erosion.

Gemini 10 was launched 18 July 1966 from Complex 19 and inserted into a 159.9 x 268.9 km (86 x 145 nautical mile) elliptical orbit. At orbit insertion, Gemini 10 was very close to the nominal 1600 km (1000 mile) slant range behind GATV-10, which had been launched into a nearly circular orbit about 100 minutes earlier. Rendezvous with GATV-10 was achieved on the 4th revolution at 10:43 pm EST, and docking was achieved at 11:13:03 pm EST. A large out-of-plane error in the initial orbit required the Gemini to use 60% of its fuel for the rendezvous, over twice the planned amount. As a result, most of the mission plan was revised. To conserve fuel, Gemini 10 remained docked to GATV-10 for the next 39 hours, and used the GATV propulsion system for maneuvers; the planned docking practice runs were cancelled.

A 14-second burn of the GATV-10 primary propulsion system was used to raise the dual spacecraft apogee to 764 km. While the spacecraft were docked, a bending mode test was conducted to study spacecraft dynamics, and other experiments were performed. Another burn of GATV-10 at 3:58 pm EST on 19 July brought the spacecraft into the same orbit as GATV-8, which had been launched on 16 March for the Gemini 8 mission. At 4:44 pm EST, the Gemini cabin pressure was reduced to zero, and the hatch was opened. Collins stood up in his seat 3 minutes later and began photographing stellar UV radiation. Partway into the standup EVA, Young and Collins began to experience severe eye irritation from an unidentified source, and Young ordered termination of the EVA. Collins sat down and the hatch was closed at 5:33 pm EST, and a high oxygen flow rate was used to purge the environmental control system.

Gemini 10 separated from GATV-10 at 2:00 pm EST on 20 July. A series of manuevers using its own thrusters brought Gemini 10 within about 15 meters of GATV-8. At 6:01 pm EST (48:41 ground elapsed time), the cabin was evacuated and the hatch opened for Collins to begin his second EVA. Collins left the spacecraft 6 minutes later, attached to an umbilical cord, and travelled to the GATV-8. Despite difficulties due to lack of handholds on the target vehicle (Collins lost his grip the first time, and tumbled head over heels at end of the umbilical around Gemini), Collins removed the fairing and retrieved the micrometeoroid detection equipment (on the second try). During the EVA, he also lost his camera, and retrieved the micrometeorite experiment mounted on the Gemini 10 spacecraft, but the latter apparently floated out of the hatch and was lost when Collins reentered the capsule. The EVA was limited to 25 minutes of outside activity due to lack of fuel. Collins reentered the capsule at 6:32 pm EST and the hatch was closed at 6:40. The hatch was reopened again at 7:53 pm EST to jettison 12 items before reentry. After about three hours of station keeping, Gemini 10 moved away from GATV-8. At 8:59 pm EST, the crew performed an anomaly adjust maneuver to minimize reentry dispersions resulting from the retrofire maneuver.

Retrorocket ignition took place during the 43rd revolution on 21 July at 3:30:50 pm EST, and splashdown occurred at 4:07:05 pm EST in the western Atlantic at 26.74 N, 71.95 W, 875 km east of Cape Kennedy and 6.3 km from the target point. The crew was picked up by helicopter and taken to the recovery ship USS Guadalcanal at 4:34 pm EST, and the spacecraft was aboard at 5:01 pm. Total mission elapsed time was 70:46:39. Of the primary objectives, only the docking practice was not accomplished due to lack of fuel, although the fuel budget also resulted in small revisions in some of the other objectives. The first rendezvous and docking maneuvers were successfully accomplished. All experiments obtained data except for the Gemini 10 micrometeorite collector, which was lost by floating out of the spacecraft. The landmark contrast measurement experiment was deleted due to lack of fuel. Gemini 10 demonstrated the ability of an astronaut to travel to another spacecraft and back, and the use of powered, fueled satellite to provide propulsion for a docked spacecraft.

1967 17:11:00 GMT
NASA and the USAF launched X-15A HT/Guidance/Telemetry Test mission # 185 in which William Dana achieved a maximum speed of 5943 kph (Mach 5.44) and reached a maximum altitude of 25.695 km.

1969 20:17:40 GMT
NASA's Apollo 11 Lunar Module "Eagle" landed on the Moon, which astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin then renamed "Tranquility Base" in their report of the successful touch-down.

