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Space History for September 14

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Died, Giovanni Domenico Cassini, astronomer, engineer

Giovanni Domenico Cassini (8 June 1625 - 14 September 1712) was an Italian-French astronomer and engineer, born in Perinaldo, Genoa.

Attracted to the heavens in his youth, his first interest was in astrology rather than astronomy. He read widely on the subject of astrology, and was soon very knowledgeable about it. His extensive knowledge of astrology led to his first appointment as an astronomer. Later in his life, he focused almost exclusively on astronomy alone, and all but denounced astrology as he became more and more involved in the scientific revolution and ultra-rational thought of the day.

In 1644, the Marquis Cornelio Malvasia, a senator of Bologna with a great interest in astrology, invited Cassini to Bologna and offered him a position in the Panzano Observatory which he was constructing. Most of their time was spent calculating newer, better, and more accurate ephemerides for astrological purposes using the rapidly advancing astronomical methods and tools of the day. Cassini was an astronomer at the Panzano Observatory from 1648 to 1669, and a professor of astronomy at the University of Bologna.

In 1669 Cassini moved to France (where he became interchangeably known as Jean-Dominique Cassini), and through a grant from Louis XIV of France, helped to set up the Paris Observatory, which opened in 1671. Cassini became director of the observatory in 1671, and remained in the that position for the rest of his career, until his death in 1712. While in France, Cassini also served as the court astronomer and astrologer of Louis XIV of France ("The Sun King") for 41 years, serving the expected dual role, yet focusing the overwhelming majority of his time on astronomy rather than the astrology he had studied so much of in his youth.

Along with Hooke, Cassini is given credit for the discovery of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter (~1665). Cassini was the first to observe four of Saturn's moons; he also discovered the Cassini Division in Saturn's rings (1675). Around 1690, Cassini was the first to observe differential rotation within Jupiter's atmosphere.

In 1672, he sent his colleague Jean Richer to Cayenne, French Guiana, while he himself stayed in Paris. The two made simultaneous observations of Mars, and thus found its parallax to determine its distance, thereby measuring the true dimensions of the solar system for the first time.

Cassini was the first to make successful measurements of longitude by the method suggested by Galileo, using eclipses of the satellites of Jupiter as a clock.

Cassini was also employed by Pope Clement IX regarding fortifications, river management, and flooding of the Po. The Pope asked Cassini to take Holy Orders to work with him permanently, but Cassini turned him down to work on astronomy all the time.

J. Ferguson discovered asteroid #60 Echo; O. Lesser and W. Forster discovered asteroid #62 Erato.

J. C. Watson discovered asteroid #79 Eurynome.

M. Wolf discovered asteroid #883 Matterania.

Born, Vladislav Nikolayevich Bogomolov, Russian Chief Designer of Isayev rocket engine design bureau (1971-1985), succeeded Isayev after his death

J. Palisa discovered asteroid #1073 Gellivara.

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid s#1049 Gotho, #1050 Meta and #1944 Gunter.

Died, Johan L. E. Dreyer, Danish astronomer (New general catalog of nebulae)

E. Delporte discovered asteroid #1199 Geldonia; K. Reinmuth discovered asteroids #1200 Imperatrix, #1201 Strenua and #1420 Radcliffe.

M. Vaisala discovered asteroids #1718 Namibia and #2437 Amnestia.

Born, Eugene Huu-Chau "Gene" Trinh PhD (at Saigon, Vietnam), NASA payload specialist astronaut (STS 50, 13d 19h in space)

Astronaut Eugene Huu-Chau "Gene" Trinh PhD, NASA photo

L. Boyer discovered asteroid #1606 Jekhovsky.

A. G. Wilson and R. Minkowsk discovered asteroid #1620 Geographos.

Goethe Link Observatory discovered asteroids #1826 Miller, #1971 Hagihara, #2168 Swope, #3145 and #3371.

Born, John Bennett Herrington (at Wetumka, Oklahoma, USA), Commander USN, NASA astronaut (STS 113, nearly 13d 19h in space), first native American astronaut (Chickasaw nation)

Astronaut John B. Herrington, STS-113 mission specialist, NASA photo (2 April 2002)

Two large meteorological rocket prototypes, developed by Ernst Mohr of Wuppertall, Germany, were successful launched from Cuxhaven and achieved 50 km altitudes, the first German post-war rockets to reach the upper atmosphere.

