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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 November 26

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Died, John MacAdam, Scottish engineer and road-builder (macadam road construction)

Born, Bertil Lindblad, Swedish astronomer (studied the rotation of galaxies)

K Gyllenberg discovered asteroid #846 Lipperta.

Born, Frederik Pohl, US science fiction author (e.g., Mirkheim, Gateway (Heechee saga), Bipohl) & magazine editor (e.g., Astonishing Stories, Super Science Stories, Galaxy, Worlds of if), 4 Hugo & 3 Nebula awards

Born, Dr Boris Borisovich Yegorov (at Moscow, Russia), USSR cosmonaut (Voskhod 1)

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.

G Kulin discovered asteroid #1441 Bolyai.

L E Cunningham discovered asteroid #2211.

1959 06:26:00 GMT
NASA launched Pioneer P-3 (Atlas-Able 4) as an attempted Lunar orbiter, but the payload was destroyed shortly after launch.

Pioneer P-3 (Atlas-Able 4), launched 26 November 1959, was intended to be a Lunar orbiter probe, but the mission failed shortly after launch. The objectives were to place a highly instrumented probe in Lunar orbit, to investigate the environment between the Earth and Moon, and to develop technology for controlling and maneuvering spacecraft from Earth. It was equipped to take images of the Lunar surface with a television-like system, estimate the Moon's mass and topography of the poles, record the distribution and velocity of micrometeorites, and study radiation, magnetic fields, and low frequency electromagnetic waves in space. A mid-course propulsion system and injection rocket would have been the first US self-contained propulsion system capable of operation many months after launch at great distances from Earth and the first US tests of maneuvering a satellite in space.

The spacecraft was launched on an Air Force-Convair Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile coupled to Thor-Able upper stages including an Able x 248 rocket third stage. The plastic payload shroud broke away 45 seconds after launch, subjecting the payload and third stage rocket to critical aerodynamic loads. At 104 seconds after launch, communications with the upper stages were lost and the payload was stripped off followed by the third stage. Telemetry indicated the first and second stages continued as programmed.

Pioneer P-3 was a 1 meter diameter sphere with a propulsion system mounted on the bottom giving a total length of 1.4 meters. The mass of the structure and aluminum alloy shell was 25.3 kg and the propulsion units 88.4 kg. Four solar panels, each 60 x 60 cm and containing 2200 solar cells in 22 100-cell nodules, extended from the sides of the spherical shell in a "paddle-wheel" configuration with a total span of about 2.7 meters. The solar panels charged chemical batteries. Inside the shell, a large spherical hydrazine tank made up most of the volume, topped by two smaller spherical nitrogen tanks and a 90 N injection rocket to slow the spacecraft down to go into Lunar orbit, which was designed to be capable of firing twice during the mission. Attached to the bottom of the sphere was a 90 N vernier rocket for mid-course propulsion and Lunar orbit maneuvers which could be fired four times.

Around the upper hemisphere of the hydrazine tank was a ring-shaped instrument platform which held the batteries in two packs, two 5 W UHF transmitters and diplexers, logic modules for scientific instruments, two command receivers, decoders, a buffer/amplifier, three converters, a telebit, a command box, and most of the scientific instruments. Two dipole UHF antennas protruded from the top of the sphere on either side of the injection rocket nozzle. Two dipole UHF antennas and a long VLF antenna protruded from the bottom of the sphere.

Thermal control was planned to be achieved by a large number of small "propeller blade" devices on the surface of the sphere. The blades themselves were made of reflective material and consist of four vanes which were flush against the surface, covering a black heat-absorbing pattern painted on the sphere. A thermally sensitive coil was attached to the blades in such a way that low temperatures within the satellite would cause the coil to contract and rotate the blades and expose the heat absorbing surface, and high temperatures would cause the blades to cover the black patterns. Square heat-sink units were also mounted on the surface of the sphere to help dissipate heat from the interior.

The scientific instruments consisted of an ion chamber and Geiger-Mueller tube to measure total radiation flux, a proportional radiation counter telescope to measure high energy radiation, a scintillation counter to monitor low-energy radiation, a VLF receiver for natural radio waves, a transponder to study electron density, and part of the television facsimile system and flux-gate and search coil magnetometers mounted on the instrument platform. The television camera pointed through a small hole in the sphere between two of the solar panel mounts. The micrometeorite detector was mounted on the sphere as well. The total mass of the science package including electronics and power supply was 55 kg.