Apollo 11 (AS-506) was the first mission in which humans walked on the Lunar surface and returned to Earth: On 20 July 1969, two astronauts (Apollo 11 Commander Neil A. Armstrong and "Eagle" Lunar Module (LM) pilot Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr.) landed in Mare Tranquilitatis (the Sea of Tranquility) on the Moon in the LM while the "Columbia" Command and Service Module (CSM), with CM pilot Michael Collins, continued in Lunar orbit. During their stay on the Moon, the astronauts set up scientific experiments, took photographs, and collected Lunar samples. The LM took off from the Moon on 21 July and the astronauts returned to Earth on 24 July.

Apollo 11, the fifth manned Apollo mission, was launched into Earth orbit on 16 July 1969 from pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on a Saturn V. After 1.5 Earth orbits, the S-IVB stage was re-ignited at 16:16:16 UT for the 5 minute 48 second translunar injection burn, putting the spacecraft on course for the Moon. The CSM separated from the S-IVB stage containing the LM 33 minutes later, turned around and docked with the LM at 16:56:03 UT. About an hour and 15 minutes later, the S-IVB stage was injected into heliocentric orbit. On 17 July, a three second mid-course correction burn of the main engine was performed. During the translunar coast, at 4:40 pm EDT on 18 July, the crew began a 96 minute color television transmission of the CSM and LM interiors, CSM exterior, the Earth, probe and drogue removal, spacecraft tunnel hatch opening, food preparation, and LM housekeeping. Lunar orbit insertion was achieved on 19 July at 17:21:50 UT by a retrograde firing of the main engine for 357.5 seconds while the spacecraft was behind the Moon and out of contact with Earth, and a 17 second burn later circularized the orbit. During the second Lunar orbit, a live color telecast of the Lunar surface was made. At 13:50 UT on 20 July, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the LM for the final systems checkout. At 18:11:53, the LM and CSM separated, and after a visual inspection by Collins, the LM descent engine was fired for 30 seconds at 19:08 UT, putting the craft into a descent orbit with a closest approach 14.5 km above the Moon's surface. At 20:05, the LM descent engine was fired for 756.3 seconds, and the final descent to the Lunar surface began.

The first Apollo landing site, in the southern Sea of Tranquility about 20 km (12 mi) southwest of the crater Sabine D, was selected in part because it had been characterized as relatively flat and smooth by the automated Ranger 8 and Surveyor 5 landers, as well as by Lunar Orbiter mapping spacecraft, and therefore unlikely to present major landing or extra-vehicular activity (EVA) challenges.

Armstrong and Aldrin found they were "running long" - Eagle was 4 seconds further along its descent trajectory than planned, and would land miles west of the intended site. The LM navigation and guidance computer reported several "program alarms" as it guided the LM's descent which tore the crew's attention from the scene outside as the descent proceeded. A young controller named Steve Bales at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, was able to tell the flight director it was safe to continue the descent in spite of the alarms (for which he later received the Medal of Freedom). Once they were able to return their attention to the view outside, the astronauts saw that their computer was guiding them toward a landing site full of large rocks scattered around a large crater. Armstrong took manual control of the Lunar module, and guided it to a landing with less than 30 seconds worth of fuel left. The program alarms were "executive overflows" indicating the computer could not finish its work in the time allotted. The cause was later determined to be the LM rendezvous radar was left on during the descent, causing the computer to spend unplanned time servicing the unused radar.

The LM landed at 20:17:40 UT (4:17:40 pm EDT) in Mare Tranquilitatis (the Sea of Tranquility), with Armstrong reporting, "Houston, Tranquility Base here - the Eagle has landed." Armstrong stepped onto the Lunar surface at 02:56:15 UT on 21 July (10:56:15 pm July 20 EDT) stating, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin followed him onto the Lunar surface 19 minutes later. The astronauts unveiled a plaque mounted on a strut of the LM and read to a worldwide TV audience, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the Moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind." After raising the American flag and talking to President Nixon by radiotelephone, the astronauts deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package (EASEP) and other instruments, took photographs, and collected 21.7 kg of Lunar rock and soil, traversing a total distance of about 250 meters. Despite some technical and weather difficulties, ghostly black and white images of the entire first Lunar EVA were received, primarily through the radio telescope station at the Parkes Observatory in Australia, and were immediately broadcast live to at least 600 million people on Earth. The EVA ended at 5:11:13 UT when Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the LM and closed the hatch.

