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Space History for December 14


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1546
Born, Tycho Brahe, astronomer

Tycho Brahe (14 December 1546 - 24 October 1601) was a Danish nobleman, well known as an astronomer/astrologer (the two were not yet distinct) and alchemist. He had Uraniborg built, which became an early "research institute." For purposes of publication, Tycho owned a printing press and paper mill.

Tycho realized that progress in the science of astronomy could be achieved not by occasional haphazard observations, but only by systematic and rigorous observation, night after night, and by using instruments of the highest accuracy obtainable. He is quoted as having asserted in 1563, at age 17, "I've studied all available charts of the planets and stars and none of them match the others. There are just as many measurements and methods as there are astronomers and all of them disagree. What's needed is a long term project with the aim of mapping the heavens conducted from a single location over a period of several years." He was able to improve and enlarge the existing instruments, and construct entirely new ones. Brahe's naked eye measurements of planetary parallax were accurate to the arcminute. (These measurements became the possessions of Johannes Kepler following Brahe's death.)

On 6 November 1572, Tycho had observed a very bright star which had unexpectedly appeared in the constellation Cassiopeia. Since it had been maintained since antiquity that the world of the fixed stars was eternal and unchangeable, other observers held that the phenomenon was something in the Earth's atmosphere. Tycho, however, observed that the parallax of the object did not change from night to night, suggesting that the object was far away. Tycho argued that a nearby object should appear to shift its position with respect to the background. He published a small book, De Stella Nova (1573), thereby coining the term nova for a "new" star. (We now know that Tycho's star was a supernova.)

King Frederick II of Denmark and Norway, impressed with Tycho's 1572 observations, financed the construction of two observatories for Tycho on the island of Hven in the Sont near Copenhagen, Uraniborg and Stjerneborg. Uraniborg also had a laboratory for Brahe's alchemical experiments. After a disagreement with Christian IV, the new king of Denmark, Brahe moved to Prague in 1599. Sponsored by Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, he built a new observatory (in a castle in Benatky nad Jizerou 50 km away from Prague) and worked there until his death.


http://galileo.rice.edu/sci/brahe.html

1782
Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier made the first test flight of a balloon-like box; they lost control, it floated nearly 2 km away and was destroyed by passersby when it landed.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgolfier_brothers#Early_experiments

1798
David Wilkinson of Rhode Island, later called the "father of the American machine tool industry," patented a screw cutting machine for making nuts and bolts.
http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/david-wilkinson/

1892
A. Charlois discovered asteroid #350 Ornamenta.

1900
Max Planck published his study of the quantum theory.

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck (23 April 1858 - 4 October 1947) was a German physicist who is considered to be the inventor of quantum theory. In 1899, he discovered a new fundamental constant, which is named Planck's constant, and is, for example, used to calculate the energy of a photon. Also that year, he described his own set of units of measurement based on fundamental physical constants. One year later, he discovered the law of heat radiation, which is named Planck's law of black body radiation. This law became the basis of quantum theory, which emerged ten years later in cooperation with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr.


https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1918/planck-bio.html

1903
Wilbur Wright made the Wright brothers' first powered aircraft flight at Kitty Hawk, landing 105 feet below the starting point 3.5 seconds later, considered unsuccessful because the machine stalled.
https://www.loc.gov/collections/wilbur-and-orville-wright-papers/articles-and-essays/the-wilbur-and-orville-wright-timeline-1846-to-1948/1901-to-1910/

1904
M. Wolf discovered asteroid #552 Sigelinde.

1918
F. Gonnessiat discovered asteroid #915 Cosette.

1922
Born, Nicolay G. Basov (at Usman, USSR), atomic physicist (Nobel 1964 with Townes, Prokhorov "for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle")
https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1964/basov-bio.html

1936
Born, Robert Allan Ridley Parker, PhD (at New York, New York, USA), astronomer, NASA astronaut (STS-9, STS-35, 19d 6.5h total time in spaceflight)

Astronaut Robert A. R. Parker PhD, NASA photo
https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/parker-rar.html

1959
USAF Captain Joe B. Jordan reached an altitude of 31.513 km (103,389 feet) in an F-104C jet fighter, setting a world altitude record.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_F-104_Starfighter#World_records

1960
Born, Catherine G Coleman, (at Charleston, South Carolina, USA), Colonel USAF, NASA astronaut (STS 73, STS 93, ISS 26/27, nearly 180d 4h total time in spaceflight)

Astronaut Catherine G. Coleman, ISS flight engineer, NASA photo (29 July 2009)
https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/coleman.pdf

1962 19:59:28 GMT
NASA's Mariner 2 flew by Venus at its closest distance of 34,773 km, becoming the first operating spacecraft to encounter another planet.

