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Space History for November 7

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Race To Space
Someone will win the prize...
               ... but at what cost?
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Pierre Gassendi observed a transit of Mercury that had been predicted by Johannes Kepler.

Died, Cornelis Drebbel, physicist, chemist, inventor (submarine, two-lens microscope, pressure-wound clock, cooling machine, feedback-controlled chicken incubator)

Born, Edwin H. Hall, US physicist (Hall effect)

1867 00:00:00 GMT
Born, Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie, discovered radium (Nobel Physics 1903, Chemistry 1911)

Marie Curie (nee Sklodowska) (7 November 1867 - 4 July 1934) was born in Warsaw, Poland, to a family of teachers who believed strongly in education. She moved to Paris to continue her studies and there met Pierre Curie, who became both her husband and colleague in the field of radioactivity. The couple later shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with Henri Becquerel "in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel." Marie was widowed in 1906, but continued the couple's work and went on to become the first person ever to be awarded two Nobel Prizes, recipient of the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element." During World War I, Curie organized mobile X-ray teams.

See also:
* Facts re. Marie Curie, Nobel Prize in Physics 1903
* Marie Curie's 1911 Nobel Prize biography
* Facts re. Marie Curie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1911

Born, Chandrasekhara Raman (at Tiruchirappalli, India), physicist (Nobel 1930 "for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him")

J. H. Metcalf discovered asteroids #694 Ekard and #695 Bella.

The first air freight shipment carried ten bolts of fabric in two packages from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio, in a $5000 contract between the Wright Brothers and department store owner Max Moorehouse. Philip Parmalee piloted the 65 mile Wright Model B flight.

Born, Mikhail Kuzmich Yangel (at Irkutsk, Siberia, Russia), Russian engineer, Chief Designer of OKB-586 (1954-1971), preeminent Soviet designer of ballistic missiles and light satellites

In Russia, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin led his revolutionaries in a nearly bloodless coup d'etat against the Provisional Government. (Some period references show a 25 October date because Russia was still using the Julian Calendar at the time.)

Born, Armen Sergeyevich Mnatsakanian (at Armenia), Chief Designer of Nll-648 (1953-1969), specialized in spacecraft telemetry and radar systems

"Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" aired on radio for the first time.

A new world air speed record of 606 mph (975 kph) was set by H.J. Wilson of England's RAF in a Gloster Meteor, the first official air speed record by a jet aircraft.

Goethe Link Observatory discovered asteroid #1764 Cogshall.

1963 16:00:01 GMT
NASA launched the successful PA-1 evaluation flight of the Apollo escape configuration during pad abort.

NASA conducted Apollo Pad Abort Mission I (PA-1) on 7 November 1963, the first off-the-pad abort test of the Launch Escape System (LES), at White Sands Missle Range, New Mexico. PA-1 used Command Module (CM) boilerplate 6 and an LES for this test.

All sequencing was normal. The tower-jettison motor sent the escape tower into a proper ballistic trajectory. The drogue parachute deployed as programmed, followed by the pilot parachute and main parachutes. The test lasted 165.1 seconds. The postflight investigation disclosed only one significant problem: exhaust impingement that resulted in soot deposits on the CM.

The mission was deemed a success.

Apollo program's Pad Abort Test 1 launch, NASA photo
Source: Wikipedia

1963 18:11:00 GMT
NASA and the USAF launched X-15A Sharp Upper Vert. Test mission # 94, the first flight with a sharp-edged vertical stabilizer. Robert Rushworth reached 2925 mph (4707 kph, Mach 4.40) maximum speed and 82,300 ft (25.085 km, 15.587 mi) maximum altitude.

1967 07:39:00 GMT
NASA launched Surveyor 6, the fourth of the Surveyor series to successfully achieve a soft landing on the Moon.

NASA's Surveyor 6 mission was launched on 7 November 1967. It made a soft landing on the Moon on 10 November at 0101:06 UT, at Latitude 0.46 N, Longitude 358.63 E in Sinus Medii, photographed the Lunar surface, sampled Lunar soil, and used its propulsion system to briefly lift off of the Lunar surface.

Surveyor 6 was the fourth of the Surveyor series to successfully achieve a soft landing on the Moon. The primary objectives of the Surveyor program, a series of seven robotic Lunar soft landing flights, were to support the coming crewed Apollo landings by: (1) developing and validating the technology for landing softly on the Moon; (2) providing data on the compatibility of the Apollo design with conditions encountered on the Lunar surface; and (3) adding to the scientific knowledge of the Moon. The specific primary objectives for this mission were to perform a soft landing on the Moon in the Sinus Medii region and obtain postlanding television pictures of the Lunar surface. The secondary objectives were to determine the relative abundance of the chemical elements in the Lunar soil by operation of the alpha-scattering instrument, obtain touchdown dynamics data, obtain thermal and radar reflectivity data, and conduct a vernier-engine erosion experiment.

