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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 4

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Died, Omar Khayyam, Persian poet, mathematician, astronomer

Died, Georg Joachim Rheticus, astronomer, mathematician, among the first to adopt and spread the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus

Jeremiah Horrocks made the first observed transit of Venus (24 November on the Julian calendar, 4 December on the Gregorian calendar).

While studying at the University of Cambridge, Jeremiah Horrocks (1618 - 3 January 1641) became familiar with the works of Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and others. Horrocks was convinced that Lansberg's tables were inaccurate when Kepler predicted that a near-miss of a transit of Venus would occur in 1639. Horrocks believed that the transit would indeed occur, having made his own observations of Venus for years.

Horrocks focused the image of the Sun through a simple telescope onto a piece of card, where the image could be safely observed. From his location in Much Hoole, Lancashire, he calculated that the transit was to begin at approximately 3:00 pm on 24 November 1639 (Julian calendar, 4 December on the Gregorian calendar). The weather was cloudy, but he first observed the tiny black shadow of Venus crossing the Sun on the card at about 3:15pm, and observed for half an hour until sunset. The 1639 transit was also observed by his friend and correspondent, William Crabtree, from his home in Salford.

Died, Luigi Galvani, Italian anatomist, physicist, discovered animal electricity, recognized as the pioneer of bioelectromagnetics

Luigi Galvani (9 September 1737 - 4 December 1798) was an Italian physician and physicist. While dissecting a frog at a table where he had been conducting experiments with static electricity, Galvani touched an exposed sciatic nerve of the frog with his metal scalpel, which had picked up a charge. At that moment, he saw the dead frog's leg kick as if in life. The observation made Galvani the first investigator to appreciate the relationship between electricity and animation (life). He is typically credited with the discovery of biological electricity.

Galvani's name also survives in the Galvanic cell, the galvanometer and "galvanize".

Died, Heinrich Gobel, German/US inventor (claimed invention of the first practical light bulb in 1854 which lasted for up to 400 hours)

A Charlois discovered asteroid #451 Patientia.

L Boyer discovered asteroids #1338 Duponta & #1339 Desagneauxa.

Y Vaisala discovered asteroid #1883 Rimito.

Born, Roberta Lynn Bondar (at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada), Canadian scientist, astronaut (STS 42)

Roberta Bondar (4 December 1945 - ) is a Canadian astronaut, the first Canadian woman in space. She began her astronaut training in 1984, and in 1990 was designated a prime Payload Specialist for the first International Microgravity Laboratory Mission (IML-1). Dr. Bondar flew on the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery during Mission STS-42, 22-30 January 1992, during which she performed experiments in the Spacelab.

Dr. Bondar left the Canadian Space Agency in 1992 to pursue her research.

H Gessner discovered asteroid #3642 Frieden.

USSR launched Luna 1958C, believed to be an attempt to reach the Moon and impact its surface. A first stage engine of the SL-3/A-1 launcher failed 245 seconds after launch, preventing completion of the mission.

1965 19:30:03 GMT
NASA launched Gemini 7 carrying Frank Borman and Jim Lovell.

Gemini 7 was the fourth crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, launched on 4 December 1965. It carried astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell on the 14 day mission. Its mission priorities were (1) to demonstrate a 2-week flight, (2) to perform stationkeeping with the Gemini launch vehicle stage 2, (3) to evaluate the 'shirt sleeve' environment and the lightweight pressure suit, (4) to act as a rendezvous target for Gemini 6, and (5) to demonstrate controlled reentry close to the target landing point. The crew members had three scientific, four technological, four spacecraft, and eight medical experiments to perform.

Gemini 6A caught up to Gemini 7 and rendezvous was technically achieved and stationkeeping begun on 15 December at 2:33 p.m. EST with the two Gemini spacecraft in zero relative motion at a distance of 110 meters. Stationkeeping maneuvers involving the spacecraft circling each other and approaching and backing off continued for 5 hours 19 minutes over three and a half orbits. During the maneuvers, all four astronauts on both spacecraft took turns in the formation flying activities and photographs were taken from both spacecraft. This marked the first time two spacecraft were maneuvered with respect to each other by their crews. At the end of stationkeeping Gemini 6A fired thrusters to move to a position roughly 50 km away from Gemini 7 for drifting flight during a sleep period.

