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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 September 12

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Born, Richard March Hoe, American printer, built the first successful rotary printing press

J. Chacornac discovered asteroid #59 Elpis.

Died, Peter Roget of thesaurus fame, inventor (pocket chessboard)

A. Borrelly discovered asteroid #117 Lomia.

R. Luther discovered asteroid #241 Germania.

Born, Irene Joliot-Curie, French physicist (neutrons, nuclear fission), Nobel 1935 (nuclear chemistry) with Frederic Joliot "in recognition of their synthesis of new radioactive elements"

Born, Erich K. A. Ball, German guided missile expert during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after the war, worked at Fort Bliss, White Stands, and Huntsville

A. Kopff discovered asteroid #1780 Kippes.

J. Palisa discovered asteroid #689 Zita.

Born, Hans Rudolph Friedrich, German guided missile expert during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after the war

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #937 Bethgea.

S. Belyavskij discovered asteroid #1006 Lagrangea.

Died, Sarah Frances Whiting, American physicist, astronomer, advanced the scientific education of women in the 19th century

Y. Vaisala discovered asteroid #1405 Sibelius.

L. Oterma discovered asteroid #1507 Vaasa.

Born, Roger Keith Crouch PhD (at Jamestown, Tennessee, USA), NASA payload specialist astronaut (STS 83, STS 94, almost 19d 16h total time in space)

Astronaut Roger Crouch PhD, NASA photo

Four teens, following their dog down a hole near Lascaux, France, discovered the 17,000 year old drawings known as the Lascaux Cave Paintings, the finest examples of art from the Paleolithic Period.

M. Itzigsohn discovered asteroid #1800 Aguilar.

S. Arend discovered asteroid #1639 Bower.

1959 06:39:42 GMT
USSR launched Luna 2, which became the first spacecraft to (crash) land on the Moon.

Luna 2 was the second of a series of Soviet spacecraft launched in the direction of the Moon. The first spacecraft to land on the Moon, it impacted the Lunar surface east of Mare Serenitatis near the Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus craters. Luna 2 was similar in design to Luna 1, a spherical spacecraft with protruding antennae and instrument parts. The instrumentation was also similar, including scintillation- and geiger- counters, a magnetometer, and micrometeorite detectors. The spacecraft also carried Soviet pennants. There were no propulsion systems on Luna 2 itself.

After launch at 06:39:42 UTC and attaining escape velocity on 12 September 1959 (13 September Moscow time), Luna 2 separated from its third stage, which travelled along with it towards the Moon. On 13 September, the spacecraft released a bright orange cloud of sodium gas which aided in spacecraft tracking and acted as an experiment on the behavior of gas in space. On 14 September, after 33.5 hours of flight, radio signals from Luna 2 abruptly ceased, indicating it had impacted on the Moon at 21:02:24 UTC. The impact point, in the Palus Putredinus region, is roughly estimated to have occurred at 0 degrees longitude, 29.1 degrees N latitude. Some 30 minutes after Luna 2, the third stage of its rocket also impacted the Moon. The mission confirmed that the Moon had no appreciable magnetic field, and found no evidence of radiation belts at the Moon.

USSR Luna 2, photo courtesy of NASA

Died, Anton Beier (at Huntsville, Alabama, USA), German guided missile expert during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the US after the war, worked at Fort Bliss, White Stands, and Huntsville,_Schemers_and_Dreamers!

1961 22:40:00 GMT
NASA and the USAF launched X-15A Mach 5, Aerodynamics, Stability test mission # 40 in which Joe Walker reached a maximum speed of 5823 kph (Mach 5.21), and achieved a maximum altitude of 34.839 km, with smoke in the cockpit due to scorching paint.

US President John F. Kennedy spoke at Rice University's Rice Stadium to an audience of 35,000, saying of the Lunar landing program, "...we do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard..."

President John F. Kennedy spoke at Rice University, Houston, Texas, on 12 September 1962, where he said:

"Man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space. ...

"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

"It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency. . . ."

1962 01:40:00 GMT
USSR launched Sputnik 21 (also called Alpha Pi 1, originally called Sputnik 25 in the U.S. Naval Space Command Satellite Situation Summary), an attempted Venus flyby mission.

Sputnik 21, launched 12 September 1962, was an attempted Venus flyby mission. The SL-6/A-2-e launcher put the craft into an Earth parking orbit, but the main engine cut off just 0.8 seconds after ignition due to cavitation in the oxidiser pump and pump failure. At T+531 sec, the fourth vernier chamber of Stage 3's 8D715K engine exploded, destroying the spacecraft, because the LOX cut-off valve had not closed as scheduled, and LOX flowed into the hot chamber.

Died, Mervyn A. Ellison, Irish astronomer (spectrohelioscope, solar physics, effect of solar flares on the Earth)

1966 13:05:01 GMT
NASA launched the Gemini 11 Agena Target Vehicle (GATV-11).

