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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 6

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Died, Nicolas-Jacque Conte, French balloonist, inventor (modern pencil)

In his first annual message before Congress ("state of the union" speech), US President John Adams suggested establishment of a US national observatory.

Thomas Edison made the first sound recording ("Mary Had a Little Lamb") using the phonograph he invented.

Died, Erastus B. Bigelow, American industrialist; founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Died, Werner von Siemens, German inventor and industrialist

Ernst Werner von Siemens (13 December 1816 - 6 December 1892) was a German inventor and industrialist. Siemens invented a telegraph that used a needle to point to the right letter, instead of using Morse code. Based on this invention, he founded the company Siemens AG on 12 October 1847. He retired from it in 1890.

Siemens' name has been adopted as the SI unit of electrical conductance, the siemens.

A Charlois discovered asteroid #378 Holmia.

J E Keeler discovered asteroid #452 Hamiltonia.

K Reinmuth discovered asteroid #1063 Aquilegia.

K Reinmuth discovered asteroid #1187 Afra.

German physicist Albert Einstein was granted an American visa.

Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroid #2789.

A launchpad explosion thwarted the first United States attempt to launch a satellite, Vanguard TV3. The rocket lost thrust after two seconds and fell back to the ground, causing the fuel tanks to rupture.

Vanguard TV-3 explosion after thrust was lost two seconds after launch, US Navy photo

Died, Hans Rudolph Friedrich, German guided missile expert during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after the war

1958 05:45:12 GMT
NASA launched Pioneer 3, which discovered the outer Van Allen radiation belt.

Pioneer 3 was a spin stabilized spacecraft launched 6 December 1958 by the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile agency in conjunction with NASA. The spacecraft failed to go past the Moon and into a heliocentric orbit as planned, but did reach a maximum altitude of over 102,000 km before falling back to Earth. The revised spacecraft objectives were to measure radiation in the outer Van Allen belt area using Geiger-Mueller tubes and to test the trigger mechanism for a Lunar photographic experiment.

The flight plan called for the Pioneer 3 probe to pass close to the Moon after 33.75 hours and then go into Solar orbit. However, propellant depletion caused the first stage engine to shut down 3.7 seconds early, preventing the spacecraft from reaching escape velocity. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 102,360 km (109,740 km from the center of the Earth) before falling back to Earth. It re-entered Earth's atmosphere and burned up over Africa on 7 December at approximately 19:51 UT. The probe returned telemetry for about 25 hours of its 38 hour journey, the other 13 hours were out of range of the two tracking stations. The data obtained were of particular value since they indicated the existence of two distinct radiation belts.

NASA photograph, Pioneer 3

1980 23:31:00 GMT
NASA launched Intelsat 5 F-2 on an Atlas-Centaur booster from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1988 15:36:11 PST (GMT -8:00:00)
NASA's STS 27 (Atlantis 3) landed at Edwards AFB, California, after 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.

1998 17:46:00 CST (GMT -6:00:00)
NASA's STS 88 (Endeavor 13) mission grappled the Russian Zarya Control Module in preparation for assembly of the first two components 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.

2010 23:49:00 GMT
JAXA's Akatsuki Venus probe began its orbit insertion burn which lasted only 152 seconds instead of 12 minutes, preventing the satellite from entering Venus orbit.

On 20 May 2010, JAXA launched its Akatsuki probe from the Tanegashima YLP-1 launch site at 21:58:22 UTC (21 May 2010 6:58:22 a.m. JST) toward Venus aboard an H-IIA 202 rocket, with infrared camera observations of cloud and surface imaging planned from orbit there. (A small solar power sail demonstration mission, Ikaros, was also carried aloft on the same launch.) Other experiments were included to confirm the presence of lightning, and to determine whether volcanism occurs currently on Venus. The primary objective was studying the complex Venusian meteorology caused by atmospheric super-rotation: On most planets, the atmosphere circulates much slower than the planet's rotation speed (Earth's fastest winds are only 10-20% of its rotation speed). However, Venus rotates at 6 km/h at the equator (its rotational period of 243 days is the slowest of the solar system's planets), but the atmosphere spins around the planet at 300 km/h at the cloud tops, winds move at up to 60 times the speed of its rotation.

Akatsuki was originally intended to conduct scientific research for two or more years from an elliptical orbit around Venus at an altitude ranging from 300 to 80,000 km (190 to 49,710 mi). However, instead of firing for 12 minutes during the orbit insertion burn starting at 8:49 a.m. 7 December 2010 JST (6 December 23:49 UTC, 6 December 6:49 p.m. EST), the probe's engines only fired for 152 seconds (2.5 minutes), the failure occurring when Akatsuki was behind Venus for 22 minutes from Earth's perspective. Analysis of the data indicated the likely cause of the malfunction was salt deposits jamming the valve between the helium pressurization tank and the fuel tank. As a result, the engine mixture became oxidizer-rich, resulting in high combustion temperatures that damaged the chamber's throat and nozzle. Since the burn was far short of what was needed to go into Venus orbit, Akatsuki ended up in a heliocentric one an orbital period of 203 days. Where Venus orbits the Sun in 225 days, the probe returned to the vicinity of Venus in December 2015. During the intervening time, tests of the orbit maneuver engine (OME) showed it had insufficient specific impulse available for orbital maneuvers (thrust was only about 10% of what was expected), and a plan to use the four hydrazine attitude control thrusters of the reaction control system (RCS) to enter orbit was developed. Because the RCS thrusters don't use oxidizer, the remaining 65 kg of MON oxidizer was dumped overboard to lighten the spacecraft in October 2011. On 7 December 2015, the RCS thrusters were used to impart a total delta-v of 243.8 m/s to the spacecraft in a 20 minute burn, successfully placing the probe in a highly elliptical prograde orbit ranging from 440,000 km (270,000 mi) to 400 km (250 mi) above Venus' surface, with an orbital period of 13 days and 14 hours. A follow-up burn on 26 March 2016 lowered Akatsuki's apoapsis to about 330,000 km (210,000 mi) and shortened its orbital period from 13 to 9 days.

Akatsuki finally started its two year science mission in mid-May 2016. On 9 December 2016, two infrared cameras failed, terminating 1- and 2-micron observations.

Soon after insertion in December 2015 and in "a few glimmers in April and May" of 2016, Akatsuki's instruments recorded a "bow-shape feature in the atmosphere stretching 6,000 miles, almost pole to pole — a sideways smile" in the planet's winds above Aphrodite Terra, "a highland region about the size of Africa that rises up to three miles from the surface." Project scientists termed the feature a "gravity wave" but it is more likely simply a transient atmospheric phenomenon.

See also

The center-to-center distance between the Earth and Moon will be 356,421 km, their closest approach in the twenty-first century. This will cause the biggest "supermoon" of the century.

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