1963 21:24:00 (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched Explorer 18 (IMP A) on a mission of interplanetary and distant magnetospheric studies of energetic particles, cosmic rays, magnetic fields, and plasmas.

Explorer 18 (IMP 1) was a solar-cell and chemical-battery powered spacecraft instrumented for interplanetary and distant magnetospheric studies of energetic particles, cosmic rays, magnetic fields, and plasmas. Initial spacecraft parameters included a local time of apogee of 1020 h, a spin rate of 22 rpm, and a spin direction of 115 deg right ascension and -25 deg declination. Each normal telemetry sequence of 81.9 second duration consisted of 795 data bits. After every third normal sequence there was an 81.9 second interval of rubidium vapor magnetometer analog data transmission. The spacecraft performed normally until 30 May 1964, then intermittently until 10 May 1965, when it was abandoned. The principal periods of data coverage were 27 November 1963 to 30 May 1964; 17 September 1964 to 7 January 1965; and 21 February 1965 to 25 March 1965; however, only the first of these periods was very useful.

Launch Date: 1963-11-27 at 02:24:00 UTC
Launch Vehicle: Thor-Delta
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Decay Date: 1965-12-30

IMP A (Explorer 18), NASA photo

From the Hammaguira launch facility in the Sahara Desert, France launched a Diamant-A rocket with its first satellite Asterix-1 (92 lb/42 kg) on board, becoming the third country to launch its own satellite into space.

The first major tidal power plant opened at Rance estuary, France.

Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroids #2260 Neoptolemus, #2336 Xinjiang, #2617 Jiangxi and #3421.

Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroids #3011 and #3297.

1985 19:29:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched STS 61-B (Atlantis 2, Shuttle 23) which deployed three communications satellites, and conducted space assembly experiments.

The STS 61-B launch on 26 November 1985 proceeded as scheduled with no delays.

Three communications satellites were deployed during the STS 61-B flight: MORELOS-B (Mexico), AUSSAT-2 (Australia) and SATCOM KU-2 (RCA Americom). MORELOS-B and AUSSAT-2 were attached to Payload Assist Module-D motors, SATCOM KU-2 was attached to a PAM-D2, designed for heavier payloads.

Two experiments were conducted to test assembling erectable structures in space: Experimental Assembly of Structures in Extravehicular Activity (EASE) and Assembly Concept for Construction of Erectable Space Structure (ACCESS). The experiments required two space walks by Spring and Ross lasting five hours, 32 minutes, and six hours, 38 minutes, respectively. The middeck payloads were: Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES); Diffusive Mixing of Organic Solutions (DMOS); Morelos Payload Specialist Experiments (MPSE); and Orbiter Experiments (OEX). Payloads carried in the payload bay were: Get Away Special and IMAX Cargo Bay Camera (ICBC).

The STS 61-B mission ended when Atlantis landed 3 December 1985 on revolution 109 on Runway 22, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Rollout distance: 10,759 feet. Rollout time: 78 seconds. Launch weight: 261,455 pounds. Landing weight: 205,732 pounds. Orbit altitude: 225 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 57 degrees. Mission duration: six days, 21 hours, four minutes, 49 seconds. Miles traveled: 2.8 million. The mission was shortened one revolution due to lightning conditions at Edwards, and the shuttle landed on a concrete runway because the lake bed was wet. Atlantis returned to KSC 7 December 1985.

The STS 61-B flight crew was: Brewster H. Shaw, Jr., Commander; Bryan D. O'Connor, Pilot; Mary L. Cleave, Mission Specialist 1; Sherwood C. Spring, Mission Specialist 2; Jerry L. Ross, Mission Specialist 3; Rodolfo Neri Vela, Payload Specialist 1; Charles D. Walker, Payload Specialist 2.

Pioneer 6 made its closest approach to Earth since it was launched in 1965, a distance of 1.87 million km.

USSR launched Soyuz TM-7 to Mir with cosmonauts Alexander Volkov, Sergei Krikalev and Jean-Loup Chretien aboard.

NASA's STS 113 crew installed the P1 (P-One) Truss on the International Space Station (ISS).