The Gemini 11 Agena Target Vehicle (GATV-11) was launched into a near-circular 300 km orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 8:05:01 AM EST (13:05:01.725 UT) on 12 September 1966 using an Atlas-Agena D rocket. Gemini 11 was launched an hour and 40 minutes later, and rendezvoused and docked with GATV-11 at 11:16 AM EST. At 9:51 AM EST 13 September, Richard Gordon began a 20 minute EVA from Gemini 11. He moved across to the GATV-11, detached one end of the 30 meter tether, and attached it to the Gemini spacecraft docking bar. The Agena primary propulsion system was fired for 25 seconds at 2:12:41 AM EST on 14 September, raising the docked spacecraft apogee to 1374.1 km. After two orbits the Agena was fired again for 22.5 seconds to lower the Gemini-Agena back down to a 287 x 304 km orbit. The spacecraft were undocked shortly after 10:00 AM EST, and Gemini 11 moved to the end of the 30 meter tether attaching the two spacecraft. At 11:55 AM EST, Pete Conrad initiated a slow rotation of the Gemini capsule about the GATV which kept the tether taut and the spacecraft a constant distance apart at the ends of the tether. After about three hours, the tether was released and the spacecraft moved apart. GATV-11 was left in a 285 x 305 km orbit.

The Gemini Agena Target Vehicle was designed to be launched into Earth orbit prior to a Gemini mission and used for rendezvous and docking practice. The GATV had a docking cone at the forward end into which the nose of the Gemini spacecraft could be inserted and held with docking latches. The GATV was a 6 meter long cylinder with a diameter of 4.9 meters. The primary and secondary propulsion systems were at the back end of the target vehicle with the attitude control gas tanks and the main propellant tanks. The docking cone was connected to the front end by shock absorbing dampers. Acquisition running lights and target vehicle status display indicators were situated on the front end. A 2.1 meter long retractable L-band boom antenna extended from the side of the cylinder near the front. Tracking and command of the GATV were also aided by a rendezvous beacon, two spiral L-band antennas, two tracking antennas (C-band and S-band), two VHF telemetry antennas, and a UHF command antenna. Micrometeoroid packages and other experiments could also be mounted on the GATV.

The Gemini program was designed as a bridge between the Mercury and Apollo programs, primarily to test equipment and mission procedures in Earth orbit and to train astronauts and ground crews for future Apollo missions. The general objectives of the program included: long duration flights in excess of of the requirements of a Lunar landing mission; rendezvous and docking of two vehicles in Earth orbit; development of operational proficiency of both flight and ground crews; conduct of experiments in space; extravehicular operations; active control of the reentry flight path to achieve a precise landing point; and onboard orbital navigation. Each Gemini mission carried two astronauts into Earth orbit for periods ranging from 5 hours to 14 days. The program consisted of 10 crewed launches, 2 uncrewed launches, and 7 target vehicles.

GATV-11 in orbit, viewed from Gemini 11 after the two vehicles had been tied together with the tether hanging loose in the foreground
NASA photo

1966 14:42:26 GMT
NASA launched the Gemini 11 Earth orbiting mission carrying Pete Conrad and Richard Gordon.

Gemini 11 was the ninth crewed Earth orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, carrying astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad and Richard Gordon. The 3-day mission was designed to achieve a first orbit rendezvous and docking with the Agena target vehicle, to accomplish two ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) tests, to perform docking practice, docked configuration maneuvers, tethered operations, parking of the Agena target vehicle and demonstrate an automatic reentry. There were also eight scientific and four technological experiments on board. The scientific experiments were (1) synergistic effect of zero-g and radiation on white blood cells, (2) synoptic terrain photography, (3) synoptic weather photography, (4) nuclear emulsions, (5) airglow horizon photography, (6) UV astronomical photography, (7) Gemini ion wake measurement, and (8) dim sky photography.

Gemini 11 was launched on 12 September 1966 at 9:42:26 AM EST (14:42:26.546 UT) from Complex 19, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and inserted into a 160.5 x 279.1 km Earth orbit at 9:48:28. Five spacecraft maneuvers were made to rendezvous with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle 11 (GATV-11) at 11:07 AM EST (1:25 Ground Elapsed Time, GET). The GATV-11 had been launched an hour and a half before Gemini 11. Docking was completed at 11:16 AM EST on the first orbit, consuming less fuel than expected. Each astronaut then conducted two docking exercises with the GATV, and then a maneuver at 2:14:14 PM EST brought the docked spacecraft into a 287 x 304 km orbit. The astronaut's first sleep period was spent in docked configuration.

On 13 September at 9:44 AM EST (24:02 GET), the Gemini cabin atmosphere was evacuated and the hatch opened to begin Richard Gordon's scheduled 107 minute EVA. He was out of the hatch at 9:51 AM EST, attached by an umbilical cord. He set up a movie camera and retrieved the micrometeorite experiment. The next task, detaching one end of the 30 meter tether from the Agena and attaching it to the Gemini spacecraft docking bar, proved to be exhausting and overstressed Gordon's life support system. After attaching the tether, Gordon stopped to rest astride the GATV, but the heavy perspiration inside the suit obscured his vision, and finally blinded his right eye. Conrad ordered him to cancel the power tool evaluation and return to the cabin. Gordon returned to the cabin at about 10:12 AM EST, and closed the hatch at 10:17 AM EST so the cabin could be repressurized. At 11:19 AM EST, the hatch was opened again to jettison some excess equipment.