Gemini 7 fired its retrorockets at the end of revolution 206 on 18 December at 8:28:07 a.m. to begin the reentry sequence. Splashdown followed at 9:05:04 EST in the western Atlantic southwest of Bermuda at 25.42 N, 70.10 W, only 12.2 km from the target point. The astronauts were recovered by helicopter and brought aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp at 9:37. The spacecraft was recovered at 10:08. Total mission elapsed time was 330:35:01, making this the longest anyone had ever stayed in space. The astronauts were pronounced in "better than expected" physical condition after their two week flight.

All primary mission objectives were successfully completed. The three scientific experiments: synoptic terrain photography, synoptic weather photography, and visual acuity in the space environment were all completed successfully. All other onboard experiments were performed except landmark contrast measurement and star occultation navigation, due to equipment failure. Only partially completed were in-flight sleep analysis, proton-electron spectrometer, and optical communication. Minor malfunctions related to fuel cells and attitude control thruster occurred but did not hamper the mission.

NASA Gemini 7 in orbit above the Earth, NASA photo

During its closest approach, NASA's Pioneer 11 passed within 34,000 km of Jupiter's cloud tops.

Pioneer 11, launched 6 April 1973, was the second mission to investigate Jupiter and the outer Solar system, and the first to explore the planet Saturn and its main rings. Pioneer 11, like Pioneer 10, used Jupiter's gravitational field to alter its trajectory radically. It passed close to Saturn and then it followed an escape trajectory from the Solar system.

Pioneer 11 was 2.9 m long and carried a 2.74 m diameter high gain antenna. The spacecraft contained two RTG nuclear electric generators, which generated 144 W at Jupiter, but had decreased to 100 W by the time it got to Saturn. There were three reference sensors: a star (Canopus) sensor, and two Sun sensors. Attitude position could be calculated from the reference direction to the Earth and the Sun, with the known direction to Canopus as a backup. Pioneer 11's star sensor gain and threshold settings were modified, based on experience gained from the settings used on Pioneer 10. Three pairs of rocket thrusters provided spin axis control (maintained at 4.8 rpm) and change of the spacecraft velocity. The thrusters could be either fired steadily or pulsed, by command.

Communications were maintained via the omnidirectional and medium gain antennas, which operated together, connected to one receiver, while the high gain antenna was connected to the other receiver. The receivers could be interchanged by command. Two radio transmitters, coupled to two traveling wave tube (TWT) amplifiers, produced 8 W power each in the S band. Communication uplink (Earth to spacecraft) operated at 2110 MHz, and downlink (spacecraft to Earth) at 2292 MHz. At Jupiter's distance, the round trip communication time was 92 minutes. Data were received at the Deep Space Network (DSN). The spacecraft was temperature controlled to between -23 and +38 deg C (-10 to +100 deg F). An additional experiment, a low sensitivity fluxgate magnetometer, was added to the Pioneer 11 payload.

Instruments studied the interplanetary and planetary magnetic fields; Solar wind properties; cosmic rays; the transition region of the heliosphere; neutral hydrogen abundance; distribution, size, mass, flux, and velocity of dust particles; Jovian aurorae; Jovian radio waves; the atmospheres of the planets and satellites; and the surfaces of Jupiter, Saturn, and some of their satellites. Instruments carried for these experiments were a magnetometer, a plasma analyzer (for the Solar wind), a charged-particle detector, an ionizing detector, non-imaging telescopes with overlapping fields of view to detect sunlight reflected from passing meteoroids, sealed pressurized cells of argon and nitrogen gas for measuring penetration of meteoroids, a UV photometer, an IR radiometer, and an imaging photopolarimeter, which produced photographs and measured the polarization. Further scientific information was obtained from celestial mechanics and occultation phenomena.