The basic Surveyor spacecraft structure consisted of a tripod of thin-walled aluminum tubing and interconnecting braces providing mounting surfaces and attachments for the power, communications, propulsion, flight control, and payload systems. A central mast extended about one meter above the apex of the tripod. Three hinged landing legs were attached to the lower corners of the structure. The legs held shock absorbers, crushable, honeycomb aluminum blocks, and the deployment locking mechanism and terminated in footpads with crushable bottoms. The three footpads extended out 4.3 meters from the center of the Surveyor. The spacecraft was about 3 meters tall. The legs folded to fit into a nose shroud for launch.

A 0.855 square meter array of 792 solar cells was mounted on a positioner on top of the mast and generated up to 85 Watts of power which was stored in rechargeable silver-zinc batteries. Communications were achieved via a movable large planar array high gain antenna mounted near the top of the central mast to transmit television images, two omnidirectional conical antennas mounted on the ends of folding booms for uplink and downlink, two receivers and two transmitters. Thermal control was achieved by a combination of white paint, high IR-emittance thermal finish, and a polished aluminum underside. Two thermally controlled compartments, equipped with superinsulating blankets, conductive heat paths, thermal switches and small electric heaters, were mounted on the spacecraft structure. One compartment, held at 5-50 degrees C, housed the communications and power supply electronics. The other, held between -20 and 50 degrees C, housed the command and signal processing components. The TV survey camera was mounted near the top of the tripod. Strain gauges, temperature sensors, and other engineering instruments were incorporated throughout the spacecraft. One photometric target was mounted near the end of a landing leg and one on a short boom extending from the bottom of the structure.

A Sun sensor, Canopus tracker and rate gyros on three axes provided attitude knowledge. Propulsion and attitude control were provided by cold-gas (nitrogen) attitude control jets during cruise phases, three throttlable vernier rocket engines during powered phases, including the landing, and the solid-propellant retrorocket engine during terminal descent. The retrorocket was a spherical steel case mounted in the bottom center of the spacecraft. The vernier engines used monomethyl hydrazine hydrate fuel and MON-10 (90% N2O2, 10% NO) oxidizer. Each thrust chamber could produce 130-460 N of thrust on command, one engine could swivel for roll control. The fuel was stored in spherical tanks mounted to the tripod structure. For the landing sequence, an altitude marking radar initiated the firing of the main retrorocket for primary braking. After firing was complete, the retrorocket and radar were jettisoned and the doppler and altimeter radars were activated. These provided information to the autopilot which controlled the vernier propulsion system to touchdown.

With a payload virtually identical to that of Surveyor 5, this spacecraft carried a television survey camera, a small bar magnet attached to one footpad to detect magnetic material, an alpha-scattering instrument to study surface composition, and convex auxilliary mirrors mounted on the frame to view the surface under the spacecraft, as well as the necessary engineering equipment. The main differences were that Surveyor 6 had polarizing filters on the TV camera, a different type of glare hood, and had 3 auxilliary mirrors instead of 2. Surveyor 6 had a mass of 1006 kg at launch and 299.6 kg on landing.

Surveyor 6 was launched 7 November 1967 from launch complex 36B of the Eastern Test range at Cape Kennedy, Florida. The Atlas-Centaur booster put the spacecraft into an initial Earth parking orbit from which it was injected into a Lunar-transfer trajectory at 8:03:30 UT. A midcourse correction manuever was performed at 2:20:00 UT on 8 November 1967. Surveyor 6 touched down on the Lunar surface on 10 November 1967 at 01:01:06 UT (8:01:06 EST 9 November) in Sinus Medii, a flat, heavily cratered mare region, at 0.49 N, 358.60 E (selenographic), the center of the Moon's visible hemisphere.

At 10:32 UT on 17 November 1967, the vernier engines were fired for 2.5 seconds, causing Surveyor to lift off the Lunar surface 3 to 4 meters and land about 2.4 meters west of its original position. This Lunar "hop" represented the first powered takeoff from the Lunar surface, and furnished new information on the effects of firing rocket engines on the Moon, allowed viewing of the original landing site, and provided a baseline for stereoscopic viewing and photogrammetric mapping of the surrounding terrain. The mission transmitted images until a few hours after sunset on 24 November, returning a total of 29,952 images. The alpha-scattering experiment acquired 30 hours of data on the surface material.

