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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 October 20

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Born, Christopher Wren, English astronomer, architect, one of the founding members of the Royal Society

Born, James Chadwick, English physicist (Nobel 1935 "for the discovery of the neutron")

R S Dugan discovered asteroids #518 Halawe and #519 Sylvania.

M Wolf discovered asteroid #577 Rhea.

K Reinmuth discovered asteroid #924 Toni.

K Reinmuth discovered asteroid #943 Begonia.

E Delporte discovered asteroid #2819 Ensor.

A Wachmann discovered asteroid #1501 Baade.

G Kulin discovered asteroid #1710 Gothard.

Died (YF-89D prototype crash), Walter P Jones, NASA test pilot

Died, Gerben Sonderman, Dutch Fokker test pilot

1970 19:51:39 GMT
USSR launched Zond 8 from Baikonur on a Lunar flyby and Earth return mission for investigations of the Moon and circumlunar space, and testing of onboard systems and units.

The USSR's final circumlunar flight, Zond 8 was launched 20 October 1970 from an Earth orbiting platform, Tyazheliy Sputnik (70-088B), towards the Moon for further demonstration of circumlunar flight, Lunar and planetary photography. The announced objectives were investigations of the Moon and circumlunar space, and testing of onboard systems and units.

The spacecraft obtained photographs of the Earth on 21 October from a distance of 64,480 km, and transmitted flight images of the Earth for three days. Zond 8 flew past the Moon on 24 October 1970 at a distance of 1110.4 km, and obtained both black and white and color photographs of the Lunar surface. Scientific measurements were also obtained during the flight.

Zond 8 reentered the Earth's atmosphere and splashed down in the Indian Ocean on 27 October 1970. The spacecraft used a new variant of the double-dip re-entry, coming in over the North Pole, bouncing off the atmosphere, tracked by Soviet radar stations as it soared south over the Soviet Union, then making a final precision re-entry followed by splashdown at the recovery point in the Indian Ocean, the Soviets' second water recovery.

Zond 8 was recovered only 15 minutes after splashdown by the vessel Taman. Of five Zonds recovered, this was the only one to fly over the North Pole, the remainder re-entered over the South Pole. The reason for the different trajectory was the need to fly over tracking stations on Soviet territory in order to get trajectory updates that allowed a precise landing after the second plunge into the atmosphere. Mishin subsequently wanted a water landing for the L3, the dilemma being that after a first dip into the atmosphere over the North Pole, tracking for a precision landing is possible, but then the spacecraft cannot land on Soviet territory. Re-entering first over the South Pole would mean that no trajectory updates were available, but the spacecraft could land only imprecisely somewhere on Soviet territory.

15 L1's were completed, of which only five ever returned to Earth. Following this successful final recovery, the program was cancelled. The main cause of the project's failure was the unreliability of the UR-500K rocket.

P Wild discovered asteroids #1838 Ursa, #1839 Ragazza and #1893 Jakoba.

Died, Harlow Shapley, astronomer (discovered Sun's position in galaxy)

USSR's Venera 9 entered orbit about Venus, and the landing probe separated from the orbiter, in preparation for its descent to the surface.

USSR launched Venera 9 from Baikonur on 8 June 1975. The orbiter entered Venus orbit and was separated from the lander on 20 October 1975. The orbiter's mission was to act as a communications relay for the lander, and to explore cloud layers and atmospheric parameters with instruments including a French 3500 angstrom UV photometer, a 4000-7000 angstrom photo-polarimeter, a 1.5 to 3 micron infrared spectrometer, and an 8 - 30 micron infrared radiometer. The orbiter also carried a magnetometer and charged particle traps. Some reports indicated a camera system was also aboard. The orbiter consisted of a cylinder with two solar panel wings and a high gain parabolic antenna attached to the curved surface. A bell-shaped unit holding propulsion systems was attached to the bottom of the cylinder, and mounted on top was a 2.4 meter sphere which held the lander.

Venera 9 landed on Venus with the Sun near zenith at 05:13 UT on 22 October 1975. A system of circulating fluid used to distribute the heat load, plus precooling prior to entry, permitted operation of the spacecraft for 53 minutes after landing. During descent, heat dissipation and deceleration were accomplished sequentially by protective hemispheric shells, three parachutes, a disk-shaped drag brake, and a compressible, metal, doughnut-shaped, landing cushion. The landing was about 2,200 km from the Venera 10 landing site. Preliminary results indicated:

   1. clouds 30-40 km thick with bases at 30-35 km altitude
   2. atmospheric constituents including HCl, HF, Br, and I
   3. surface pressure about 90 (Earth) atmospheres
   4. surface temperature 485 degrees C
   5. light levels comparable to Earth mid-latitudes on a cloudy summer day
   6. successful TV photography showing shadows, no apparent dust in the air, and a variety of 30-40 cm rocks which were not eroded

Venera 9 and 10 were the first probes to send back black and white pictures from the Venusian surface. They were supposed to make 360 degree panoramic shots, but on both landers one of two camera covers failed to come off, restricting their field of view to 180 degrees.