Following the second sleep period, the Agena primary propulsion system was fired for 25 seconds at 2:12:41 AM EST on 14 September, raising the docked spacecraft apogee to 1374.1 km. (This was a record altitude for an astronaut mission that would stand until Apollo 8 went to the Moon in December 1968.) From the elevated orbit, the astronauts were got the first manned views of the Earth as a sphere. After two orbits, the Agena was fired again for 22.5 seconds to lower the Gemini-Agena back down to a 287 x 304 km orbit. At 7:49 AM EST, Gordon opened his hatch to begin a 2 hour 8 minute standup EVA during which he conducted photographic experiments. The hatch was closed at 9:57 AM EST, and shortly afterwards, the spacecraft were undocked and Gemini 11 moved to the end of the 30 meter tether attaching the two spacecraft. At 11:55 AM EST, Conrad initiated a slow rotation of the Gemini capsule about the GATV which kept the tether taut and the spacecraft a constant distance apart at the ends of the tether. Oscillations occurred initially, but damped out after about 20 minutes. The rotation rate was then increased, oscillations again occurred but damped out and the combination stabilized. The circular motion at the end of the tether imparted a slight artificial "gravitational acceleration" within Gemini 11, the first time such artificial gravity was demonstrated in space. After about three hours, the tether was released and the spacecraft moved apart. A fuel cell stack failed at 4:13 PM EST, but the remaining stacks took over the load satisfactorally. At 4:22 AM EST on 15 September, a final re-rendezvous maneuver, without use of the rendezvous radar (which had malfunctioned) was accomplished.

Retrofire occurred at the end of the 44th revolution at 8:24:03 AM EST on 15 September. This was the first closed-loop, automatic reentry (guided by computer commands directly to the thrusters) in the US space program. Splashdown in the western Atlantic at 24.25 N, 70.00 W, 4.9 km from the target point, occurred at 8:59:35 AM EST. The crew was picked up by helicopter and brought to the USS Guam at 9:23 AM EST, and the spacecraft was recovered at 9:58 AM EST. Total mission elapsed time was 71:17:08. All primary objectives were accomplished, with the last re-rendezvous added to the mission plan due to the favorable fuel supply. The power tool evaluation was not performed due to early EVA termination, and the airglow horizon photography was only partially done due to a fault in the camera. All other experiments were successfully completed.

Richard Gordon performing an EVA from Gemini 11, which is docked with the GATV-11 in the background, beyond Gemini 11's nose
NASA photo

1970 13:25:53 GMT
USSR launched Luna 16 to the Moon, the first robotic sample return mission.

Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample to Earth, the first Lunar sample return mission by the Soviet Union, and the third Lunar sample return overall, following the Apollo 11 and 12 missions. The spacecraft consisted of two attached stages, an ascent stage mounted on top of a descent stage. The descent stage was a cylindrical body with four protruding landing legs, fuel tanks, a landing radar, and a dual descent engine complex. A main descent engine was used to slow the craft until it reached a cutoff point, determined by the onboard computer based on altitude and velocity. After cutoff, a bank of lower thrust jets was used for the final landing. The descent stage also acted as a launch pad for the ascent stage. The ascent stage was a smaller cylinder with a rounded top. It carried a cylindrical hermetically sealed soil sample container inside a re-entry capsule. The spacecraft descent stage was equipped with a television camera, radiation and temperature monitors, telecommunications equipment, and an extendable arm with a drilling rig for collecting the Lunar soil sample.

Luna 16 was launched toward the Moon from a preliminary Earth orbit on 12 September 1970, and after one mid-course correction on 13 September, it entered a circular 111 km Lunar orbit on 17 September 1970. The Lunar gravity was studied from this orbit, and then the spacecraft was fired into an elliptical orbit with a perilune of 15.1 km. The main braking engine was fired using a timed burn on 20 September, initiating the descent to the Lunar surface. At an altitude of 600 meters, the new-design braking rocket was automatically controlled according to height and velocity as measured by radar. The main descent engine cut off at an altitude of 20 meters and the landing jets cut off at 2 meters height at a velocity less than 2.4 m/s (14 mph), followed by vertical free-fall. At 05:18 UT, the spacecraft soft landed on the Lunar surface in Mare Foecunditatis (the Sea of Fertility) as planned, approximately 100 km west of Webb crater. Getting there had required 68 communications sessions over nine days of flight. This was the first landing made in the dark on the Moon, as the Sun had set about 60 hours earlier. According to the Bochum Radio Space Observatory in the Federal Republic of Germany, strong and good quality television pictures were returned by the spacecraft. However, since the pictures were not made available to the US by any sources, there is a question of the reliability of the Bochum report. The drill was deployed at 10:00 UT and penetrated to a depth of 35 cm before encountering hard rock or large fragments of rock. The column of regolith in the drill tube was then transferred to the soil sample container. After 26 hours and 25 minutes on the Lunar surface, the ascent stage, with the hermetically sealed soil sample container, lifted off from the Moon carrying 101 grams of collected material at 07:43 UT on 21 September. The lower stage of Luna 16 remained on the Lunar surface and continued transmission of Lunar temperature and radiation data. The Luna 16 re-entry capsule returned directly to Earth without any mid-course corrections, made a ballistic entry into the Earth's atmosphere on 24 September 1970 and deployed parachutes. The capsule landed approximately 80 km SE of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan at 03:26 UT, only 30 km from its aim point. There was ideal weather in the recovery area, the radio beacon worked well, and a helicopter picked up the capsule only a few minutes after landing.