The LM lifted off from the Moon at 17:54:01 UT on 21 July after 21 hours, 36 minutes on the Lunar surface. After docking with the CSM at 21:34:00 UT, the crew, with the Lunar samples and film, transferred to the CSM. The LM was jettisoned into Lunar orbit at 00:01:01 UT on 22 July. The crew then rested and prepared for the return trip to Earth. Transearth injection began at 04:54:42 UT on 22 July with a 2.5 minute firing of the CSM main engine. Following a midcourse correction at 21:01 UT, an 18 minute color television transmission was made, in which the astronauts demonstrated the weightlessness of food and water, and showed shots of the Earth and Moon. The CM separated from the SM at 16:21:13 UT on 24 July as the spacecraft neared Earth on its return. Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on 24 July 1969 at 16:50:35 UT (12:50:35 pm EDT) after a mission elapsed time of 195 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds. Splashdown took place at 13 deg 19 min N, 169 deg 9 min W, 400 miles SSW of Wake Island and 24 km (15 mi) from the recovery ship USS Hornet. Following decontamination procedures at the splashdown point, the astronauts were carried by helicopter to the Hornet where they entered a mobile quarantine facility to begin a period of observation under strict quarantine conditions. The CM was also recovered and removed to the quarantine facility. Sample containers and film were flown to Houston.

All primary mission objectives and all detailed test objectives of Apollo 11 were met, and all crew members remained in good health. The performance of the spacecraft was excellent throughout the mission. The primary mission goal of landing astronauts on the Moon and returning them to Earth was achieved. Armstrong was a civilian on his second spaceflight (he'd previously flown on Gemini 8), Aldrin was a USAF Colonel on his second spaceflight (Gemini 12), Collins was a USAF Lt. Colonel also on his second flight (Gemini 10). The backup crew for the mission was Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and William Anders. The Apollo 11 Command Module is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

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 the six landing missions walked on the Moon (Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Charles Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charles Duke, Gene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt), the only humans to date (2015) to have set foot on another planetary body beyond Earth.

NASA LRO photo of the Apollo 11 moon landing site

1976 11:56:06 GMT
NASA's Viking 1 Lander touched down on Mars on the western slope of Chryse Planitia (the Plains of Gold) at 22.3 deg N latitude, 48 deg longitude, and returned the first-ever close-ups of the Martian surface.

Following its launch on 20 August 1975 and a 10 month cruise to Mars, the Viking 1 Orbiter began returning global images of Mars about 5 days before orbit insertion. It was inserted into Mars orbit on 19 June 1976 and trimmed to a 1513 x 33,000 km, 24.66 hr site certification orbit on 21 June. Imaging of candidate sites was begun and the landing site was selected based on these pictures. The lander separated from the orbiter on 20 July 08:51 UT and landed at Chryse Planitia at 11:56:06 UT. (The landing had been planned for the US Bicentennial on July 4, but was delayed until a suitable landing site was located.) The lander collected the first-ever samples taken from the surface Mars with its robot arm on 28 July. The orbiter primary mission ended at the beginning of solar conjunction on 5 November 1976. The extended mission commenced on 14 December 1976 after solar conjunction. Operations included close approaches to Phobos in February 1977. The periapsis was reduced to 300 km on 11 March 1977. Minor orbit adjustments were done occasionally over the course of the mission, primarily to change the walk rate - the rate at which the planetocentric longitude changed with each orbit, and the periapsis was raised to 357 km on 20 July 1979. On 7 August 1980, the Viking 1 Orbiter was running low on attitude control gas and its orbit was raised from 357 x 33943 km to 320 x 56000 km to prevent impact with Mars and possible contamination until the year 2019. Orbital operations were terminated on 17 August 1980 after 1485 orbits, and communications with the lander were terminated on 13 November 1982.

Viking 1's first close-up picture of Mars, NASA photo

1983 08:00:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 1483 from Plesetsk, a medium resolution photo surveillance satellite that also performed Earth resources tasks, investigating natural resources in the interests of the USSR's national economy, and for international cooperation.

1995 03:04:41 GMT
Russia launched the Progress M-28 unmanned resupply vessel from Baikonur to the Mir space station.

Russia launched the Progress M-28 unmanned resupply vessel to the Mir space station on 20 July 1995. It docked with Mir's front port on 22 Jul 1995 04:39:37 GMT, undocked on 4 Sep 1995 05:09:53 GMT, and was destroyed in reentry on 4 Sep 1995 08:58:55 GMT. Total free-flight time: 2.22 days. Total docked time: 44.02 days.