The spacecraft was placed into hibernation for the Lunar night on 26 November. Contact with the spacecraft was resumed on 14 December for a short period, but no useful data were returned and the last transmission was received at 19:14 UT on 14 December 1967. The results of the experiments showed that the surface had a basaltic composition, similar to that found at the Surveyor 5 landing site. Engineering and soil mechanics data indicated the bearing strength of the surface was more than adequate to support human landings. This spacecraft accomplished all planned objectives. The successful completion of this mission also satisfied the Surveyor program's obligation to the Apollo project.

Surveyor prototype on a beach simulating its Lunar target environment, NASA photo
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog

E. F. Helin and S. J. Bus discovered asteroids #2324 Janice, #2440 Educatio, #2499 Brunk, #2611 Boyce, #2725 David Bender, #2925 Beatty, #3449 Abell, #3651 and #3718; S. J. Bus discovered asteroid #3240 Laocoon.

Asteroid #2060 Chiron was observed eclipsing a magnitude 14.3 star. The data from the event has been used to support the idea Chiron has rings similar to Saturn (but much smaller).

1996 17:00:50 GMT
NASA launched the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft for a 300 day cruise to 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:
* Mars Global Surveyor at
* Mars Global Surveyor at

Mars Global Surveyor in orbit above Mars, NASA illustration
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog

1998 11:03:31 CST (GMT -6:00:00)
NASA's STS 95 (Discovery 25) landed with 77 year old John Glenn on board, the oldest person to go into space until surpassed by 82 year old Wally Funk on 20 July 2021.

STS 95 was launched 29 October 1998 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The flight of STS 95 provoked more publicity for NASA than any other flight in years, due to the presence of ex-astronaut Senator John Glenn on the crew which also included the first Spanish astronaut, Pedro Duque.

During STS 95, the crew of Discovery spent nine days in orbit successfully completing a large variety of experiments, including investigations in the astronomical, human physiology and physical science fields. A SPACEHAB module in the shuttle's payload bay provided a complete pressurized laboratory and work space for the crew's science activities.

One highlight of the mission was the free-flight of SPARTAN 201, an experiment package that was carried to orbit in Discovery's cargo bay. Mission Specialist Stephen Robinson used the shuttle's robotic arm to lift the payload from its berth and gently release it to fly on its own on 1 November 1998. The spacecraft spent two days gathering data before being retrieved and stored on the shuttle on on 3 November 1998. Researchers used the SPARTAN data to better understand the solar wind, a phenomenon that sometimes can cause widespread disruptions of communications and power supplies on Earth.

A payload carried in Discovery's cargo bay verified the flight readiness of hardware destined for the Hubble Space Telescope maintenance mission to be carried out a year later.

STS 95 carried former US Senator John Glenn to space. In 1962, Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. At the age of 77, he added another milestone to NASA's history by becoming the oldest human to fly in space, a record which stood until it was surpassed by Wally Funk (age 82) on 20 July 2021.

Glenn's first flight - aboard the Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 - lasted less than five hours. Thirty-five years later, his second flight lasted almost nine days. During STS 95, Glenn conducted a series of investigations into the physiology of the human aging process: Scientists recognize several parallels between the effects of space flight on the human body and the natural changes that take place as a person ages. Glenn's experiments were designed to test how his body responded to the microgravity environment.

Cargo Bay payloads flown on STS 95 were: SPACEHAB, SPARTAN 201-5, HST Orbital Systems Test Platform (HOST), International Extreme Ultraviolet Hitchhiker (IEH-3), Cryogenic Thermal Storage Unit (CRYOTSU), Space Experiment Module-4 (SEM-4), four Getaway Special (GAS) cannisters: G-467 (Capillary Pumped Loop), G-779 (Hearts in Space), and two experiments, G-238 and G-764, that were part of the International Extreme Ultraviolet Hitchhiker (IEH)-03 payload. The In-Cabin payloads were: Biological Research In Canisters (BRIC) and Electronic Nose (E-NOSE).

STS 98 ended on 7 November 1998 when Discovery landed on Runway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, completing its 8 day 21 hour 44 minute, 3.6 million mile mission flown with an orbit altitude of 300 nautical miles and an orbit inclination of 28.5 degrees. For Payload Specialist Glenn, the landing was a gentler return home than he experienced more than 36 years earlir when he splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean in his Friendship 7 capsule after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth: Glenn experienced only about 3 g's of acceleration during the shuttle reentry, half of what he experienced during his Mercury capsule mission in 1962.

The flight crew for STS 95 was: Curtis L. Brown, Commander; Steven W. Lindsey, Pilot; Stephen K. Robinson, Mission Specialist 1; Scott E. Parazynski, Mission Specialist 2; Pedro Duque (ESA, Spain), Mission Specialist 3; Chiaki Mukai (NASDA), Payload Specialist 1; John H. Glenn, Payload Specialist 2.

The supersonic commercial aircraft Concorde resumed flying after a 15-month break.

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