Mariner 2 was the first successful spacecraft in the NASA Mariner program, which began by sending spacecraft to Venus.

The Mariner 2 spacecraft was the second of a series of spacecraft used for planetary exploration in the flyby (nonlanding) mode, and the first spacecraft to successfully encounter another planet. Mariner 2 was a backup for the Mariner 1 mission which failed shortly after launch to Venus. The objective of the Mariner 2 mission was to fly by Venus and return data on the planet's atmosphere, magnetic field, charged particle environment, and mass. It also made measurements of the interplanetary medium during its cruise to Venus and after the flyby.

The rocket carrying Mariner 1 veered off-course during its launch on 22 July 1962, and the spacecraft was destroyed. A month later, Mariner 2 was launched successfully on 27 August 1962, sending it on a 3.5 month flight to Venus.

After launch and termination of the Agena first burn, the Agena-Mariner was in a 118 km altitude Earth parking orbit. The Agena second burn injected the Mariner 2 spacecraft into a geocentric escape hyperbola at 26 minutes 3 seconds after lift-off. Solar panel extension was completed about 44 minutes after launch. On 29 August 1962 cruise science experiments were turned on. A midcourse maneuver was initiated at 22:49:00 GMT on 4 September and completed at 2:45:25 GMT 5 September. On 8 September at 17:50 GMT the spacecraft suddenly lost its attitude control, which was restored by the gyroscopes 3 minutes later. The cause was unknown but may have been a collision with a small object. On 31 October, the output from one solar panel deteriorated abruptly, and the science cruise instruments were turned off. A week later the panel resumed normal function and instruments were turned back on. The panel permanently failed on 15 November, but Mariner 2 was close enough to the Sun so that one panel could supply adequate power.

On 14 December, the radiometers were turned on. Mariner 2 approached Venus from 30 degrees above the dark side of the planet, and passed below the planet at its closest distance of 34,773 km at 19:59:28 GMT 14 December 1962. As it flew by Venus, Mariner 2 scanned the planet with infra-red and microwave radiometers, revealing that Venus has cool clouds and an extremely hot surface. (Because the bright, opaque clouds hide the planet's surface, Mariner 2 was not outfitted with a camera.)

After encounter, cruise mode resumed. Spacecraft perihelion occurred on 27 December at a distance of 105,464,560 km. The last transmission from Mariner 2 was received on 3 January 1963 at 07:00 GMT. Mariner 2 remains in heliocentric orbit.

Scientific discoveries made by Mariner 2 included a slow retrograde rotation rate for Venus, hot surface temperatures and high surface pressures, a predominantly carbon dioxide atmosphere, continuous cloud cover with a top altitude of about 60 km, and no detectable magnetic field. On the way to Venus, Mariner 2 measured the solar wind for the first time, a constant stream of charged particles flowing outwards from the Sun. In addition, Mariner 2 detected high-energy charged particles coming from the Sun, including several brief solar flares, as well as cosmic rays from outside the Solar system. It was also shown that in interplanetary space, the cosmic dust density is much lower than the near-Earth region. Improved estimates of Venus' mass and the value of the astronomical unit were made.


https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1962-041A

1965
Died, Leonid Alexandrovich Voskresenskiy, Deputy Chief Designer of Korolev's design bureau (1953-1964), self-taught engineer who led flight testing of missiles, launch director for Sputnik and for the first manned space flight (Vostok 1)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonid_Alexandrovich_Voskresenskiy

1971
T. Smirnova discovered asteroid #2122 Pyatiletka.

1972 05:40:56 GMT
US astronaut Gene Cernan returned to the Apollo 17 Lunar Excursion Module, becoming "the last man on the Moon" for forty-five years (so far, as of 2017).

Apollo 17 was launched 7 December 1972, the last manned mission launched by the Saturn V rocket, the eleventh manned space mission in the NASA Apollo program, and the sixth and last mission to date (2017) to land on the Moon. It was the first night launch, and the final mission, of the Apollo program. Crew members were Gene Cernan, commander; Ron Evans, Command Module pilot; and Harrison Schmitt, Lunar Module pilot.