Pioneer 11, like Pioneer 10, contains a plaque that has a drawing depicting a man, a woman, and the location of the Sun and Earth in the galaxy.

During its closest approach on 4 December 1974, Pioneer 11 passed within 34,000 km of Jupiter's cloud tops. It passed Saturn on 1 September 1979, at a distance of 21,000 km from Saturn's cloud tops, the first probe launched from Earth to do so. The spacecraft has operated on a backup transmitter since launch. Instrument power sharing began in February 1985 due to declining RTG power output. Science operations and daily telemetry ceased on 30 September 1995 when the RTG power level was insufficient to operate any experiments. As of the end of 1995 the spacecraft was located at 44.7 AU from the Sun at a nearly asymptotic latitude of 17.4 degrees above the Solar equatorial plane and was heading outward at 2.5 AU/year.

Routine tracking and project data processing operations were terminated on 31 March 1997 for budget reasons.

Obtain Pioneer 10/11 position data (heliographic coordinates)

See also the Pioneer Project page at NASA/ARC.

NASA's Pioneer Venus 12 went into orbit around Venus.

The Pioneer Venus Orbiter (Pioneer 12), launched 20 May 1978, was the first of a two-spacecraft orbiter-probe combination designed to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the atmosphere of Venus. Its instruments were mounted on a shelf within the spacecraft except for a magnetometer mounted at the end of a boom to reduce magnetic interference from the spacecraft. Pioneer Venus Orbiter measured the detailed structure of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Venus, investigated the interaction of the solar wind with the ionosphere and the magnetic field in the vicinity of Venus, determined the characteristics of the atmosphere and surface of Venus on a planetary scale, determined the planet's gravitational field harmonics from perturbations of the spacecraft orbit, and detected gamma-ray bursts. UV observations of comets were also made. From Venus orbit insertion on 4 December 1978 to July 1980, periapsis was held between 142 and 253 km to facilitate radar and ionospheric measurements. Thereafter, the periapsis was allowed to rise (to 2290 km at maximum) and then fall, to conserve fuel. In 1991 the Radar Mapper was reactivated to investigate previously inaccessible southern portions of the planet. In May 1992 Pioneer Venus began the final phase of its mission, in which the periapsis was held between 150 and 250 km until the fuel ran out and atmospheric entry destroyed the spacecraft. Although it had a planned primary mission duration of only eight months, Pioneer Venus Orbiter remained in operation from orbit insertion on 4 December 1978 until it burned up in the Venusian atmosphere on 8 October 1992.

E Bowell discovered asteroid #3086 Kalbaugh.

Died, Valentin Yakovlevich Likhushin, Russian engineer, Director of NII-1 1955-1988, specialized in advanced engines

M Antal discovered asteroid #3730 and Z Vavrova discovered asteroid #3735.

1996 06:58:00 GMT
NASA launched the Mars Pathfinder lander and rover mission toward a 4 July 1997 landing on the red planet.

Mars Pathfinder was launched 4 December 1996, the second of NASA's low-cost planetary Discovery missions. The mission consists of a stationary lander and a surface rover, with the primary objective of demonstrating the feasibility of low-cost landings on and exploration of the Martian surface. This objective was met by tests of communications between the rover and lander, and the lander and Earth, tests of the imaging devices and sensors, and tests of the maneuverability and systems of the rover on the surface. The scientific objectives include atmospheric entry science, long-range and close-up surface imaging, rock and soil composition and material properties experiments, and meteorology, with the general objective being to characterize the Martian environment for further exploration. (Mars Pathfinder was formerly known as the Mars Environmental Survey (MESUR) Pathfinder.)