Venera 9 lander, NASA image

L G Karachkina discovered asteroid #3437 Kapitsa.

Died, Paul A M Dirac, English physicist (quantum mechanics, Nobel 1933 with Schrodinger "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory")

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, (8 August 1902 - 20 October 1984) was a British theoretical physicist and a founder of the field of quantum physics.

Dirac studied electrical engineering at the University of Bristol, completing his degree in 1921. After working briefly as an engineer, Dirac decided that his true calling lay in the mathematical sciences. He completed a degree in mathematics at Bristol in 1923 and then received a grant to conduct research at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he would remain for most of his career. At Cambridge he became interested in the general theory of relativity and in the nascent field of quantum physics, and worked under the supervision of Ralph Fowler.

In 1926 he developed a version of quantum mechanics that incorporated the previous work of Werner Heisenberg on "Matrix Mechanics" and of Erwin Schrodinger on "Wave Mechanics" into a single mathematical formalism that associates measurable quantities with operators acting on the Hilbert space of vectors that describe the state of a physical system. For this seminal work he was awarded a Ph.D. from Cambridge.

In 1928, building on Pauli's work on nonrelativistic spin systems, he derived the Dirac equation, a relativistic equation describing the electron. This work led Dirac to predict the existence of the positron, the electron's antiparticle, which he interpreted in terms of what came to be called the Dirac sea. The positron was subsequently observed by Carl Anderson in 1932. Dirac also contributed to explaining the origin of quantum spin as a relativistic phenomenon.

A Mrkos discovered asteroid #3395.

1995 09:53:00 EDT (GMT -4:00:00)
NASA launched STS 73 (Columbia 18, Shuttle 72) carrying the US Microgravity Laboratory-2 (USML-2) experiment platform into orbit.

STS 73 launched 20 October 1995; the successful launch after six scrubs tied STS 73 with STS 61-C for the most launch scrubs of a single mission: The liftoff originally set for 25 September 1995 was scrubbed shortly after tanking began, when a hydrogen leak was detected in the main engine number 1 main fuel valve. The valve was replaced at the pad. The launch was re-set for 5 October, but weather effects due to Hurricane Opal led to the L-1 day decision to postpone the launch one day to 6 October. The 6 October launch attempt was scrubbed prior to external tank loading when it was determined that hydraulic fluid had been inadvertently drained from hydraulic system 1 following the main engine number 1 fuel valve replacement. A compressibility test demonstrated the system was satisfactory for launch, and liftoff was re-set to occur 7 October. The launch attempt on 7 October was scrubbed at T-20 seconds when the Master Events Controller 1 (MEC 1) failed to operate properly and mission managers determined it needed to be replaced. The launch re-set for 14 October was re-scheduled to 15 October to allow additional time to inspect the main engine oxidizer ducts as a result of finding a crack in a test engine oxidizer duct at Stennis. Also during the delay, a faulty general purpose computer 1 (GPC 1) had to be replaced. The launch attempt 15 October was postponed at T-5 minutes due to low clouds and rain. The launch was tentatively re-set to 19 October pending a successful Atlas launch on 18 October; however, the Atlas launch was delayed and the STS 73 was launch moved to 20 October. The countdown to liftoff on 20 October was delayed three minutes due to a range computer glitch, but otherwise proceeded smoothly.

STS 73 marked the second flight of the US Microgravity Laboratory (USML-2) and built on the foundation of its predecessor, which flew on Columbia during STS 50 in 1992. The research during USML-2 concentrated within the same overall areas of USML-1, with many experiments flying for the second time. The crew divided into two teams to work around the clock in the 23 foot (seven meter) long Spacelab module located in Columbia's payload bay.

Research was conducted in five areas: fluid physics, materials science, biotechnology, combustion science, and commercial space processing. USML-2 activities were directed by NASA's Spacelab Mission Operations Control facility at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The experiments went smoothly. In some cases, results re-confirmed existing theories, while in other cases results were new and unique. Highlights included unprecedented results from the Surface Tension Driven Convection Experiment, which flew for second time and studied in great detail basic fluid mechanics and heat transfer of thermocapillary flows, motions created within fluids by non-uniform heating of their free surfaces. Oscillations observed on USML-2 samples had never been observed on Earth, and researchers controlling the experiment from the ground were able to pinpoint when fluid flows transitioned from stable to unstable. The research has direct applications on Earth, in that unwanted fluid flows during melting and resolidifying can create defects in high-tech crystals, metals, alloys and ceramics.