NASA's Liberty Bell 7 capsule was retrieved from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean where it had sunk 38 years earlier during the post-flight recovery effort.

Mercury Redstone 4 (MR-4, commonly known as "Liberty Bell 7"), launched 21 July 1961, was the second flight of an American rocket with a human on board (Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom) and NASA's last suborbital manned flight. Its objectives were to: (1) familiarize man with a brief but complete space flight experience, including the lift-off, powered flight, weightless flight (approximately 5 minutes), re-entry, and landing; (2) evaluate man's ability to perform as a functional unit during space flight by demonstrating manual control of spacecraft attitude before, during, and after retrofire, and by use of voice communications during flight; (3) study man's physiological reactions during space flight; and, (4) qualify the explosively-actuated side egress hatch.

From lift-off to re-entry, operational sequences were similar to those of the first manned suborbital flight, and Grissom's flight experience was similar to Shepard's in that there was a five minute period of weightlessness. As with Shepard, no ill effects resulting from this condition were reported. Control tests of spacecraft attitude in manual mode were also successfully completed and demonstrated their ease of use. The main configuration differences from the MR-3 spacecraft was the addition of a large viewing window and an explosively actuated side hatch.

During the 15 minute, 37 second flight, the spacecraft attained a maximum velocity of 8,270 km/hour (5140 mph) and an altitude of 189 km (117 miles). The capsule landed 483 km (300 miles) down range from Cape Canaveral.

After splash-down, the explosive hatch activated prematurely while Grissom was waiting for helicopter pickup. Grissom immediately exited the capsule, and remained in the water while a helicopter attempted to lift the rapidly sinking spacecraft, though his suit was filling up with water through open oxygen inlet lines. The attempt to raise the spacecraft failed, Liberty Bell 7 thus became the first spacecraft to sink at sea. Grissom was lifted to another helicopter after spending 3-4 minutes in the water, and transported to the aircraft carrier USS Randolph.

Despite the functional failure of the explosive hatch and the loss of the spacecraft, MR-4 was deemed a successful mission. Subsequent investigation into the premature firing of the egress hatch resulted in more testing, but no premature firings occurred. A mechanical hatch was designed to replace the explosive hatch, but was never implemented due to weight constraints. The incident did result in a change of procedures which required the firing safety pin to remain in place until after the helicopter hook was attached and tension applied to the recovery cable.

Liberty Bell 7 came to rest some 4.8 km below the surface, 830 km northwest of Grand Turk Island. It was finally raised from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 1999 after a number of expeditions. Two explorations of the area, in 1992 and 1993, were unsuccessful in locating the capsule. The next effort succeeded in locating the capsule on 2 May 1999, but the cable which linked the surface ship to the submersible (which would have towed the capsule to the surface) broke, resulting in the loss of the submersible, and temporarily dashing the hopes of those who intended to retrieve a piece of history. A final expedition, to recover both the submersible and the capsule, succeeded on 20 July 1999 in raising the capsule to the surface. Still attached to the capsule was the recovery line from the helicopter which tried to save it from sinking in 1961. Among the artifacts found inside were some of Grissom's gear, and some Mercury dimes which had been taken into space as souvenirs.

2001 00:31:00 GMT
Russia launched an R-29 Cosmos 1 Solar Sail Spacecraft test mission on a suborbital flight, which suffered a fate similar to the "live" mission that failed on 21 June 2005.

The Russian Navy launched a three-stage R-29R Volna from the submarine Borisoglebsk in the Barents Sea on a suborbital flight on 20 July 2001. The payload was a joint project between the Planetary Society and NPO Lavochkin's Babakin center, which consisted of a solar sail deployment test designed to deploy two sails, with an inflatable reentry shield. The payload failed to separate from the final stage when the Volna's on-board computer failed to issue the command for the spacecraft to separate. Since the spacecraft remained housed within the rocket, the sails could not deploy. The spacecraft and the third stage of the rocket continued in ballistic flight, and landed in Kamchatka: Although the launch was successful, the suborbital deployment test never took place.

2001 00:47:00 GMT
Russia launched the Molniya 3-K military communications satellite from Plesetsk, Russia.

Died (cancer), Vladimir Vladimirovich Vasyutin, Soviet cosmonaut (Salyut 7 EO-4-2)

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