USSR Luna 16, illustration courtesy of NASA

Died, Vasili Ivanovich Voznyuk, Commander of Kapustin Yar launch facility (6/1946-4/1973), credited with single-handedly turning the uninhabitable region into a tolerable living area, and great concern for the welfare of those under his command

N. Chernykh discovered asteroid #2473 Heyerdahl.

Harvard College discovered asteroid #2305 King.

P. Wild discovered asteroid #3060.

R. S. Dunbar discovered asteroid #3551.

P. Wild discovered asteroid #3329; T. Schildknecht discovered asteroid #3330.

1985 23:26:00 GMT
An Ariane 3 launched from Kourou carried Europe's Eutelsat 3 and GTE's Spacenet F3 communications satellites to space, with a geosynchronous orbit injection failure. A third stage igniter cartridge failure was determined to be the most likely cause.

1991 19:11:04 EDT (GMT -4:00:00)
NASA launched STS 48 (Discovery 13, 43rd Shuttle mission) carrying the UARS (Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite) experiment platform to orbit.

STS 48 was launched 12 September 1991. The launch was delayed 14 minutes by a faulty communication link between KSC and Mission Control in Houston.

STS 48's primary payload, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), was deployed on the third day of the mission. During its planned 18-month mission, the 14,500-pound observatory was to make the most extensive study ever conducted of the Earth's stratosphere, an upper level of the planet's envelope of life-sustaining gases, which also includes the protective ozone layer. UARS had ten sensing and measuring devices: Cryogenic Limb Array Etalon Spectrometer (CLAES); Improved Stratospheric and Mesospheric Sounder (ISAMS); Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS); Halogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE); High Resolution Doppler Imager (HRDI); Wind Imaging Interferometer (WINDII); Solar Ultraviolet Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SUSIM); Solar/Stellar Irradiance Comparison Experiment (SOLSTICE); Particle Environment Monitor (PEM) and Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor (ACRIM II).

Secondary payloads flown on STS 48 were: Ascent Particle Monitor (APM); Middeck O-Gravity Dynamics Experiment (MODE); Shuttle Activation Monitor (SAM); Cosmic Ray Effects and Activation Monitor (CREAM); Physiological and Anatomical Rodent Experiment (PARE); Protein Crystal Growth II-2 (PCG II-2); Investigations into Polymer Membrane Processing (IPMP); and the Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) experiment.

STS 48 ended 18 September 1991 when Discovery landed on revolution 81 on Runway 22, Edwards Air Force Base, California. The landing was scheduled for the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but was diverted to Edwards due to bad weather. Rollout distance: 9,384 feet. Rollout time: 50 seconds. Launch weight: 240,062 pounds. Landing weight: 192,780 pounds. Orbit altitude: 313 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 57 degrees. Mission duration: five days, eight hours, 27 minutes, 38 seconds. Miles traveled: 2.2 million. The orbiter was returned to KSC on 26 September 1991.

The flight crew for STS 48 was: John O. Creighton, Commander; Kenneth S. Reightler, Jr., Pilot; James F. Buchli, Mission Specialist 1; Charles D. Gernar, Mission Specialist 2; Mark N. Brown, Mission Specialist 3.

1992 10:23:00 EDT (GMT -4:00:00)
NASA launched STS 47 (Endeavor 2, 50th Shuttle mission) carrying the Spacelab-J experiment platform to space.

STS 47 was launched 12 September 1992, the first on-time Shuttle launch since STS 61-B in November 1985. Crew firsts on the flight included Dr. Mae Jemison as the first African-American woman in space, Lee and Davis, the first married couple, and Mohri the first Japanese to fly on the Shuttle.

STS 47's primary payload, Spacelab-J (SL-J), utilized the pressurized Spacelab module. Jointly sponsored by NASA and Japan's National Space Development Agency (NASDA), SL-J included 24 materials science and 19 life sciences experiments, of which 34 were sponsored by NASDA, seven by NASA, and two were collaborative efforts. The mission was extended one day to further the science objectives. Materials science investigations covered such fields as biotechnology, electronic materials, fluid dynamics and transport phenomena, glasses and ceramics, metals and alloys, and acceleration measurements. Life sciences investigations covered human health, cell separation and biology, development biology, animal and human physiology and behavior, space radiation, and biological rhythms. Test subjects included the crew; Japanese koi fish (carp); cultured animal and plant cells; chicken embryos; fruit flies; fungi and plant seeds; and frogs and frog eggs.