STS 113 was launched 23 November 2002, the 16th shuttle mission to the International Space Station (designated ISS Flight 11A). Orbit insertion altitude: 122 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 51.60 degrees. During its 14 day mission, the STS 113 crew extended the International Space Station's backbone with installation of the P1 (P-One) Truss, and exchanged the Expedition Five and Six crews. About 1,969 kilograms (4,340 pounds) of cargo were transferred between the shuttle and station. Endeavour docked with the station 25 November and undocked on 2 December. Three EVAs were conducted. The mission ended on 7 December 2002 when Endeavour landed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Mission duration: 13 days, 18 hours, 47 minutes. The landing was the first time a mission ended on the fourth day of landing attempts.

NASA illustration, ISS P1 Truss assembly sequence

The Concorde supersonic transport (SST) made its last ever flight.

2011 15:02:00 GMT
NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover toward Mars from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 15:02:00 UTC (10:02AM EST) on 26 November 2011. The spacecraft flight system had a launch mass of 3,893 kg (8,583 lb), consisting of an Earth-Mars fueled cruise stage (539 kg (1,188 lb)), the entry-descent-landing (EDL) system (2,401 kg (5,293 lb) including 390 kg (860 lb) of landing propellant), and an 899 kg (1,982 lb) mobile rover with an integrated instrument package. On 11 January 2012, the spacecraft successfully refined its trajectory with a three-hour series of thruster-engine firings, advancing the rover's landing time by about 14 hours.

Selection of Gale Crater for the landing during preflight planning had followed consideration of more than thirty locations by more than 100 scientists participating in a series of open workshops. The selection process benefited from examining candidate sites with NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and earlier orbiters, and from the rover mission's capability of landing within a target area only about 20 kilometers (12 miles) long. That precision, about a fivefold improvement on earlier Mars landings, made sites eligible that would otherwise be excluded for encompassing nearby unsuitable terrain. The Gale Crater landing site, about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, is so close to the crater wall and Mount Sharp that it would not have been considered safe if the mission were not using this improved precision.

Science findings began months before landing as Curiosity made measurements of radiation levels during the flight from Earth to Mars that will help NASA design for astronaut safety on future human missions to Mars.

The Mars rover Curiosity landed successfully on the floor of Gale Crater at 05:32 UTC on 6 August 2012, at 4.6 degrees south latitude, 137.4 degrees east longitude and minus 4,501 meters (2.8 miles) elevation. Engineers designed the spacecraft to steer itself during descent through Mars' atmosphere with a series of S-curve maneuvers similar to those used by astronauts piloting NASA space shuttles. During the three minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft slowed its descent with a parachute, then used retrorockets mounted around the rim of its upper stage. The parachute descent was observed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see for the image and some notes. In the final seconds of the landing sequence, the upper stage acted as a sky crane, lowering the upright rover on a tether to land on its wheels. The touchdown site, Bradbury Landing, is near the foot of a layered mountain, Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons). Curiosity landed on target and only 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from its center.

Some low resolution Hazcam images were immediately sent to Earth by relay orbiters confirming the rover's wheels were deployed correctly and on the ground. Three hours later, the rover began transmitting detailed data on its systems' status as well as on its entry, descent and landing experience. On 8 August 2012, Mission Control began upgrading the rover's dual computers by deleting the entry-descent-landing software, then uploading and installing the surface operation software; the switchover was completed by 15 August. On 15 August, the rover began several days of instrument checks and mobility tests. The first laser test of the ChemCam on Mars was performed on a rock, N165 ("Coronation" rock), on 19 August.

In the first few weeks after landing, images from the rover showed that Curiosity touched down right in an area where water once coursed vigorously over the surface. The evidence for stream flow was in rounded pebbles mixed with hardened sand in conglomerate rocks at and near the landing site. Analysis of Mars' atmospheric composition early in the mission provided evidence that the planet has lost much of its original atmosphere by a process favoring loss from the top of the atmosphere rather than interaction with the surface.

In the initial months of the surface mission, the rover team drove Curiosity eastward toward an area of interest called "Glenelg," where three types of terrain intersect. The rover analyzed its first scoops of soil on the way to Glenelg. In the Glenelg area, it collected the first samples of material ever drilled from rocks on Mars. Analysis of the first drilled sample, from a rock target called "John Klein," provided the evidence of conditions favorable for life in Mars' early history: geological and mineralogical evidence for sustained liquid water, other key elemental ingredients for life, a chemical energy source, and water not too acidic or too salty.

Within the first eight months of a planned 23-month primary mission, Curiosity met its major objective of finding evidence of a past environment well suited to supporting microbial life.