The spacecraft entered the Martian atmosphere on 4 July 1997 directly from its approach hyperbola at about 7300 m/s without going into orbit around the planet. The cruise stage was jettisoned 30 minutes before atmospheric entry. The lander took atmospheric measurements as it descended. The entry vehicle's heat shield slowed the craft to 400 m/s in about 160 seconds. A 12.5 meter parachute was deployed at this time, slowing the craft to about 70 m/s. The heat shield was released 20 seconds after parachute deployment, and the bridle, a 20 meter long braided Kevlar tether, deployed below the spacecraft. The lander separated from the backshell and slid down to the bottom of the bridle over about 25 seconds. At an altitude of about 1.6 km, the radar altimeter acquired the ground, and about 10 seconds before landing four air bags inflated in about 0.3 seconds forming a 5.2 meter diameter protective 'ball' around the lander. Four seconds later at an altitude of 98 m the three solid rockets, mounted in the backshell, fired to slow the descent, and about 2 seconds later the bridle was cut 21.5 m above the ground, releasing the airbag-encased lander. The lander dropped to the ground in 3.8 seconds and impacted at 16:56:55 UT (12:56:55 p.m. EDT) on 4 July 1997 at a velocity of 18 m/s - approximately 14 m/s vertical and 12 m/s horizontal - and bounced about 12 meters (40 feet) into the air, bouncing at least another 15 times and rolling before coming to rest approximately 2.5 minutes after impact and about 1 km from the initial impact site.

After landing, the airbags deflated and were retracted. Pathfinder opened its three metallic triangular solar panels (petals) 87 minutes after landing. The lander first transmitted the engineering and atmospheric science data collected during entry and landing, the first signal being received at Earth at 18:34 UT (2:34 p.m. EDT). The imaging system obtained views of the rover and immediate surroundings and a panoramic view of the landing area and transmitted it to Earth at 23:30 UT. After some maneuvers to clear an airbag out of the way, ramps were deployed and the rover, stowed against one of the petals, rolled onto the surface on 6 July at about 05:40 UT (1:40 a.m. EDT).

The bulk of the lander's task was to support the rover by imaging rover operations and relaying data from the rover to Earth. The lander was also equipped with a meteorology station. Over 2.5 meters of solar cells on the lander petals, in combination with rechargeable batteries, powered the lander. The lander on-board computer is based on 32-bit architecture with 4 million bytes of static random access memory and 64 million bytes of mass memory for storing images. The main lander components are held in a tetrahedral shaped unit in the center of the three petals, with three low-gain antennas extending from three corners of the box and a camera extending up from the center on a 0.8 meter high pop-up mast. Images were taken and experiments performed by the lander and rover until 27 September 1997 when communications were lost for unknown reasons.

Mars Pathfinder lifting off from Launch Complex 17B, NASA photo

1998 08:35:00 GMT
NASA launched STS 88 (Endeavor 13) to deliver the second module of the International Space Station.

STS 88 was launched 4 December 1998, grappled the Russian Zarya Control Module on 6 December 1998, and released the fledgling International Space Station on 12 December 1998. The mission ended when Endeavor landed on 15 December 1998. Orbit altitude: 208 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 51.6 degrees. Mission duration: 11 days, 19 hours, 18 minutes.

STS-88 was the first human International Space Station assembly flight. The crew attached the first two modules, the previously launched Russian Zarya Control Module and the American Unity Node that was launched aboard the shuttle, providing the foundation for future station components.

Commander Bob Cabana flew Endeavour to a rendezvous with Zarya, and Currie used the shuttle's robotic arm to capture the Russian-built spacecraft and attach it to the Unity Node in the payload bay. At the time, Zarya was the most massive object ever moved with the shuttle's remote manipulator system.

Mission Specialists Jerry Ross and Jim Newman completed three spacewalks during the mission. After the assembly work was completed and it undocked from the station, Endeavour released two small science satellites.

The STS 88 flight crew was: Robert D. Cabana, Commander; Frederick (Rick) W. Sturckow, Pilot; Jerry L. Ross, Mission Specialist 1; Nancy J. Currie, Mission Specialist 2; James H. Newman, Mission Specialist 3; Sergei Krikalev, Mission Specialist 4.

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