Also flying in payload bay on STS 47 were 12 Get Away Special (GAS) canisters (10 holding experiments, two for ballast) attached to a GAS Bridge Assembly.

Middeck experiments on STS 47 were: Israeli Space Agency Investigation About Hornets (ISAIAH); Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE); Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX II); Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS); and Ultraviolet Plume Instrument (UVPI).

STS 47 ended on 20 September 1992 when Endeavour landed on revolution 126 on Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Rollout distance: 8,567 feet (2,611 meters). Rollout time: 51 seconds. Launch weight: 258,679 pounds. Landing weight: 218,854 pounds. Orbit altitude: 166 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 57 degrees. Mission duration: seven days, 22 hours, 30 minutes, 23 seconds. Miles traveled: 3.3 million. It was the first time a Shuttle drag chute was deployed in operational mode, before nosegear touchdown. Postlanding assessment showed the orbiter veered off the runway centerline, possibly due to the drag chute.

The flight crew for STS 47 was: Robert L. Gibson, Commander; Curtis L. Brown, Jr, Pilot; Mark C. Lee, Payload Commander; N. Jan Davis, Mission Specialist; Jay Apt, Mission Specialist; Mae C. Jemison, Mission Specialist; Mamoru Mohri, Payload Specialist.

1993 07:45:00 EDT (GMT -4:00:00)
NASA launched STS 51 (Discovery 17, 57th Shuttle mission) carrying ACTS/TOS and the ORFEUS-SPAS experiment platform to space.

The first launch attempt of STS 51 on 17 July 1993 was scrubbed during the T-20 minute hold due to premature and unexplained charging of pyrotechnic initiator controllers (PICs), located on the mobile launcher platform (MLP), for the T-0 liquid hydrogen vent arm umbilical and solid rocket booster hold-down bolts. The problem was traced to a faulty circuit card in the PIC rack on the MLP.

An abbreviated countdown began 23 July 1993. The second liftoff attempt on 24 July was halted at T-19 seconds due to a problem with the auxiliary power unit (APU) turbine assembly for one of the two hydraulic power units (HPUs) on the right solid rocket booster. The APU was removed and replaced at the pad.

The launch was rescheduled for 4 August, then changed to 12 August due to concerns regarding the Perseid meteor shower, which was expected to peak 11 August. The liftoff attempt on 12 August was halted at the T-3 second mark due to faulty sensor monitoring fuel flow on main engine number two. It was the fourth pad abort in the Shuttle program history - the second in 1993 - which led to changeout of all three main engines at the pad.

The launch of STS 51 was rescheduled to 10 September 1993, then slipped to 12 September to allow time to a complete review of the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite design, production and testing history following the loss of contact with the Mars Observer spacecraft and the NOAA-13 satellite.

The countdown finally proceeded smoothly to an on-time liftoff on 12 September 1993.

One of the two primary payloads for STS 51, the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS), was deployed on flight day one. About 45 minutes after ACTS was deployed, the attached Transfer Orbit Stage (TOS) booster, flying on the Shuttle for first time, was fired to propel the pioneering communications technology spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit.

On flight day two, the crew deployed the second primary payload, the Orbiting and Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrograph-Shuttle Pallet Satellite (OERFEUS-SPAS), the first in series of ASTRO-SPAS astronomical missions. Extensive footage of the orbiter was recorded by an IMAX camera mounted on SPAS. The joint German-US astrophysics payload was controlled via the SPAS Payload Operations Control Center (SPOC) at KSC, becoming the first Shuttle payload to be managed from Florida. After six days of data collection, ORFEUS-SPAS was retrieved with the remote manipulator system arm, and returned to the cargo bay.

On 16 September, Mission Specialists Newman and Walz performed an extravehicular activity (EVA) lasting seven hours, five minutes and 28 seconds. It was the final one in a series of generic space walks begun earlier in the year. The astronauts also evaluated tools, tethers and a foot restraint platform intended for the upcoming Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission.

The other cargo bay payload was the Limited Duration Space Environment Candidate Material Exposure (LDCE) experiment.

Middeck payloads on STS 51 were: IMAX 70 mm camera; Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG) Block II; Chromosome and Plant Cell Division in Space (CHROMEX-04); High Resolution Shuttle Glow Spectroscopy (HRSGS-A); Aurora Photography Experiment (APE-B); Investigation into Polymer Membranes Processing (IPMP); and Radiation Monitoring Equipment III (RME III). An Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) calibration test was also performed.

STS 51 ended 22 September 1993 when Discovery landed on revolution 157 on Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Rollout distance: 8,271 feet (2,521 meters). Rollout time: 50 seconds. Landing weight: 206,438 pounds. Orbit altitude: 160 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees. Mission duration: nine days, 20 hours, 11 minutes, 11 seconds. Miles traveled: 4.1 million. The landing opportunity 21 September was waved off due to the possibility of rain showers within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of the Shuttle Landing Facility. This was the first end-of-mission night landing at KSC for the Shuttle program.