1959 21:02:24 GMT
USSR's Luna 2 became the first spacecraft to impact the Moon's surface.

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.

Died, Sir Arthur Percy Morris Fleming, radio pioneer, a major figure in developing techniques for manufacturing RADAR components

S. Arend discovered asteroid #2642 Vesale.

Goethe Link Observatory discovered asteroids #1746 Brouwer, #1997 Leverrier and #2853.

1965 18:01:00 GMT
NASA and the USAF launched X-15A N.Radiom,BLN Test/Aeronomy mission # 148 in which John McKay reached a maximum speed of 5663 kph (Mach 5.03), and a maximum altitude of 72.847 km above Edwards Air Force Base, California.

1966 20:01:00 GMT
Wm. Dana reached 5770 kph (Mach 5.12) and 22.980 km in X-15A MuMet/Solar spec Technology/Meteor/Solar mission # 172, a JPL spectrometer measured solar flux, a UV radiometer characterized exhaust plume for reconnsat sensors, micrometeorites were collected.

1968 21:42:11 GMT
USSR launched Zond 5, the first successful circumlunar Earth return and recovery mission.

Zond 5 was launched 14 September 1968 from a Tyazheliy Sputnik (68-076B) in Earth parking orbit to make scientific studies during a Lunar flyby and to return to Earth, an unmanned test flight of the Soviet manned spacecraft equipment. En route to the Moon, the main stellar attitude control optical surface became contaminated and was rendered unusable. Backup sensors were used to guide the spacecraft. On 18 September 1968, the spacecraft flew around the Moon, the closest approach being 1,950 km. High quality photographs of the Earth were taken from a distance of 90,000 km.

A biological payload of turtles, wine flies, meal worms, plants, seeds, bacteria, and other living matter was included in the flight. According to the Russian Academy of Sciences, the pilot's seat was occupied by a 175 cm tall, 70 kg mannequin containing radiation detectors.

Returning to Earth, the gyroscopic platform went off line due to a ground operator error, making the planned guided entry impossible, forcing the spacecraft controllers to use a direct ballistic entry. Unlike the Zond 4 mission, which had re-entered over western Africa in April, the self destruct command was not given. On 21 September 1968, the reentry capsule entered Earth's atmosphere. Communications with Zond 5 were lost as it re-entered over the South Pole. It had to re-enter at an angle of 5 to 6 degrees to the horizontal: One degree too high, and it would skip off the atmosphere and be lost into space; one degree too low and the G-forces would increase from 10-16 to 30-40 - not only enough to kill the "crew," but to destroy the spacecraft. The safe entry corridor was only 13 km across, and had to be hit at 11 km/sec - "like hitting a kopek [Russian penny] with a rifle at a 600 meter range." After the ballistic 20G re-entry, the capsule braked aerodynamically, deployed parachutes at 7 km, and splashed down in the backup area in the Indian Ocean at 32.63 degrees S, 65.55 degrees E. Soviet naval vessels were 100 km from the landing location and successfully recovered the spacecraft the next day, shipping it via Bombay (3 October 1968 aboard the Vasiliy Golovnin) back to Soviet Union, safely returning the biological payload to Moscow on 4 October 1968.

It was announced that the turtles (actually steppe tortoises) had lost about 10% of their body weight, but remained active and showed no loss of appetite.

The mission was planned as a precursor to manned Soviet Lunar spacecraft flights.

Charles Kowal discovered Leda, the 13th known satellite of Jupiter, by examining photographic plates taken on 11-13 September.

N. Chernykh discovered asteroid #2783 Chernyshevskij.

1978 02:25:13 GMT
USSR launched the Venera 12 lander to Venus.

Venera 12 was part of a two-spacecraft mission to study Venus and the interplanetary medium. Each of the two spacecraft, Venera 11 and Venera 12, consisted of a flight platform and a lander probe. Identical instruments were carried on both spacecraft. The flight platform had instruments to study solar wind composition, gamma ray bursts, ultraviolet radiation, and the electron density of the ionosphere of Venus. The lander probe carried instruments to study the characteristics and composition of the atmosphere of Venus.

