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Space History for October 26

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Race To Space
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               ... but at what cost?
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Comet 55P/1366 U1 (Tempel-Tuttle) approached to within 0.0229 AUs of Earth (approximately 2 million miles), the third closest approach of any comet to our planet in recorded history.

Halley's Comet passed perihelion in its twenty-fifth known passage, as calculated from records including ones by Chinese astronomers.

In 2000 years of observations since 240 BCE, Chinese records have never missed a return of Halley's Comet. From those records, Cowell and Crommelin computed the dates of perihelion passage as:

 1. 15 May 240 BCE
 2. 20 May 163 BCE
 3. 15 August 87 BCE
 4. 8 October 12 BCE
 5. 26 January 66 CE
 6. 25 March 141 CE
 7. 6 April 218 CE
 8. 7 April 295 CE
 9. 13 February 374 CE
10. 3 July 451 CE
11. 15 November 530 CE
12. 26 March 607 CE
13. 26 November 684 CE
14. 10 June 760 CE
15. 25 February 837 CE
16. 17 July 912 CE
17. 2 September 989 CE
18. 25 March 1066 CE
19. 19 April 1145 CE
20. 10 September 1222 CE
21. 22.7 October 1301 CE
22. 8.8 November 1378 CE
23. 8.2 January 1456 CE
24. 25.8 August 1531 CE
25. 26.9 October 1607 CE
26. 14.8 September 1682 CE
27. 12.6 March 1758 CE
28. 15.9 November 1835 CE
29. 19.7 April 1910 CE
30. 9 February 1986 CE

Note that the precision of the dates from passage 21 onward could be computed with increased accuracy because of additional observations. However, at the time of their computation, the 1986 passage was still a future event. (The actual date was found from other sources.)

On 19 April 607, Comet 1P/607 H1 (Halley) approached within 0.0898 AU (13.5 million km, 8.4 million miles) of Earth. On 374-April-1.9, it had approached closer, having come within 0.0884 AU (13.2 million km, 8.2 million miles), and on 837-April-10.5, it became the third closest approach in history prior to 1900, passing within 0.0334 AU (5 million km, 3.1 million miles).

On 16 October 1982, astronomers David Jewitt and G. Edward Danielson using a CCD camera with the 5.1 m Hale telescope at Mt. Palomar Observatory were the first to detect Halley's Comet on its thirtieth recorded return.

See also The past orbit of Halley's Comet (SAO/NASA ADS)

See also Comet Close Approaches prior to 1900 (CNEOS)

See also History of Halley's Comet (Wikipedia)

See also Halley's Comet (CQ Press)

See also Comet 1P/Halley (Halley's Comet) (Smithsonian NASM)

H. Goldschmidt discovered asteroid #32 Pomona.

Born, John Leland "Lee" Atwood, Chief Engineer at North American Aviation (1948-1971), supervized development of the P-51, Navaho cruise missle, F-86, X-15, XB-70, Apollo, and Space Shuttle

J. H. Metcalf discovered asteroid #620 Drakonia.

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #963 Iduberga.

Died, Charles Proteus Steinmetz, experimented with lightning and AC electricity

The first childbirth in an aircraft in the US occurred at Miami, Florida when Airlene Evans was born in a chartered Fokker trimotor circling above the Dade County Courthouse.

1950 23:02:00 GMT
The US Naval Research Lab launched a technology flight V-2 Ionosphere/Meteorites mission at 16:02 local time which reached an apogee of 8.1 km but carried no upper atmospheric research experiments. An explosion at T+50 sec terminated the flight at Mach 3.

Born, Stephen Kern Robinson (at Sacramento, California, USA), NASA mission specialist astronaut (STS 85, STS 95, STS 114, STS 130; over 48d 9.75h total time in spaceflight)

Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, STS-114 mission specialist, NASA photo (21 Jan. 2004)
Source: Wikipedia ( killed 25 Feb 2021)

A brief transient Lunar event at the crater Alphonsus was photographed by D. Alter and observed by other astronomers.

USSR's Sputnik 1 ceased its transmissions.

Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite successfully placed in orbit around the Earth. (The Russian word "Sputnik" means "companion," "satellite" in the astronomical sense.) In 1885, in his book "Dreams of Earth and Sky," Konstantin Tsiolkovsky had first described how such a satellite could be launched into a low altitude orbit. Coming at the height of the Cold War, the launch caught the West by surprise, and began the space race by galvanizing interest and action on the part of the American public to support an active role in space research, technology, and exploration.