The flight crew for STS 51 was: Frank L. Culbertson Jr., Commander; William F. Readdy, Pilot; James H. Newman PhD, Mission Specialist 1; Daniel W. Bursch, Mission Specialist 2; Carl E. Walz, Mission Specialist 3.

Died (heart attack), Dr. Boris Borisovich Yegorov, USSR cosmonaut (Voskhod 1, 24 hours total time in space)

Boris Borisovich Yegorov (26 November 1937, Moscow - 12 September 1994, Moscow) was a Soviet doctor and cosmonaut, the first physician to travel in space. Yegorov graduated from the First Moscow Medical Institute in 1961. During the course of his studies, he had come into contact with Yuri Gagarin's training and became interested in space medicine. Yegorov was selected as a member of the multi-disciplinary team that flew on Voskhod 1. He eventually earned a doctorate in medicine, with a specialisation in balance. He died from a heart attack.

1996 08:49:00 GMT
The US Air Force launched the Navstar 2A-18 (USA 128) navigation satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a GPS Block 2A component of the system, placed in Plane B Slot 2 of the constellation.

1997 01:17:00 GMT
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor arrived at Mars.

The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida on 7 November 1996 aboard a Delta-7925 rocket. The spacecraft travelled nearly 750 million kilometers (466 million miles) over the course of a 300 day cruise to reach Mars on 12 September 1997. Through a series of aerobraking maneuvers, the spacecraft's orbit was circularized at approximately 378 km (235 miles) altitude in a Sun-synchronous arrangement that caused it to transit the Martian surface at 2 pm local time on each orbit. After 7 sols and 88 orbits, the spacecraft approximately retraced its previous path, but offset by 59 km eastward. This ensured eventual full coverage of the entire surface.

The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was designed to orbit Mars over a two year period and collect data on the surface morphology, topography, composition, gravity, atmospheric dynamics, and magnetic field. This data was to be used to investigate the surface processes, geology, distribution of material, internal properties, evolution of the magnetic field, and the weather and climate of Mars.

The spacecraft itself was a rectangular box of approximately 1.17 x 1.17 x 1.7 meters, made up of two parts, an equipment module and a propulsion module. All instruments except the magnetometer were stored on the nadir equipment deck, on one of the 1.17 x 1.17 meter surfaces, the top of the equipment module, which was 0.735 m high. The main thruster and propulsion tanks were on the opposite side from the instruments, on the propulsion module, which was approximately 1 meter high. Two solar panels, each 3.5 x 1.9 m, extended out from opposite sides of the craft. A 1.5 meter diameter parabolic high gain dish antenna was mounted on an adjacent side, and attached to a 2 meter boom, which was extended for mapping operations so the antenna was held away from the body of the spacecraft.

The spacecraft was three-axis stabilized with no scan platform. The main 596 N thruster used hydrazine and N2O4 propellant. Control was through 12 4.45 N hydrazine thrusters, mounted in four groups of three (two aft facing and one roll control thruster). The initial propellant load was 216.5 kg of hydrazine and 144 kg of N2O4. Four solar array panels (2 GaAs, 2 SI) provide 980 W of power to the spacecraft. Energy was stored in two 20 Amp-hr nickel hydrogen batteries, and supplied at 28 V DC. Temperature control was primarily passive with multilayer insulation, thermal radiators, and louvers, augmented by electrical heaters. Communications was achieved via the Deep Space Network using the high gain antenna and two low gain antennas, one mounted on the high gain antenna and one on the equipment module. Uplink was in the X-band, downlink in the X and Ka bands. The minimum downlink rate was 21.33 kbps, 2 kbps engineering data downlink, and 10 bps emergency downlink.

The instruments on the nadir equipment deck consisted of a camera, thermal emission spectrometer, laser altimeter, and a radio transmission relay. A magnetometer/electron reflectometer sensor was attached to the end of each solar array, and an ultra-stable oscillator was used for tracking and gravity determination. An 8086 processor was used for the payload data subsystem, and 1750A processors for the standard controls processor and the engineering data formatter. Data was stored on four 0.75 Gb solid state recorders.

After launch on a Delta 7925 (a Delta II Lite launch vehicle with nine strap-on solid-rocket boosters and a Star 48 (PAM-D) third stage) and a 10 month cruise phase, the Mars Global Surveyor was inserted into an elliptical capture orbit at 01:17 UT 12 September 1997. Over the next four months, it was intended that aerobraking maneuvers and thrusters would be used to lower the orbit to the final circular mapping orbit. However, one of the solar panels failed to latch properly when it was deployed, and subsequently showed unexpected motion and moved past its fully deployed position when aerobraking began (thought to be due to the fracture of a damper arm and subsequent structural damage). A new aerobraking schedule was employed, which involved slower aerobraking, putting less pressure on the solar panels through April 1998, at which time an 11.6 hour science phasing orbit with a 171 km periapsis was achieved, and aerobraking was halted. After a 5 month hiatus, aerobraking was resumed on 23 September 1998. Science observations were made periodically during the second set of aerobraking maneuvers.