On 7 October 2012, a mysterious "bright object" (image) discovered in the sand at Rocknest, drew scientific interest. Several close-up pictures were taken of the object and preliminary interpretations by scientists suggest the object to be "debris from the spacecraft." Further images in the nearby sand detected other "bright particles." The newly discovered objects are presently thought to be "native Martian material". (2015)

On 4 July 2013, Curiosity finished its investigations in the Glenelg area and began a southwestward trek toward an entry point to the lower layers of Mount Sharp. There, at the main destination for the mission, researchers anticipate finding further evidence about habitable past environments and about how the ancient Martian environment evolved to become much drier. As of 29 July 2014, the rover had traveled about 73% of the way, an estimated linear distance of 6.1 km (3.8 mi) of the total 8.4 km (5.2 mi) trip, to the mountain base since leaving its "start" point in Yellowknife Bay. (see also Where is the rover now?)

On 6 August 2013, Curiosity audibly played "Happy Birthday to You" in honor of the one Earth year mark of its Martian landing. This was the first time that a song was played on a foreign planet; making "Happy Birthday" the first song and Curiosity the first device used to play music on a foreign planet. This was also the first time music was transmitted between two planets. On 24 June 2014, Curiosity completed a Martian year (687 Earth days) on Mars.

On 26 September 2013, NASA scientists reported the Mars Curiosity rover detected "abundant, easily accessible" water (1.5 to 3 weight percent) in soil samples at the Rocknest region of Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater.

On 3 June 2014, Curiosity observed the planet Mercury transiting the Sun, marking the first time a planetary transit has been observed from a celestial body besides Earth.

On 11 July 2015, Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photographed an extremely unusual high silica rock fragment dubbed "Lamoose" (image). The rock, about 4 inches (10 centimeters) across, is fine-grained, perhaps finely layered, and apparently etched by the wind. [Ed. note: If I were on Mars and had seen this "rock" I would have picked it up to turn it over to see what the other side looks like.] Other nearby rocks in that portion of the "Marias Pass" area of Mt. Sharp also have unusually high concentrations of silica, first detected in the area by the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) laser spectrometer. This rock was targeted for follow-up study by the MAHLI and the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). Silica is a compound containing silicon and oxygen, commonly found on Earth as quartz. It is a primary raw material for Portland cement, many ceramics such as earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, and is used in the production of glass for windows, bottles, etc. High levels of silica could indicate ideal conditions for preserving ancient organic material, if they are present. (Press release: NASA's Curiosity Rover Inspects Unusual Bedrock, issued 23 July 2015)

For more information about the Curiosity rover and its continuing science experiments and discoveries, visit NASA's Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity Web page or the JPL link below.

-Rover Details-

Curiosity has a mass of 899 kg (1,982 lb) including 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments, including equipment to gather and process samples of rocks and soil, distributing them to onboard test chambers inside analytical instruments. It inherited many design elements from previous rovers, including six-wheel drive, a rocker-bogie suspension system, and cameras mounted on a mast to help the mission's team on Earth select exploration targets and driving routes. The rover is 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 m (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in height. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, builder of the Mars Science Laboratory, engineered Curiosity to roll over obstacles up to 65 centimeters (25 inches) high and to travel about 200 meters (660 feet) per day on Martian terrain at a rate up to 90 m (300 ft) per hour.

Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), producing electricity from the heat of plutonium-238's radioactive decay. The RTG gives the mission an operating lifespan on the surface of "a full Mars year (687 Earth days) or more." At launch, the generator provided about 110 watts of electrical power. Warm fluids heated by the generator's excess heat are plumbed throughout the rover to keep electronics and other systems at acceptable operating temperatures. Although the total power from the generator will decline over the course of the mission, it was still providing 105 or more watts a year after landing; it is expected to still be supplying 100 watts after ten years.