Sputnik 1 was launched on an R-7 (ICBM) booster from Baikonur Cosmodrome at Tyuratam (370 km southwest of the small town of Baikonur) in Kazakhstan, then part of the former Soviet Union, on 4 October 1957 at 10:28:04 pm, Moscow time. It was the first in a series of four satellites in the Soviet Sputnik program, a contribution to the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958). Three of these satellites (Sputnik 1, 2, and 3) reached Earth orbit.

The Sputnik 1 satellite was a 58.0 cm (14.7 inches) diameter aluminum sphere that weighed 84 kg (184.3 lb) with four whip-like antennas that were 2.4-2.9 meters long. The antennas looked like long "whiskers" pointing to one side. The spacecraft obtained data pertaining to the density of the upper layers of the atmosphere and the propagation of radio signals in the ionosphere. The instruments and electric power sources were housed in a sealed capsule and included transmitters operated at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz (about 15 and 7.5 meters wavelength), the emissions taking place in alternating groups of 0.3 seconds duration. The downlink telemetry included data on temperatures inside and on the surface of the sphere.

Since the sphere was filled with nitrogen under pressure, Sputnik 1 provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection (no such events were reported), since losses in internal pressure due to meteoroid penetration of the outer surface would have been evident in the temperature data. The satellite transmitters operated for three weeks, until the on-board chemical batteries failed on 26 October 1957, and were monitored with intense interest around the world.

The orbit of the then inactive satellite was later observed optically to decay 92 days after launch (4 January 1958), after having completed about 1400 orbits of the Earth over a cumulative distance traveled of 70 million kilometers. The orbital apogee declined from 947 km after launch to 600 km by 9 December.

The Sputnik 1 booster rocket also reached Earth orbit and was visible from the ground at night as a first magnitude object, while the small but highly polished sphere, barely visible at sixth magnitude, was more difficult to follow optically. Several replicas of the Sputnik 1 satellite can be seen at museums in Russia and another is on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Sputnik 1's launch is the basis of selecting 4 October - Sputnik Day - as one of the L5 National Holidays.

The USS Blandy demonstrated the capability of a destroyer to recover the MR-2 Mercury capsule from water in a series of pickups with Gus Grissom aboard in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

NASA announced a new numbering system for flight missions of the Apollo spacecraft.

On 26 October 1962, NASA announced flight missions of Apollo spacecraft were to be numerically identified according to the following scheme:

Pad aborts: PA-1, PA-2, etc.

Designations determined by the launch vehicle used:
 * Little Joe II: A-001, A-002, etc.
 * Saturn C-1: A-101, A-102, etc.
 * Saturn C-1B: A-201, A-202, etc.
 * Saturn C-5: A-501, A-502, etc.

The "A" denoted Apollo, the first digit stood for launch vehicle type or series, and the last two digits designated the order of Apollo spacecraft flights within a vehicle series.

1962 09:59:00 GMT
The US Air Force launched the Thor DSV-2E BLUEGILL TRIPLE PRIME Nuclear Test mission from Johnston Island which reached an apogee of 500 km and detonated a nuclear device at an altitude of 50 km.

In the fourth attempt of the Bluegill test, a Thor IRBM was used to launch a Mk 4 Re-entry Vehicle from Johnston Island (southwest of Hawaii) on 26 October 1962 containing a 186 kg W-50 nuclear warhead of either 200 or 400 kilotons yield. The detonation occurred at an altitude of 50 km, 31 km SSW of Johnston Atoll. A fireball formed, the colorful afterglow continued 30 minutes after the explosion. At the explosion's altitude, the extensive disruption of the ionosphere seen in later detonations did not occur. Four Honest John Nike sounding rockets launched from Johnston Island to an altitude of 100 km within 45 minutes of the Thor launch, and a Starfish radiation satellite launched into a 197 km orbit from Vandenberg six and a half hours later, collected the ionosphere data.

1962 16:19:00 GMT
The US Air Force launched the Starfish Radiation 1 satellite into a 197 km orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a Thor Agena D booster, to collect artificial radiation data from atmospheric nuclear detonations.

NASA announced definition studies of the Apollo X spacecraft were planned during Fiscal Year 1965.

In an interview for Missiles and Rockets magazine on 26 October 1964, Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., stated that NASA planned to initiate program definition studies of an Apollo X spacecraft during Fiscal Year 1965. Seamans emphasized that such a long-duration space station program would not receive funding for actual hardware development until the 1970s. He stressed that NASA's Apollo X would not compete with the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program: "MOL is important for the military as a method of determining what opportunities there are for men in space. It is not suitable to fulfill NASA requirements to gain scientific knowledge."

NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart began eight days in a Gemini space suit to evaluate Gemini biomedical recording instruments. While in it, he went through several zero-g flight profiles and centrifuge runs, and a simulated four day Gemini mission.

1966 11:12:00 GMT
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA/JPL) launched a Surveyor Model Atlas Centaur 9 flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a launch vehicle test, which put the Surveyor spacecraft payload into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

1966 23:05:00 GMT
The first Pacific communications satellite, Intelsat 2 F-1, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was left in an unusable orbit due to an AKM failure.

Died (killed by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution), Zhao Jiuzhang, meteorologist, geophysicist and space physicist, leader in development of instruments for use on Chinese sounding rockets and artificial satellites

1968 08:34:00 GMT
USSR launched Soyuz 3 (call sign Argon) from Baikonur, in which cosmonaut Georgiy Beregovoy performed automatic and manual rendezvous maneuvers for perfection of rendezvous techniques in orbit via experiments with unmanned Soyuz 2.

Soyuz 3, the second manned Soyuz flight, was launched on 26 October 1968 when the unmanned Soyuz 2 passed over the Soviet Space Station at 11.34 Moscow time, officially for complex testing of spaceship systems; development, in joint flight with Soyuz 2, of the processes of spaceship maneuvring and docking in artificial Earth satellite orbit; development of elements of celestial navigation; and conduct of research under space flight conditions. The spacecraft had a command module (the recoverable portion of the ship) and a work compartment, separated by an air lock. It was piloted by cosmonaut Lieutenant Colonel Georgiy Timofeyevich Beregovoi.

Soyuz 3 went into a co-orbit with Soyuz 2, performed a radio search for it, and accomplished an automatic approach to it until they were 200 meters apart. Repeated manual approaches toward Soyuz 2 were made, reducing the difference in velocity between the two spacecraft to less than 1 mph. Television coverage of the operations was provided by external cameras. However, actual docking was not accomplished. The failed docking was blamed on manual control of the Soyuz by Beregovoi, who repeatedly put the spacecraft in an orientation that nulled the automatic docking system. Beregovoi used nearly all of his orientation fuel in his first attempt to dock: Of 80 kg allocated, only 8 to 10 kg remained after the attempt. Telemetry analysis showed Soyuz 3 used 30 kg of propellant during 20 minutes of maneuvring in the automatic regime during docking, followed by 40 kg consumed in two minutes of manual maneuvring. Essentially, Beregovoi was trying to dock the spacecraft upside down. This was either due to incorrect configuration of the running lights, or cosmonaut error: Soyuz 2 had two continuously illuminated lights on its upper side and two blinking lights on the lower side. Evidently Beregovoi didn't identify these correctly in weightlessness.

Soyuz 2 landed on 28 October 1968, and Soyuz 3 continued its flight. During the flight, different modes of orientation were tested, regular TV reports were made from orbit, and scientific and technological experiments - including observing the stellar sky, the Earth, and celestial luminaries, photographing the cloud canopy and snow cover for resource studies, detecting typhoons and cyclones, and investigating biomedical phenomena - were performed. Beregovoi was instructed to conduct experiments with the 45K stellar sensor on: He was to disengage the 45K, orient the spacecraft to the Sun, then reengage the sensor and the automatic orientation system. This did two complete turns of the spacecraft searching for the star, but not acquiring it. To Kamanin this showed the uselessness of the system, and the wastage of propellant it caused.

An orbit correction was made during the 36th revolution.

Be-2 seaplanes were in the air on 30 October 1968 in case Beregovoi had to do a ballistic re-entry and perform a splashdown in the Aral Sea. On his 81st orbit, Beregovoi manually oriented the spacecraft for retrofire, then engaged the vertical sensor and ion orientation system. The spacecraft hit an ion pocket, and it took between two and three minutes for the automated system to engage. Retrofire started 3 seconds late, coming at 9:45:05 Moscow time and continuing for 149 seconds, producing a delta V of 95 m/s. The main parachute deployed at 10:12:24 at 7 km altitude. Beregovoi spent 13 minutes under the main parachute, descending at 4 to 5 m/s. Soyuz 3 landed 10 km from the aimpoint at 10:25 Moscow time on 30 October 1968.

L. Kohoutek discovered asteroids #1840 Hus, #1841 Masaryk, #1865 Cerberus, #1894 Haffner, #1895 Larink, #1896 Beer, #1897 Hind, #1898 Cowell, #1899 Crommelin, #1932 Jansky, #1995 Hajek, #2047 Smetana, #2281, #2418, #2838, #3081, #3336, #3337 and #3514.

