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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 December 2

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Died, Gerardus Mercator (Gerhard Kremer), German cartographer

A Charlois discovered asteroid #498 Tokio.

Born, Peter Carl Goldmark, inventor, developed color TV & LP records

Albert Einstein published his "General Theory of Relativity".

G Van Biesbroeck discovered asteroid #1024 Hale.

G Reiss discovered asteroid #1237 Genevieve; and L Boyer discovered asteroid #1211 Bressole.

The second Pyrex® glass 5.08-m (200") mirror blank for the Hale telescope at Mount Palomar Observatory (the successful one) was cast at Corning Glass Works.

The first human-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was initiated in the Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1) reactor at the University of Chicago, Illinois, under the supervision of Enrico Fermi.

A team led by Enrico Fermi initiated the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in a lab below the bleachers of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago on 2 December 1942, as part of the Manhattan Project. A coded message, "The Italian navigator has landed in the new world," was then sent to US President F. D. Roosevelt to inform him of the experiment's success.

The reactors in the first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime use, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, reached criticality for the first time, with initial production of grid power on 18 December.

Shippingport Atomic Power Station, Pennsylvania, DOE photo

USSR's Sputnik 1 rocket body reentered Earth's atmosphere, the first artificial object to have its orbit decay.

USSR's Sputnik 6 re-entered the atmosphere at the wrong angle and burned.

Launched 1 December 1960, Sputnik 6 was a vehicle with 2 dogs aboard (Pchelka (meaning "Little Bee" and Mushka meaning "Little Fly"), as well as a television system and other scientific instruments. The cabin burned up when it reentered the Earth's atmosphere at the wrong angle a day later, precluding successful recovery and destroying the two animals.

1971 13:50:35 GMT
USSR's Mars 3 performed the first soft landing on Mars.

The Mars 2 and Mars 3 missions consisted of nearly identical spacecraft, each with a bus/orbiter module and an attached descent/lander module. The primary scientific objectives of the Mars 3 orbiter were to image the Martian surface and clouds, determine the temperature on Mars, study the topography, composition and physical properties of the surface, measure properties of the atmosphere, monitor the solar wind and the interplanetary and Martian magnetic fields, and act as a communications relay to send signals from the lander to Earth.

Mars 3 was launched towards Mars on 28 May 1971. A mid-course correction was made on 8 June. The descent module was released at 09:14 UT on 2 December 1971, 4 hours 35 minutes before reaching Mars. The descent module entered the Martian atmosphere, and through aerodynamic braking, parachutes, and retro-rockets, the lander achieved a soft landing and began operations. Meanwhile, the orbiter had suffered from a partial loss of fuel and did not have enough remaining to put itself into the planned 25 hour orbit. The engine instead performed a truncated burn, which put the spacecraft into a long 12 day, 19 hour period orbit about Mars with an inclination thought to be similar to that of Mars 2 (48.9 degrees).

Fifteen minutes after the Mars 3 descent module was released, the descent engine was fired to point the aeroshield forward. At 13:47 UT, the module entered the Martian atmosphere at 5.7 km/sec at an angle of less than 10 degrees. The braking parachute was then deployed, followed by the main canopy which was reefed until the craft dropped below supersonic velocity, when it was fully deployed, the heat shield was ejected, and the radar altimeter was turned on. At an altitude of 20 to 30 meters, at a velocity of 60-110 m/s, the main parachute was disconnected, and a small rocket propelled it off to the side. Simultaneously, the lander retrorockets were fired. The entire atmospheric entry sequence took a little over 3 minutes.

Mars 3 impacted the surface at 45 degrees S, 158 degrees W, at a reported velocity of 20.7 m/s, at 13:50:35 UT. Shock absorbers inside the capsule were designed to prevent damage to the instruments. The four petal shaped covers opened and the capsule began transmitting to the Mars 3 orbiter at 13:52:05 UT, 90 seconds after landing. After 20 seconds, at 13:52:25, transmission stopped for unknown reasons, and no further signals were received at Earth from the Martian surface. It is not known whether the fault originated with the lander or the communications relay on the orbiter. A partial panoramic image returned showed no detail and a very low illumination of 50 lux. The cause of the failure may have been related to the extremely powerful Martian dust storm taking place at the time, which would also explain the poor image lighting. (It has also been suggested that the 20 second transmission never occurred and was simply propaganda to allow the Soviets to claim the first Mars soft landing.)