Flying for first time was the Fiber Supported Droplet Combustion experiment. More than 25 droplets of a variety of fuels were ignited, confirming theories about how fuels burn in microgravity. The results revealed larger droplet extension diameters (the size of a drop as it burns out) than are capable of being studied on Earth, with burning times 10 times longer. The data confirmed scientific predictions about burn rate and the amount of fuel left over after a fire goes out. This will allow investigators to refine theories and possibly develop new ones about byproducts such as soot and smog.

Five small potatoes were grown on-orbit from tubers in the Astroculture plant growth facility. USML-2 marked the final test flight of the Astroculture hardware, with the unit set to become available commercially for sale or lease. Technologies incorporated in the Astroculture hardware design already are finding application on Earth; for example, the technology behind light emitting diodes (LEDs) that provide high levels of light on-orbit with limited electrical power is finding its way into energy-efficient lighting systems for large-scale commercial plant nurseries. The successful on-orbit growth demonstrated Astroculture's usefulness as plant growth facility and showed edible foods could be grown in space.

A record number of Protein Crystal Growth (PCG) samples - around 1,500 - were flown on USML-2 and initial results indicated many had produced crystals which would be further studied after landing. Other crystal growth experiments were equally successful. In the Crystal Growth Furnace, which flew for first time on USML-1, a crystal was grown for the first time as a liquid bridge to minimize contact with container wall, thus decreasing the number of defects in the crystal. Eight semiconductor crystals were grown, also a very thin crystal and two crystals which could lead to products such as computer chips that are faster and use less power than traditional computer chips.

The crew took time out from the Spacelab work to tape the ceremonial first pitch for Game Five of baseball's World Series, marking the first time the thrower was not actually in the ballpark for the pitch.

The Columbia orbiter performed without serious problems, with the only notable glitch being two vernier thruster jets failing off several times throughout the mission; their function was restored by cycling them on and off. Also, an equipment failure at a ground terminal for NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Communications (TDRS) satellites necessitated two extended communications outages between Columbia and Earth in order to perform a repair.

STS 73 ended on 5 November 1995 when Columbia landed on revolution 256 on Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on the first opportunity at KSC. Rollout distance: 9,032 feet (2,753 meters). Rollout time: 55 seconds. Orbit altitude: 150 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 39 degrees. Mission duration: 15 days, 21 hours, 52 minutes, 28 seconds, making STS 73 the second longest Shuttle flight to date. Miles traveled: 6.6 million.

The flight crew for STS 73 was: Kenneth D. Bowersox, Commander; Kent V. Rominger, Pilot; Kathryn C. Thornton, Payload Commander; Catherine G. Coleman PhD, Mission Specialist; Michael E. Lopez-Alegria, Mission Specialist; Fred W. Leslie PhD, Payload Specialist; Albert Sacco Jr PhD, Payload Specialist.

2000 10:08:00 CDT (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA's STS 92 (Discovery 28, Shuttle 100) undocked from the ISS, ending the joint operations segment of the International Space Station Flight 3A mission.

STS 92 was launched 11 October 2000. It docked at the International Space Station on 13 October, and undocked prior to returning to Earth, on 20 October.

During STS 92, the crew brought the Z-1 Truss (mounted on a Spacelab pallet), Control Moment Gyros, Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3) and two DDCU (Heat pipes) to the International Space Station.

STS 92 crew members conducted four space walks on the outside of the docked complex. Beginning 15 October, space walkers conducted the complex, demanding tasks that were required for installation of the Z1 Truss and Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 onto the station's Unity module. Mission Specialists Leroy Chiao and Bill McArthur performed the first and third excursions. Mission Specialists Jeff Wisoff and Michael Lopez-Alegria performed the second and fourth. The total space walk time for the mission was 27 hours, 19 minutes.

During the International Space Station 3A mission (STS 92), the following elements were added: 1) Integrated Truss Structure Z1, an early exterior framework to allow the first US solar arrays on Flight 4A to be temporarily installed on Unity for early power; 2) Ku-band Communication System, to support early science capability and US television broadcasts on Flight 6A; 3) Control Moment Gyros, to provide non-propulsive (electrically powered) attitude control when activated on Flight 5A; and, 4) Pressurized Mating Adapter 3, to provide a shuttle docking port for solar array installation on Flight 4A, and Lab installation on Flight 5A.

STS 92 ended 24 October 2000 when Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Orbit altitude: 177 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 51.6 degrees. Mission duration: 12 days, 21 hours, 43 minutes. Miles traveled: 5.3 million.

The flight crew for STS 92 was: Commander Brian Duffy, Pilot Pam Melroy, Mission Specialists Leroy Chiao, Bill McArthur, Koichi Wakata (NASDA), Jeff Wisoff and Mike Lopez-Alegria.

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