Died, Igor Sikorsky, helicopter pioneer

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky (25 May 1889 - 26 October 1972) was a Ukrainian-born pioneer of aviation who designed the first four-engine airplanes and the first modern helicopter.

Igor Sikorsky was born in Kiev, Ukraine and studied at the Naval War College in St. Petersburg. He emigrated from the Russia to the United States in 1919, at the age of 30, fleeing the Bolshevik regime installed after the October Revolution.

Sikorsky's early work included the construction, as chief engineer, of the first four-motor aircraft; he acted as the test pilot for its inaugural flight, on 13 May 1913. His planes were used by the Russian government as bombers in World War I.

In 1923, in the US, he formed the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Company, which was purchased by and became a subsidiary of United Aircraft (itself now a part of United Technologies Corporation). The company manufactured flying boats such as the Sikorsky S42, used by Pan Am for trans-atlantic flights and known as Pan Am Clippers.

Sikorsky had experimented with helicopter type flying machines while in Russia, and brought his work to fruition on 24 May 1940 when he performed the first successful helicopter flight, in a machine with a single three-blade rotor powered by a 75 horsepower (56 kW) engine, the Vought-Sikorsky 300.

1973 02:26:00 GMT
NASA GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) launched IMP-J (Interplanetary Monitoring Platform 8, Explorer 50) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a solar flare and radiation monitor.

IMP-J (Interplanetary Monitoring Platform 8, Explorer 50), the last satellite of the IMP series, launched 26 October 1973, was a drum-shaped spacecraft, 135.6 cm across and 157.4 cm high, instrumented for interplanetary and magnetotail studies of cosmic rays, energetic solar particles, plasma, and electric and magnetic fields. Its initial orbit was more elliptical than intended, with apogee and perigee distances of about 45 and 25 Earth radii. Its eccentricity decreased after launch. Its orbital inclination varied between 0 deg and about 55 deg with a periodicity of several years. The spacecraft spin axis was normal to the ecliptic plane, and the spin rate was 23 rpm. The data telemetry rate was 1600 bps. The spacecraft was in the solar wind for 7 to 8 days of every 12.5 day orbit. Telemetry coverage was 90% in the early years, but only 60-70% through most of the 1980's and early 1990's. Coverage returned to the 90% range in the mid to late 1990's. The objectives of the extended IMP-8 operations were to provide solar wind parameters as input for magnetospheric studies and as a 1-AU baseline for deep space studies, and to continue solar cycle variation studies with a single set of well-calibrated and understood instruments. In October, 2001, IMP 8 was terminated as an independent mission. Telemetry acquisition resumed after about three months at Canberra only (30-50% coverage), as an adjunct to the Voyager and Ulysses missions. As of August 2005, IMP 8 was continuing in this mode. The last useful science data from IMP 8 was acquired on 7 October 2006.

IMP-J (Interplanetary Monitoring Platform 8, Explorer 50) during assembly
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog

T. Smirnova discovered asteroid #3159 Prokof'ev.

1976 14:50:00 GMT
USSR launched Ekran 1 from Baikonur to transmit USSR central television programs to public receiving units in Siberia and the Far North, which was positioned in geosynchronous orbit over the Indian Ocean at 99 deg E.

NASA conducted the fifth and final Approach and Landing Test (ALT) using the space shuttle Enterprise with the tail cone off, landing at Edwards Air Force Base on concrete Runway 04 after a flight of 2 minutes, 1 second.

Died, Konstantin Davidovich Bushuyev, Russian engineer, Deputy Chief Designer to Korolev, 1954-1975; Chief Designer for the N1 booster; worked on a range of OKB-1 satellites and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1973-1975.

1978 06:57:00 GMT
USSR launched a Tsyklon 3 booster from Plesetsk carrying the Cosmos 1045 oceanographic weather satellite, and the Radio Sputnik 1 and 2 amateur radio satellites with experiments by students at higher educational establishments to orbit.

E. Bowell discovered asteroid #3174 Alcock.

1993 17:04:00 GMT
The US Air Force launched the Navstar 2A-14 (USA 96) navigation satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a GPS Block 2A component of the Global Positioning System, which was placed in Plane D Slot 4.

2000 07:00:00 GMT
NASA's NEAR spacecraft flew within 5.3 km of Eros, the first ever asteroid flyby within 10 km.

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