For scientific experiments (most mounted in a hermetically sealed compartment) the Mars 3 orbital bus carried: a 1 kg infrared radiometer with an 8- to 40-micron range to determine the temperature of the Martian surface to -100 degrees C; a photometer to conduct spectral analysis by absorption of atmospheric water vapor concentrations in the 1.38-micron line; an infrared photometer; an ultraviolet photometer to detect atomic hydrogen, oxygen, and argon; a Lyman-alpha sensor to detect hydrogen in the upper atmosphere; a visible range photometer covering six narrow ranges between 0.35 and 0.70 microns; a radiotelescope and radiometer instrument to determine the reflectivity of the surface and atmosphere in the visible (0.3 to 0.6 microns) and the radio-reflectivity of the surface in the 3.4 cm range and the dielectric permeability to give a temperature estimate to a depth of 35 to 50 cm below the surface; and an infrared spectrometer to measure the 2.06 micron carbon dioxide absorption band, allowing an estimate of the abundance along a line of sight to determine the optical thickness of the atmosphere and hence the surface relief. The Mars 3 orbiter also carried a French-built experiment which was not carried on Mars 2. Called Spectrum 1, the instrument measured solar radiation at metric wavelengths in conjunction with Earth-based receivers to study the cause of solar outbursts. The Spectrum 1 antenna was mounted on one of the solar panels.

Additionally, the craft carried a phototelevision unit with one 350 mm focal length 4 degree narrow angle camera and one 52 mm focal length wide angle camera, on the same axis and having several light filters, including red, green, blue, and UV. The imaging system returned 1000x1000 element scanned pictures with a resolution of 10 to 100 meters by facsimile after development in an automatic onboard laboratory. Radio occultation experiments were also performed when communications transmissions passed through the Martian atmosphere, in which the refraction of the signals gave information on the atmospheric structure. During the flight to Mars, measurements were made of galactic cosmic rays and solar corpuscular radiation. Eight separate narrow angle electrostatic plasma sensors were on board to determine the speed, temperature, and composition of the Solar wind in the range 30 to 10,000 eV. A three axis magnetometer to measure the interplanetary and Martian fields was mounted on a boom extending from one of the solar panels.

The Mars descent module consisted of a spherical 1.2 m diameter landing capsule, a 2.9 m diameter conical aerodynamic braking shield, a parachute system, and retro-rockets. The entire descent module had a fueled mass of 1210 kg, the spherical landing capsule accounted for 358 kg of this. An automatic control system consisting of gas micro-engines and pressurized nitrogen containers provided attitude control. Four "gunpowder" engines were mounted on the outer edge of the cone to control pitch and yaw. The main and auxiliary parachutes, the engine to initiate the landing, and the radar altimeter were mounted on the top section of the lander. Foam was used to absorb shock within the descent module. The landing capsule had four triangular petals which opened after landing, righting the spacecraft and exposing the instrumentation.

The lander was equipped with two television cameras with a 360 degree view of the surface as well as a mass spectrometer to study atmospheric composition; temperature, pressure, and wind sensors; and devices to measure mechanical and chemical properties of the surface, including a mechanical scoop to search for organic materials and signs of life. It also contained a pennant with the Soviet coat of arms. Four aerials protruded from the top of the sphere to provide communications with the orbiter via an onboard radio system. The equipment was powered by batteries which were charged by the orbiter prior to separation. Temperature control was maintained through thermal insulation and a system of radiators. The landing capsule was sterilized before launch to prevent contamination of the Martian environment.

The Mars 2 and 3 landers carried a small walking robot called PROP-M. The robot had a mass of 4.5 kg and was tethered to the lander by a cable for direct communication. The rover was designed to "walk" on a pair of skis to the limit of the 15 m cable length. The rover carried a dynamic penetrometer and a radiation densitometer. The main PROP-M frame was a squat box with a small protrusion at the center. The frame was supported on two wide flat skis, one extending down from each side elevating the frame slightly above the surface. At the front of the box were obstacle detection bars. The rover was planned to be placed on the surface after landing by a manipulator arm, and to move in the field of view of the television cameras and stop to make measurements every 1.5 meters. The traces of movement in the Martian soil would also be recorded to determine material properties.