Curiosity is equipped with several means of communication, an X band small deep space transponder for communication directly to Earth via NASA's Deep Space Network and a UHF Electra-Lite software-defined radio for communicating with Mars orbiters. The X-band system has one radio, with a 15 W power amplifier, and two antennas: a low-gain omnidirectional antenna that can communicate with Earth at very low data rates (15 bit/s at maximum range), regardless of rover orientation, and a high-gain antenna that can communicate at speeds up to 32 kbit/s, but must be aimed. The UHF system has two radios (approximately 9 W transmit power), sharing one omnidirectional antenna. This can communicate with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Odyssey orbiter (ODY) at speeds up to 2 Mbit/s and 256 kbit/s, respectively, but each orbiter is only able to communicate with Curiosity for about 8 minutes per day. The orbiters have larger antennas and more powerful radios, and can relay data to earth faster than the rover could do directly. Therefore, most of the data returned by Curiosity is via the UHF relay links with MRO and ODY. The data return via the communication infrastructure as implemented at MDL, and the rate observed during the first 10 days was approximately 31 megabytes per day. In 2013, after the first year since Curiosity's landing, the orbiters had already downlinked 190 gigabits of data from Curiosity.

Typically 225 kbit/day of commands are transmitted to the rover directly from Earth, at a data rate of 1–2 kbit/s, during a 15-minute (900 second) transmit window, while the larger volumes of data collected by the rover are returned via satellite relay. The one-way communication delay with Earth varies from 4 to 22 minutes, depending on the planets' relative positions.

-Science Payload-

In April 2004, NASA solicited proposals for specific instruments and investigations to be carried by Mars Science Laboratory. The agency selected eight of the proposals later that year and also reached agreements with Russia and Spain to carry instruments those nations provided. Curiosity carries the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars' surface, a payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers. More than 400 scientists from around the world participate in the science operations.

A suite of instruments named Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) analyzes samples of material collected and delivered by the rover's arm, plus atmospheric samples. It includes a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer and a tunable laser spectrometer with combined capabilities to identify a wide range of carbon-containing compounds and determine the ratios of different isotopes of key elements. Isotope ratios are clues to understanding the history of Mars' atmosphere and water.

An X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument called CheMin also examines samples gathered by the robotic arm. It is designed to identify and quantify the minerals in rocks and soils, and to measure bulk composition.

Mounted on the arm, the Mars Hand Lens Imager takes extreme close-up pictures of rocks, soil and, if present, ice, revealing details smaller than the width of a human hair. It can also focus on hard-to-reach objects more than an arm's length away and has taken images assembled into dramatic self-portraits of Curiosity.

Also on the arm, the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer determines the relative abundances of different elements in rocks and soils.

The Mast Camera, mounted at about human-eye height, images the rover's surroundings in high-resolution stereo and color, with the capability to take and store high definition video sequences. It can also be used for viewing materials collected or treated by the arm.

An instrument named ChemCam uses laser pulses to vaporize thin layers of material from Martian rocks or soil targets up to 7 meters (23 feet) away. It includes both a spectrometer to identify the types of atoms excited by the beam, and a telescope to capture detailed images of the area illuminated by the beam. The laser and telescope sit on the rover's mast and share with the Mast Camera the role of informing researchers' choices about which objects in the area make the best targets for approaching to examine with other instruments.

The rover's Radiation Assessment Detector characterizes the radiation environment at the surface of Mars. This information is necessary for planning human exploration of Mars and is relevant to assessing the planet's ability to harbor life.

In the two minutes before landing, the Mars Descent Imager captured color, high-definition video of the landing region to provide geological context for the investigations on the ground and to aid precise determination of the landing site. Pointed toward the ground, it can also be used for surface imaging as the rover explores.

Spain's Ministry of Education and Science provided the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, plus ultraviolet radiation levels.

Russia's Federal Space Agency provided the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument to measure subsurface hydrogen up to 1 meter (3 feet) below the surface. Detections of hydrogen may indicate the presence of water bound in minerals.

In addition to the science payload, equipment of the rover's engineering infrastructure contributes to scientific observations. Like the Mars Exploration Rovers, Curiosity has a stereo Navigation Camera on its mast and low-slung, stereo Hazard-Avoidance cameras. The wide view of the Navigation Camera is also used to aid targeting of other instruments and to survey the sky for clouds and dust. Equipment called the Sample Acquisition/Sample Preparation and Handling System includes tools to remove dust from rock surfaces, scoop up soil, drill into rocks to collect powdered samples from rocks' interiors, sort samples by particle size with sieves, and deliver samples to laboratory instruments.

The Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument Suite was a set of engineering sensors that measured atmospheric conditions and performance of the spacecraft during the arrival-day plunge through the atmosphere, to aid in design of future missions.

NASA Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover) launch, U.S. Air Force photo/George Roberts, published on Wikipedia

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