Venera 12 was launched into a 177 x 205 km, 51.5 degree inclination Earth orbit, from which it was propelled into a 3.5 month Venus transfer orbit, which involved two mid-course corrections, on 21 September and 14 December. After ejecting the lander probe on 19 December, two days before encounter, the flight platform continued past Venus in a heliocentric orbit. The flight platform's near encounter with Venus occurred on 21 December 1978, at approximately 34,000 km from the planet. The flight platform acted as a data relay for the descent craft for 110 minutes until it flew out of range, then continued to return its own measurements on interplanetary space. The platform was equipped with a gamma ray spectrometer, retarding potential traps, UV grating monochromator, electron and proton spectrometers, gamma ray burst detectors, solar wind plasma detectors, and two-frequency transmitters.

The Venera 12 descent craft carried instruments designed to study the detailed chemical composition of the atmosphere, the nature of the clouds, and the thermal balance of the atmosphere. After separating from its flight platform on 19 December 1978, it entered the atmosphere of Venus two days later, at 11.2 km/sec (approximately 25,000 mph). During the descent, it employed aerodynamic braking, followed by parachute braking, and ending with atmospheric braking. It made a soft landing on the surface at 06:30 Moscow time on 21 December 1978 after a descent time of approximately 1 hour. The touchdown speed was 7-8 m/s (15-18 mph). Information was transmitted to the flight platform for relay to Earth until the flight platform moved out of range 110 minutes after the lander touchdown.

Both Venera 11 and 12 landers failed to return the planned color television views of the surface, and to perform soil analysis experiments. All of the camera protective covers failed to eject after landing (the cause was not established). Some US literature noted that the imaging system "failed" but did return some data. The soil drilling experiment was apparently damaged by a leak in the soil collection device, the interior of which was exposed to the high Venusian atmospheric pressure. The leak had probably formed during the descent phase because the lander was less aerodynamically stable than had been thought. Consequently, the landing gear of the following two landers (Venera 13 and 14) were equipped with tooth-shaped stabilizers.

Two other experiments on the lander also failed, and their failure was acknowledged by the Soviets at the time.

Among the instruments on board was a gas chromatograph to measure the composition of the Venus atmosphere, instruments to study scattered solar radiation and soil composition, and a device named Groza which was designed to measure atmospheric electrical discharges. Results reported included evidence of lightning and thunder, a high Ar36/Ar40 ratio, and the discovery of carbon monoxide at low altitudes.

The Venera 12 flight platform continued in solar orbit, and successfully used its Soviet-French ultraviolet spectrometer to study Comet Bradfield on 13 February 1980 (one year and two months after its Venus encounter). At that time, the spacecraft was 190,373,790 km from Earth.

See also NASA's Venera 12 Descent Craft page.

N. Chernykh discovered asteroid #3120.

H.-E. Schuster discovered asteroid #3271.

During the 6h 01m Mir EO-16-2 EVA, cosmonauts Malenchenko and Musabayev checked out equipment on the exterior of the Mir space station.

1997 01:36:54 GMT
A Proton rocket launched from Baikonur carried seven Iridium commercial communication satellites (Iridium 27 - 33) into orbit, which were placed in ascending nodes of Plane 3. Iridium 27 failed in low orbit.

2000 22:54:00 GMT
An Ariane 5G launched from Kourou carried Europe's Astra 2B and GE Americom's GE 7 Direct Broadcasting satellites to space, initially positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 28 deg E and 137 deg W, respectively.

2001 23:44:00 GMT
Russia launched Progress M-SO1 from Baikonur, delivering the Pirs docking and airlock module to the International Space Station.

Progress M-SO1 was the ITAR-TASS designation given to the service module section of a Progress M launched on 14 September 2001 in which the 3900 kg Pirs docking and airlock module for the International Space Station replaced the standard cargo and fuel sections. NASA records indicate the vehicle was known as Progress DC-1. It also carried an astronaut chair, a space suit, a small crane, and some equipment for the Zvezda module of the ISS. Progress-M No. 301 was launched into an initial 180 km circular orbit. By 16 September, it had maneuvered into a 238 x 264 km orbit; by 17 September 0038 GMT, a 385 x 395 km x 51.6 deg orbit for rendezvous with the ISS. The Progress began a fly around of the station, and lined up with the nadir port on Zvezda. Docking of Pirs with Zvezda came at 0105 GMT on 17 September. The Progress M-SO1 later undocked from the Pirs nadir port to leave it free for future dockings. Pirs gave extra clearance from the Station for ships docking underneath Zvezda, and was also used as an airlock for spacewalks using the Russian Orlan EVA suits. The Progress M-SO1 service module (propulsion engine) undocked from the Pirs module at 1536 GMT on 25 September, and was deorbited over the Pacific at 2330 GMT the same day.

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