The Mars 2 and 3 orbiters sent back a large volume of data from December 1971 to March 1972, although transmissions continued through August. It was announced Mars 2 and 3 had completed their missions by 22 August 1972, after 362 orbits completed by Mars 2 and 20 orbits by Mars 3. The probes sent back a total of 60 pictures. The images and data revealed mountains as high as 22 km, atomic hydrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, surface temperatures ranging from -110 degrees C to +13 degrees C, surface pressures of 5.5 to 6 mb, water vapor concentrations 5000 times less than in Earth's atmosphere, the base of the ionosphere starting at 80 to 110 km altitude, and grains from dust storms as high as 7 km in the atmosphere. The data enabled creation of surface relief maps, and gave information on the Martian gravity and magnetic fields.

A R Klemola discovered asteroid #1934 Jeffers.

1974 09:40:00 GMT
USSR launched Soyuz 16 into Earth orbit for 6 days with cosmonauts Filipchenko and Rukavishnikov aboard to check systems updated for the 1975 joint Apollo-Soyuz Test Program mission.

F Dossin discovered asteroid #3435 Boury; and Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroid #3221.

At the University of Utah, 61-year-old retired dentist Barney Clark became the first person to receive a permanent artificial heart. (He lived for 112 days with the device).

Died, Donn F Eisele, (Columbus, Ohio, USA), Colonel US Air Force, astronaut (Apollo 7), age 57, heart attack

1988 09:30:34 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched STS 27 (Atlantis 3) on a classified DoD mission.

STS 27 was launched 2 December 1988 during a classified window lying within a launch period between 6:32 AM EST and 9:32 AM EST, after it was postponed due to unacceptable cloud cover and wind conditions in the same launch period on 1 December. This was the third mission dedicated to Department of Defense. The flight ended on 6 December 1988 when Atlantis landed on revolution 68 on Runway 17, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Rollout distance: 7,123 feet. Rollout time: 43 seconds. Launch weight: Classified. Landing weight: 190,956 pounds. Orbit altitude: Classified. Orbit inclination: 57 degrees. Mission duration: four days, nine hours, five minutes, 37 seconds. Miles traveled: 1.8 million. Atlantis was returned to the Kennedy Space Center on 13 December 1988.

The STS 27 crew was: Robert L. Gibson, Commander; Guy S. Gardner, Pilot; Richard M. Mullane, Mission Specialist 1; Jerry L. Ross, Mission Specialist 2; William M. Shepherd, Mission Specialist 3.

Died, Gerd Wilhelm De Beek, engineer, German guided missile expert in World War II, German Rocket Team in the US member after the war, Head of Managment Services, Graphic Engineering and Model Studies Branch, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (1960)

With the launch of STS 35 with nine astronauts and cosmonauts aboard, and three aboard the Mir space station, 12 people were simultaneously in space for the first time.

1990 01:49:01 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched STS 35 (Columbia 10, 38th shuttle mission, 69th US manned flight) to fly the ASTRO-1 Ultraviolet and X-ray Astronomy experiment package.

STS 35 was launched 2 December 1990 after being originally scheduled to lift off on 16 May 1990. The launch was delayed half a dozen times because of coolant and fuel leaks, and by tropical storm Klaus. (See the NASA site for further details.) Even when it did finally lift off, the mission was delayed yet another 21 minutes to allow the Air Force range time to observe low-level clouds that might have impeded tracking of the Shuttle ascent. STS 35 was then cut short one day due to impending bad weather at the primary landing site, Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The primary objectives of the mission were around-the-clock observations of the celestial sphere in ultraviolet and X-ray astronomy with the ASTRO-1 observatory consisting of four telescopes: Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope (HUT); Wisconsin Ultraviolet Photo-Polarimeter Experiment (WUPPE); Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT); and Broad Band X-ray Telescope (BBXRT). Ultraviolet telescopes mounted on Spacelab elements in the cargo bay were to be operated in shifts by the flight crew. Loss of both of the data display units (used for pointing telescopes and operating experiments) during the mission impacted the crew-aiming procedures, and forced ground teams at Marshall Space Flight Center to aim the ultraviolet telescopes with fine-tuning by the flight crew. BBXRT, also mounted in cargo bay, was directed from the outset by ground-based operators at Goddard Space Flight Center and was not affected.