After aerobraking ended in February 1999, MGS was in a 118 minute circular polar science mapping orbit with an index altitude of 378 km. The orbit was Sun-synchronous (2 AM/2 PM) and mapped over the 2 PM crossing from south to north (instead of north to south as originally planned). The orbit had a 7 Martian day (sol) near-repeat cycle, so Mars would be mapped in 26 day cycles. Science mapping began in mid-March 1999, which was summer in the northern hemisphere on Mars. The primary mission was to last one Martian year (687 Earth days) through January, 2001. An extended mission would then take place until April 2002. After that time, the orbiter was to act as a relay until January 2003 in support of the other missions of the Mars Surveyor program.

On 12 September 2005, Mars Global Surveyor celebrated its eighth "birthday" as the oldest spacecraft in operation at Mars. The spacecraft's lasting success enabled scientists to capture repeating weather phenomena and new, fresh insights revealing Mars as an active planet.

The last transmission from MGS was received on 2 November 2006, after the spacecraft was ordered to perform a routine adjustment of its solar panels. The spacecraft reported a series of alarms, but indicated that it had stabilized. In a report issued on 13 April 2007, NASA concluded the spacecraft subsequently reoriented to an angle that exposed one of two batteries carried on the spacecraft to direct sunlight. This caused the battery to overheat and ultimately led to the depletion of both batteries. Incorrect antenna pointing prevented the orbiter from telling controllers its status, and its programmed safety response did not include making sure the spacecraft orientation was thermally safe. Within 11 hours of its last transmission, depleted batteries likely left the spacecraft unable to control its orientation, ending its mission.

See also:

2002 10:25:00 GMT
India launched its Kalpana 1 (formerly Metsat 1) weather satellite from Sriharikota on an upgraded, four-stage PSLV-C4 rocket, maneuvered from the transfer orbit to geostationary at 37 deg E on 16 September, then parked at 74 deg E on 24 September.

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor celebrated its eighth anniversary as the oldest operating spacecraft at Mars, capturing repeating weather phenomena and new, fresh insights revealing Mars as an active planet.
see above

2005 01:17:00 GMT
Japan's Hayabusa (MUSES-C) arrived at asteroid 25143 Itokawa (1998 SF36) and came to relative rest with it.

The primary scientific objective of the Hayabusa (formerly Muses-C) mission was to collect a surface sample of material from the small (550 x 180 meter) asteroid 25143 Itokawa (1998 SF36) and return the sample to Earth for analysis. It was also a technology demonstration mission. Other scientific objectives of the mission included detailed studies of the asteroid's shape, spin state, topography, color, composition, density, photometric and polarimetric properties, interior and history.

The spacecraft was launched on 9 May 2003 on an M-5 solid fuel booster from the Kagoshima launch center. Following launch, the name Muses-C was changed to Hayabusa (Japanese for falcon), and the spacecraft was put into a transfer orbit to bring it to asteroid 25143 Itokawa (1998 SF36), a 0.3 x 0.7 km near-Earth object. The ion engines were successfully test-fired from 27 May to the middle of June 2003. A large solar flare in late 2003 degraded the solar panels. The loss of power available to Hayabusa's ion engines forced the originally planned early summer 2005 rendezvous with Itokawa to be moved back to September. Hayabusa flew by Earth on 19 May 2004 at an altitude of 3725 km at 6:23 UT. On 31 July 2004 the X-axis reaction wheel failed. Rendezvous with the asteroid occured in September 2005 with the spacecraft coming to rest relative to the asteroid at a distance of 20 km at 1:17 UT on 12 September. The spacecraft did not go into orbit around the asteroid, but remained in a station-keeping heliocentric orbit close by. On 3 October 2005 Hayabusa lost the use of the Y-axis reaction wheel and was using one reaction wheel and two chemical thrusters to maintain attitude control.

Hayabusa initially surveyed the asteroid's surface from a distance of about 20 km in the "home position", a region roughly on a line connecting the Earth with the asteroid on the sunward side. This is global mapping phase 1, the phase angle during this phase was small, no greater than 20 - 25 degrees. Global mapping phase 2, which lasted about a week, began on 4 October when the spacecraft reached a position near the terminator at a distance of 7 km, affording high phase angle views of the asteroid. Following this the spacecraft moved back to the home position and then moved close to the surface in November for a "rehearsal" touchdown. This touchdown was attempted on 4 November but was aborted due to an anomalous signal at 700 meters above the asteroid's surface.

On 12 November a second rehearsal touchdown was attempted. The spacecraft began its descent from 1.4 km altitude at 3 cm/sec to an altitude of 55 meters. The small lander/hopper, Minerva, was deployed at 6:34 UT (3:34 p.m. JST) but unfortunately Hayabusa had already reached the 55 meter level and had begun an automatic ascent so the release was at a higher altitude than planned. Contact with the lander was lost and it is believed Minerva moved off into space without landing.

