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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 12

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Born, James Challis, most famous for failing to discover Neptune in 1846

Born, Sherburne W Burnham, US astronomer (cataloged binary stars)

Died, Mark Isambard Brunel, engineer, inventor (mass production pioneer, tunnel construction)

Jules Janssen discovered dark lines in the solar corona spectrum, and using spectroscopy from observing the eclipse in India, proposed that the corona consists of both hot gases and cooler particles and therefore is part of the Sun.

Guglielmo Marconi gave the first public demonstration of radio at Toynbee Hall, London.

The first all-metal aircraft (Junkers J-1) was test flown at Dessau, Germany.

Died, Henrietta Leavitt, American astronomer, discovered the cepheid period-luminosity relation

Born, Robert Noyce, American inventor (microchip, along with Jack Kilby), co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel

Robert Noyce (12 December 1927 - 3 June 1990), nicknamed the Mayor of Silicon Valley, co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel in 1968. He is also credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the invention of the integrated circuit or microchip.

NBC & RCA sent the first mobile TV vans onto the streets of New York City.

H L Giclas discovered asteroid #2201 Oljato.

Born, Steven A. Hawley, PhD (at Ottawa, Kansas, USA), astronaut (STS 41-D, STS 61-C, STS 31, STS 82, STS 93)

Astronaut Steven A. Hawley, STS-93 mission specialist, NASA photo

Chuck Yeager reached an altitude of 74,700 feet (22,800 m) and a new airspeed record of Mach 2.44 (1620 mph, 724.5 m/s, 2608 km/h at that altitude) in the Bell X-1A rocket plane.

Died, Milutin Milankovic, Serbian astronomer, metorologist (climate change due to insolation variation)

1961 20:38:00 GMT
The USAF launched Discoverer 36 into polar orbit from Vandenburg AFB, California on a Thor booster that also carried the 10 lb piggyback ham radio satellite 'OSCAR 1' (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio) to orbit.

NASA's Gemini 6 launch was aborted, the first pad abort of a crewed spacecraft after engine ignition had started.

Gemini 6A was scheduled to launch on 12 December 1965, but the launch was aborted one second after engine ignition because an electrical umbilical separated prematurely. This was the first time an astronaut mission was aborted after ignition start.

Gemini 6A was the fifth crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, launched 15 December 1965 after Gemini 7 (which was launched 4 December 1965), with the intent of making rendezvous with Gemini 7 in Earth orbit. The astronauts on the 26 hour mission were Walter Schirra and Thomas Stafford. The mission priorities were to demonstrate on-time launch procedures, closed-loop rendezvous capabilities, and stationkeeping techniques with Gemini 7. Other objectives were to evaluate the spacecraft reentry guidance capabilities, and conduct spacecraft systems tests and four experiments. This mission was originally designated Gemini 6 and scheduled for launch on 25 October but was cancelled when the Agena target vehicle failed to go into orbit an hour earlier.

Upon orbit insertion, Gemini 6A trailed Gemini 7 by about 1900 km. Four major thruster burns were performed starting at 9:11 a.m. EST to catch up to Gemini 7. The first radar lock indicated a distance of 396 km. Two more major thruster burns preceded the final braking maneuver at 2:27 p.m. EST. 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.

Near the end of the 15th revolution the retrorockets were fired at 9:53:24 a.m. EST on 16 December and splashdown occurred at 10:28:50 at 23.58 N, 67.83 W only 13 km from the target. This was the first successful controlled reentry to a predetermined point in the U.S. manned spaceflight program. The crew remained inside the spacecraft during recovery operations. The spacecraft and crew were brought aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp at 11:32 a.m. Total mission elapsed time was 25:51:24.

All primary mission objectives were achieved. The only major malfunction was the failure of the delayed time telemetry tape recorder at 20 hours 55 minutes into the mission, resulting in loss of the last 4:20 of delayed time telemetry. The crew conducted three scientific experiments -- (1) synoptic terrain photography, (2) synoptic weather photography, and (3) dim light photography. The fourth experiment, measurement of radiation in spacecraft, was only partly completed.

1970 10:54:00 GMT
NASA launched Uhuru (SAS-A - Small Astronomy Satellite, a.k.a. Explorer 42) to develop a catalog of celestial X-ray sources by systematic scanning of the celestial sphere in the energy range from 2-20 keV.

1985 15:50:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 1707, a Soviet ELINT (Electronic and Signals Intelligence) satellite, from the Plesetsk cosmodrome.

Died (complications of pancreatitis), Stuart Allen "Smokey" Roosa, Colonel USAF, NASA astronaut (Apollo 14)

Stuart Allen Roosa (16 August 1933 - 12 December 1994) was a NASA astronaut who was the command module pilot for the Apollo 14 mission. The mission lasted from 31 January to 9 February 1971 and was the third mission to land astronauts (Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell) on the Moon. While Shepard and Mitchell spent two days on the Lunar surface, Roosa conducted experiments from orbit in the command module "Kitty Hawk." Roosa died of viral pneumonia, a complication of pancreatitis.

1998 14:25:00 CST (GMT -6:00:00)
NASA's STS 88 (Endeavor 13) mission released the fledgling International Space Station after assembling its first two components.

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.

NASA photograph, initial ISS assembly after release from STS 88, taken from the Shuttle

2005 11:30:00 GMT
NASA's MESSENGER fired its large thruster for 524 seconds, changing the spacecraft velocity by 316 m/s, putting it on course for its 24 October 2006 Venus flyby.

The Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission was designed to study the characteristics and environment of Mercury from orbit. Specifically, the scientific objectives of the mission were to characterize the chemical composition of Mercury's surface, the geologic history, the nature of the magnetic field, the size and state of the core, the volatile inventory at the poles, and the nature of Mercury's exosphere and magnetosphere over a nominal orbital mission of one Earth year.

MESSENGER launched into a parking orbit on 3 August 2004 on a Delta 7925H (a Delta II Heavy launch vehicle with nine strap-on solid-rocket boosters). The Delta booster second stage's second burn raised the orbit, then the PAM-D solid motor burned to put the probe on an escape trajectory into a 0.92 x 1.08 AU x 6.4 deg heliocentric orbit. The spacecraft was injected into solar orbit 57 minutes after launch. The solar panels were then deployed and the spacecraft began sending data on its status.

One year after launch, on 2 August 2005, MESSENGER flew by Earth at an altitude of 2347 km. On 12 December 2005 at 11:30 UT, MESSENGER fired its large thruster for 524 seconds, changing the spacecraft velocity by 316 m/s and putting it on course for its 24 October 2006 Venus flyby at an altitude of 2990 km. The second Venus flyby took place on 5 June 2007 at 23:08 UT (7:08 p.m. EDT) at an altitude of approximately 337 km. The first of three Mercury flybys, all at roughly 200 km altitude, occurred on 14 January 2008 at 19:04 :39 UT, and the second on 6 October 2008 at 08:40:22 UT. The third took place on 29 September 2009 at 21:54:58 UT at a distance of 228 km. There were also five deep space manuevers. Data collected during the Mercury flybys was used to help plan the scientific campaign during the orbital phase.

Mercury orbit insertion took place with a 15 minute burn starting at 00:45 UT on 18 March 2011 (8:45 p.m. 17 March EDT) requiring a delta-V of 0.862 km/s from the Aerojet 660N engine. Science observations began on April 4 at 20:40 UT (4:40 p.m. EDT). The nominal orbit had a periapsis of 200 km at 60 degrees N latitude, an apoapsis of 15,193 km, a period of 12 hours and an inclination of 80 degrees. The periapsis slowly rose due to solar perturbations to over 400 km at the end of 88 days (one Mercury year) at which point it was readjusted to a 200 km, 12 hour orbit via a two burn sequence.

Data was collected from orbit for one Earth year, the end of the primary mission was in March 2012. Extensions to the mission allowed the spacecraft to operate for an additional 3 years until the propellant necessary to maintain its orbit was exhausted. The MESSENGER spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury as planned on 30 April 2015 at 19:26 UT (3:26 p.m. EDT).

Global stereo image coverage at 250 m/pixel resolution was completed. The mission has also yielded global composition maps, a 3-D model of Mercury's magnetosphere, topographic profiles of the northern hemisphere, gravity field, altitude profiles of elemental species, and a characterization of the volatiles in permanently shadowed craters at the poles.

The MESSENGER spacecraft was a squat box (1.27 m x 1.42 m x 1.85 m) with a semi-cylindrical thermal shade (roughly 2.5 meters tall and 2 meters wide) for protection from the Sun and two solar panel wings extending radially about 6 meters from tip to tip. A 3.6 meter magnetometer boom also extended from the craft. The total mass of the spacecraft was 1093 kg, 607.8 kg of which was propellant and helium. The structure was primarily graphite-cyanate-ester (GrCE) composite and consisted of two vertical panels which supported two large fuel tanks, and two vertical panels which supported the oxidizer tank and plumbing panel. The four vertical panels made up the center column and were bolted at their aft ends to an aluminum adapter. A single top deck panel mounted the LVA (large velocity adjust) thruster, small thrusters, helium and auxiliary fuel tanks, star trackers and battery.

Main propulsion was via the 645-N, 317-s bipropellant LVA thruster, four 22-N monopropellant thrusters providing spacecraft steering during main thruster burns, and ten 4-N monopropellant thrusters used for attitude control. There was also a reaction-wheel attitude control system. Knowledge for attitude control was provided by star tracking cameras, an inertial measurement unit, and six solar sensors. Power was provided by the solar panels, which extended beyond the sunshade and were rotatable to balance panel temperature and power generation, and provided a nominal 450 W in Mercury orbit. The panels were 70% optical solar reflectors and 30% GaAs/Ge cells. The power was stored in a common-pressure-vessel nickel-hydrogen battery, with 11 vessels and 2 cells per vessel.

Communications were in the X-band, with downlink through two fixed phased-array antenna clusters, and uplink and downlink through medium- and low-gain antennas on the forward and aft sides of the spacecraft. Passive thermal control, primarily a fixed opaque ceramic cloth sunshade, was utilized to maintain operating temperatures near the Sun. Radiators were built into the structure and the orbit was optimized to minimize infrared and visible light heating of the spacecraft from the surface of Mercury. Multilayer insulation, low conductivity couplings, and heaters were also used to maintain temperatures within operating limits.

Five science instruments were mounted externally on the bottom deck of the main body: the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRNS), X-ray Spectrometer (XRS), Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA), and Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS). The Energetic Particle and Plasma Spectrometer (EPPS) was mounted on the side and top deck and the magnetometer (MAG) was at the end of the 3.6 m boom. Radio Science (RS) experiments used the existing communications system.

The highly successful orbital mission came to an end after more than four years in orbit around Mercury, as the spacecraft ran out of propellant and the force of solar gravity caused it to impact the surface of Mercury at 3:26 p.m. EDT on 30 April 2015.

More information about the spacecraft and its research results can be found on the MESSENGER Web site at John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.

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