Other experiments: Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment-2 (SAREX-2); ground-based experiment to calibrate electro-optical sensors at Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) in Hawaii; and crew-conducted Space Classroom Program: "Assignment: The Stars," to spark student interest in science, math and technology. Science teams at Marshall and Goddard Space Flight Centers estimated 70 percent of the planned science data was achieved.

The crew also experienced trouble dumping waste water due to a clogged drain, but managed using spare containers.

STS 35 ended with Columbia landing 10 December 1990 on revolution 144 on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Rollout distance: 10,566 feet. Rollout time: 58 seconds. Launch weight: 256,385 pounds. Landing weight: 225,329 pounds. Orbit altitude: 190 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees. Mission duration: eight days, 23 hours, five minutes, eight seconds. Miles traveled: 3.7 million. Columbia was returned to KSC on 20 December 1990.

The STS 35 crew was: Vance D. Brand, Commander; Guy S. Gardner, Pilot; Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Mission Specialist 1; John M. Lounge, Mission Specialist 2; Robert A. Parker, Mission Specialist 3; Samuel T. Durrance, Payload Specialist 1; Ronald A. Parise, Payload Specialist 2.

1992 08:24:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched STS 53 (Discovery 15, 52nd shuttle mission) on the final DoD shuttle mission.

STS 53 was launched 2 December 1992. Liftoff was originally set for 6:59 AM EST, but was delayed to allow sunlight to melt ice on the external tank formed after tanking, due to overnight temperatures in the upper 40s (four degrees Celsius range) and the light wind. This was the first flight of Discovery after a scheduled extensive checkout and modification program performed at KSC following its return from STS 42 in February 1992.

This was the final Shuttle flight for the Department of Defense (DOD). The classified DOD payload was deployed on flight day one, after which flight activities became unclassified. Two cargo bay payloads and nine middeck experiments flew.

Secondary payloads contained in or attached to Get Away Special (GAS) hardware in cargo bay included Glow Experiment (GLO)/Cryogenic Heat Pipe Experiment (CRYOHP) and Orbital Debris Radar Calibration Spheres (ODERACS).

Middeck payloads: Battlefield Laser Acquisition Sensor Test (BLAST); Cloud Logic to Optimize Use of Defense Systems (CLOUDS); Cosmic Radiation Effects and Activation Monitor (CREAM); Fluid Acquisition and Resupply Experiment (FARE); Hand-held, Earth-oriented, Real-time, Cooperative, User-friendly, Location-targeting and Environmental System (HERCULES); Microcapsules in Space-1 (MIS-1); Radiation Monitoring Experiment III (RME III); Space Tissue Loss (STL); Visual Function Tester-2 (VFT-2).

The STS 53 mission ended 9 December 1992 when Discovery landed on revolution 116 on Runway 22, Edwards Air Force Base, California. The landing was originally set for KSC, but was diverted due to clouds in the vicinity of the landing strip. The drag chute was deployed before the nosegear touched down. After landing, a small leak was detected in a forward thruster which delayed crew egress until a fan and winds dissipated the leaking gas. Rollout distance: 10,165 feet (3,098 meters). Rollout time: 73 seconds. Launch weight: 243,952 pounds. Landing weight: 193,215 pounds. Orbit altitude: 174 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 57 degrees. Mission duration: seven days, seven hours, 19 minutes, 47 seconds. Discovery was returned to KSC on 18 December 1992.

The STS 53 crew was: David M. Walker, Commander; Robert D. Cabana, Pilot; Guion S. Bluford, Mission Specialist 1; James S. Voss, Mission Specialist 2; Michael R. Clifford, Mission Specialist 3.

1993 04:27:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched STS 61 (Endeavor 5, 59th shuttle mission) on the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission.

The STS 61 launch was originally scheduled to occur from Launch Pad 39A, but after rollout, contamination was found in the Pad 39A Payload Changeout Room and a decision was made to move the Shuttle and payloads to Pad 39B. Rollaround occurred on 15 November. The first launch attempt on 1 December was scrubbed due to out-of-limit weather conditions at the Shuttle Landing Facility (required in event of the return-to-launch-site contingency plan). The 2 December 1993 launch finally occurred on schedule.

The final Shuttle flight of 1993 was one of the most challenging and complex manned missions ever attempted. During a record five back-to-back space walks totaling 35 hours and 28 minutes, two teams of astronauts completed the first servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). In many instances, the tasks were completed sooner than expected, and the few contingencies that did arise were handled smoothly.