Approximately five hours after launch, while en route to the Moon, the crew took a photograph of Earth called "The Blue Marble" at a distance of approximately 55,000 km. It is one of the most widely distributed photograph images in existence.

One of the last two men to set foot on the Moon was also the first scientist-astronaut, Schmitt, a geologist. While Evans circled in the command module "America," Schmitt and Cernan landed on the Moon on 11 December 1972. The crew collected a record 108.86 kilograms of rocks during three moonwalks, roamed 33.80 kilometers from the "Challenger" LEM through the Taurus-Littrow valley in their rover, discovered orange-colored soil, and left the most comprensive set of instruments in the ALSEP on the Lunar surface.

At 05:40:56 GMT on 14 December 1972, Apollo 17 Mission Commander Gene Cernan returned to the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), ending the last Extravehicular Activity (EVA) of what would prove to be the final expedition of the Apollo program. To date (2017), no other humans have yet returned to set foot on the Lunar surface, foisting on Captain Cernan the dubious honor and title of being "The Last Man on the Moon."

The LEM ascent stage was released after Cernan and Schmitt returned to the Command Module, and impacted the Moon on 15 December 1972.

Apollo 17 splashed down on 19 December 1972 at 17 deg 53 min S, 166 deg 7 min W, 350 nautical miles SE of the Samoan Islands and 6.5 km (4 mi) from the recovery ship USS Ticonderoga.

See also https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1972-096A
See also https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4012/vol3/table2.45.htm
See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Marble


http://www.l5development.com/e_store/L5Fashion/LastManTshirt.php

1974
Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroid #2655 Guangxi.

1979
E. Bowell discovered asteroids #2246 Bowell, #2772 Dugan and #3478 Fanale; Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroids #2778 and #3570.

1982
E. Bowell discovered asteroid #3062 Wren; E. F. Helin discovered asteroid #3757.

1986 08:01:00 PST (GMT -8:00:00)
Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan & Jeana Yeager, took off from Edwards AFB, California, on the first non-stop, non-refueled airplane flight around world.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutan_Voyager

2003
Japan's NOZOMI (PLANET-B) passed Mars at 1000km altitude and was lost into a heliocentric orbit.

Nozomi (Japanese for Hope, and known before launch as Planet-B), launched 3 July 1998, was planned as a Mars orbiting aeronomy mission designed to study the Martian upper atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind, and to develop technologies for use in future planetary missions. Specifically, instruments on the spacecraft were to measure the structure, composition and dynamics of the ionosphere, aeronomy effects of the solar wind, the escape of atmospheric constituents, the intrinsic magnetic field, the penetration of the solar wind's magnetic field, the structure of the magnetosphere, and dust in the upper atmosphere and in orbit around Mars. The mission would have also returned images of Mars' surface.

The third stage and payload entered a 146 x 417 km x 31.1 deg parking orbit. The KM-V1 kick (fourth) stage then fired to place the spacecraft into a circumlunar 359 x 401491 km x 28.6 deg orbit. Nozomi made multiple Lunar and Earth gravity assist passes to increase its energy for solar orbit insertion and the cruise to Mars. The spacecraft used a Lunar swingby on 24 September and another on 18 December 1998 to increase the apogee of its orbit. It swung by Earth on 20 December at a perigee of about 1000 km. The gravitational assist from the swingby, coupled with a 7 minute burn of the bipropellant engine, put Nozomi into an escape trajectory towards Mars. It was scheduled to arrive at Mars on 11 October 1999 at 7:45:14 UT, but the Earth swingby left the spacecraft with insufficient acceleration, and two course correction burns on 21 December used more propellant than planned, leaving the spacecraft short of fuel. A new plan was developed for Nozomi to remain in heliocentric orbit for an additional four years, and encounter Mars at a slower relative velocity in December 2003. However, the attempt to fire its thrusters to orient the craft for a Mars orbit insertion burn failed on 9 December 2003. Smaller thrusters were successfully fired, Nozomi flew past Mars at a distance of 1000 km on 14 December 2003 and went into a heliocentric orbit with a period of roughly two years, after efforts to put the spacecraft into Martian orbit were abandoned.

See also https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraftDisplay.do?id=1998-041A



Mars orbiter "Nozomi" (PLANET-B), JAXA illustration
Material # P-021-01362 © JAXA
from http://jda.jaxa.jp/result.php?lang=e&id=c0d5fe1f0cbb732bce5886df669bd89f
http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/en/missions/spacecraft/past/nozomi.html


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