At 12:00 UT on 19 November 2005 (9:00 p.m. JST, 7:00 a.m. EST) Hayabusa began its descent towards the asteroid from an altitude of 1 km. At 19:33 UT (4:33 a.m. JST 20 November) the final approach was commanded and the descent began from an altitude of about 450 meters at 12 cm/sec. The target marker was released at 20:30 UT 19 November (5:30 a.m. JST 20 November) about 40 meters above the asteroid and Hayabusa's descent was slowed to 3 cm/sec to allow the marker to fall ahead of it. The spacecraft reduced its speed to zero and then began free-fall at an altitude of 17 meters at which point contact was lost. Later telemetry indicated that Hayabusa hit the surface at 20:40 UT 19 November (5:40 a.m. JST 20 November) at roughly 10 cm/sec and bounced. It bounced again at 21:10 and then landed at 21:30 within about 30 meters of the target marker. At 21:58 (6:58 a.m. JST 20 November) it was commanded to make an emergency ascent. The craft remained on the surface for about half an hour but did not fire the projectile to collect a sample. This was the first ever controlled landing on an asteroid and first ascent from any other solar sytem body except the Moon.

A second touchdown and sampling run was made on 25 November, early telemetry indicated the spacecraft touched down at 10 cm/sec and that two sampling bullets were fired 0.2 seconds apart at 22:07 UT 24 November (7:07 a.m. JST 25 November) but later examination indicated the bullets did not fire. On 9 December contact was lost with the spacecraft, presumably because of torques caused by a thruster leak which altered the pointing of the antenna. Communication with the spacecraft was regained in early March 2006. It appeared the chemical fuel had been lost due to the leak. Also, two of three reaction wheels were also inoperable and 4 of the 11 lithium-ion battery cells were not functioning. Ground controllers used the solar batteries to run the ion engine in place of the chemical thrusters to maintain attitude control. The ion engine ran until November 2007 when it was turned off and the spacecraft went into hibernation mode and continued on a ballistic trajectory. There was still a large margin of xenon left to run the thrusters for propulsion and attitude control.

The re-entry capsule detached from the main spacecraft between 300,000 and 400,000 km from the Earth, coasting on a ballistic trajectory, and re-entering the Earth's atmosphere on 13 June 2010. The capsule experienced peak decellerations of about 25 G and heating rates approximately 30 times those experienced by the Apollo spacecraft. It landed via parachute near Woomera, Australia. Subsequent examination of the sample return capsule showed that there were roughly 1500 dust particles from asteroid Itokawa which were presumably kicked up into the collection area during the touchdowns due to the extremely low surface gravity.

Spacecraft Details

On-board optical navigation was planned to be employed extensively during the landings and sample collection operations because the long communication delay prohibited ground-based real-time commanding. The samples, with a total mass of approximately one gram, were to be held inside a separate re-entry capsule. (The lander was also to deploy a small rover supplied by NASA onto the surface of the asteroid, but the rover was cancelled by NASA due to budget constraints.) All operations at Itokawa had to take into account the extremely low gravity at the asteroid's surface.

Hayabusa was equipped with a universal sample collection device to gather roughly one gram of surface samples taken from the landings at 3 different locations. The device consisted of a funnel-shaped collection horn, 40 cm in diameter at the end, to be placed over the sampling area. A pyrotechnic device then fired a 10 gram metal projectile down the barrel of the horn at 200 - 300 m/sec. The projectile struck the surface, producing a small impact crater in the surface of the asteroid and propelling ejecta fragments back up the horn, where some were funnelled into a sample collection chamber. Prior to each sampling run, the spacecraft was drop a small target plate onto the surface from about 30 m altitude to use as a landmark to ensure the relative horizontal velocity between the spacecraft and asteroid surface was zero during the sampling. After collection, the samples were to be stored in the re-entry capsule for return to Earth.

The Minerva lander was a small (591 gram) cylinder about the size of a coffee can, designed to be released from the spacecraft on the first rehearsal touchdown run. It had the ability to "hop" on the surface of the asteroid and had full autonomy. It was equipped with an imaging system comprising three miniature cameras and temperature measuring devices. Data was to be relayed to Hayabusa and then to Earth.

The rover, or Small Science Vehicle (SSV), was to have been a NASA contribution to the mission but was cancelled due to budget contraints. The SSV would have been dropped onto the surface of the asteroid by the Hayabusa spacecraft. The rover goals were to make texture, composition and morphology measurements of the surface layer at scales smaller than 1 cm, investigations of lateral heterogeneity at small scales, investigation of vertical regolith structure by taking advantage of disturbances of the surface layer by microrover operations, and to measure constraints on the mechanical and thermal properties of the surface layer. The rover would have weighed about 1 kg and was to be capable of rolling, climbing, or hopping around on the surface of the asteroid. It would have run on solar power and carry a multi-band imaging camera, a near-infrared point spectrometer, and an alpha/X-ray spectrometer (AXS).

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