The Hubble rendezvous, grapple and berthing occurred on flight day three, with Nicollier using the remote manipulator system arm to position the 43-foot (13-meter) long Hubble upright in payload bay. Throughout mission, commands to Hubble were issued from the Space Telescope Operations Control Center (STOCC) at Goddard Space Flight Center. After each servicing task completed, STOCC controllers verified the electrical interfaces between the replacement hardware and telescope.

On flight day four, the first EVA team of Musgrave and Hoffman performed EVA #1, replacing two Rate Sensing Units (RSUs), each housing a pair of gyroscopes; two Electronic Control Units which direct the RSUs; and eight electrical fuse plugs. The only unexpected problem occurred when Hoffman and Musgrave had difficulty closing the compartment doors after replacing the RSUs. The seven-hour, 54-minute space walk was the second longest in US history to date, topped only by an STS-49 EVA lasting eight hours, 29 minutes. During the EVAs, Nicollier operated the robot arm carrying one of the two EVA crew members.

One of the primary servicing goals - installation of new solar arrays - was accomplished during EVA #2, performed on flight day five by Thornton and Akers and lasting six hours, 35 minutes. The timeline was re-worked to accommodate jettison of one of the two original solar arrays, which could not be fully retracted due to a kink in its framework. The other solar array was stowed in the payload bay and the replacement pair - a set of modified spares - was installed without difficulty.

The expected four-hour replacement of one of Hubble's five scientific instruments, the Wide Field/Planetary Camera (WF/PC), was completed in about 40 minutes by Hoffman and Musgrave during EVA #3 on flight day six. WF/PC II is an upgraded spare modified to compensate for the flaw in the HST primary mirror. Also, two new magnetometers were installed at the top of the telescope during the six-hour, 48-minute EVA.

EVA #4 was performed on flight day seven by Thornton and Akers. The High-Speed Photometer, one of the original Hubble scientific instruments, was removed and replaced with the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) unit. This task also took less time to complete than was expected. COSTAR is designed to redirect light to three of the four remaining Hubble instruments to compensate for the flaw in primary mirror of the telescope. Thornton and Akers also installed a co-processor to enhance the memory and speed of Hubble's computer. During the six-hour, 50-minute EVA, Akers set a new US space-walking record of 29 hours, 39 minutes, topping Eugene Cernan's 20-year-old record of 24 hours, 14 minutes. Thornton is the leading US female space walker with a total of 21 hours, 10 minutes.

The final EVA was performed by Hoffman and Musgrave on flight day eight. During the seven-hour, 21-minute-long EVA #5, Hoffman and Musgrave replaced the Solar Array Drive Electronics (SADE) unit and installed the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph Redundancy (GHRS) kit; and also installed two protective covers over the original magnetometers. After space walk was completed, the new solar arrays and two high-gain antennas were deployed by STOCC. HST was also re-boosted to slightly higher orbit of 321 nautical miles (595 kilometers) on flight day eight prior to the last EVA.

Hubble was redeployed on flight day nine. Release was delayed several hours to allow troubleshooting of erratic data telemetry from the Hubble subsystems monitor; the problem had occurred before and was not related to the servicing operations. President Clinton and Vice President Gore congratulated the crew, and the Swiss minister of internal affairs called the following day to congratulate Nicollier.

The STS 61 mission ended 13 December 1993 when Endeavor landed on revolution 163 on Runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, the second night landing at KSC. Rollout distance: 7,922 feet (2,415 meters). Rollout time: 53 seconds. Launch weight: 250,314 pounds. Landing weight: 211,210 pounds. Orbit altitude: 321 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees. Mission duration: 10 days, 19 hours, 58 minutes, 37 seconds. Miles traveled: 4.4 million. The orbiter returned one orbit earlier than originally planned to allow two landing opportunities at KSC.

The STS 61 crew was: Richard O. Covey, Commander; Kenneth D. Bowersox, Pilot; F. Story Musgrave, Payload Commander; Kathryn C. Thornton, Mission Specialist 1; Claude Nicollier, Mission Specialist 2; Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Mission Specialist 3; Thomas D. Akers, Mission Specialist 5.

Launch of STS 61 on the first Hubble servicing mission, NASA photo

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