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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 17

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Born, Humphry Davy, Cornish chemist and inventor (several alkali and alkaline earth metals, chlorine, iodine, miner's safety lamp)

Born, Joseph Henry, US scientist, inventor, and pioneer of electromagnetism

The Prix Guzman with a first prize of 100,00 francs was offered by the French Academy of Sciences for communications with extraterrestrials. Martians were excluded because they were considered too easy to reach.

1903 10:35:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
Orville Wright made the first officially recognized flight in which a machine carrying a man raised itself into the air by its own power, moved forward without reduction of speed and landed at a point as high as from which it started.

M Wolf discovered asteroid #580 Selene.

Died, William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, Scottish physicist (thermodynamics, Kelvin temperature scale)

Born, Willard Frank Libby, physicist and chemist, inventor of radiocarbon dating, Nobel 1960 "for his method to use carbon-14 for age determination in archaeology, geology, geophysics, and other branches of science"

G Van Biesbroeck discovered asteroid #1270 Datura.

The first flight of the Douglas DC-3 was made.

A US V-2 rocket reached 183 km altitude at White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico before the rocket exploded 440 seconds after liftoff.

The US FCC approved RCA's black & white compatible color TV specifications, effectively shutting down Edwin Armstrong's fledgling FM radio network.,_1946-1953

The Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway's Kirk Yard at Gary, Indiana became the first fully automated railroad freight yard in operation.

The US test fired the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile successfully for the first time. Only used briefly as an ICBM, Atlas boosters launched the first four American astronauts to orbit the Earth, from 1962 to 1963.

Died, Victor Hess, Austrian/American physicist (Nobel 1936 "for his discovery of cosmic radiation")

Victor Francis Hess (24 June 1883 - 17 December 1964) was an Austrian-American physicist. After teaching at the universities of Graz and Innsbruck, he relocated to the United States in 1938 and was appointed professor of physics at Fordham University. He later became a naturalized US citizen. By means of instruments carried aloft in balloons, Hess and others proved that radiation that ionizes the atmosphere is of cosmic origin. For this discovery of cosmic rays, he won the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics, shared with Carl D. Anderson for the latter's discovery of the positron.

See also

1967 04:30:00 GMT
NASA's Surveyor 5 transmitted its last data from the Moon's surface.

Surveyor 5, launched 8 September 1967, was the third spacecraft in the Surveyor series to achieve a successful Lunar soft landing, and the first mission to obtain in-situ compositional data on the Moon. The primary objectives of the Surveyor program, a series of seven robotic Lunar soft landing flights, were to support the coming crewed Apollo landings by: (1) developing and validating the technology for landing softly on the Moon; (2) providing data on the compatibility of the Apollo design with conditions encountered on the Lunar surface; and (3) adding to the scientific knowledge of the Moon. The objectives for Surveyor 5 were to land on the Moon in Mare Tranquillitatis and obtain postlanding television pictures of the Lunar surface. The secondary objectives were to conduct a vernier engine erosion experiment, determine the relative abundances of the chemical elements in the Lunar soil by operation of the alpha-scattering instrument, obtain touchdown dynamics data, and obtain thermal and radar reflectivity data.

The instrumentation for Surveyor 5 was similar to that of the previous Surveyors, and included the survey television camera and numerous engineering sensors. An alpha-scattering instrument was installed in place of the surface sampler, and a small bar magnet attached to one footpad was included to detect the presence of magnetic material in the Lunar soil. Convex auxilliary mirrors were attached to the frame to allow viewing of the surface below the spacecraft. Surveyor 5 had a mass of 1006 kg at launch and 303 kg at landing.

Surveyor 5 was launched at 7:57:01 UT (3:57:01 AM EDT) from Eastern Test range launch complex 36B at Cape Kennedy on an Atlas-Centaur rocket. The Centaur placed the spacecraft into an Earth parking orbit, then restarted 6.7 minutes later to inject Surveyor 5 into a Lunar transfer trajectory. A midcourse trajectory correction involving a 14.29 second firing of the verier engines was performed at 1:45 UT on 9 September. Immediately following the maneuver, the spacecraft began losing helium pressure. It was concluded that the helium pressure valve had not reseated tightly and the helium was leaking into the propellant tanks, causing an overpressure which opened the relief valves, discharging the helium. A new emergency landing plan was adopted. Early vernier engine firings were made while there was still helium to slow the spacecraft, reduce its mass, and leave more free volume in the propellant tanks for the helium. The burn of the main retrorocket was delayed to an altitude of 1300 meters at a velocity of 30 m/s rather than the planned 10,700 meters at 120 to 150 m/s.

The new descent profile worked flawlessly, and Surveyor 5 touched down on the Lunar surface on 11 September 1967 at 00:46:44 UT (8:46:44 PM EDT 10 September) at 1.41 N, 23.18 E (selenographic coordinates) on a 20 degree slope of a 9 x 12 meter rimless crater in southwest Mare Tranquillitatis. Touchdown was 29 km from the original target. All experiments were performed successfully. Surveyor 5 returned 18,006 television pictures during its first Lunar day. The alpha-scattering instrument was deployed and performed the first in-situ analysis of an extraterrestrial body, returning 83 hours of data on Lunar soil composition during the first Lunar day, beginning on 11 September 1967. A vernier engine erosion experiment was conducted on 13 September, about 53 hours after landing, consisting of a firing of the vernier engines for 0.55 seconds while the spacecraft sat on the ground, to examine the effects of the engines on the surface. The spacecraft shut down from 24 September to 15 October 1967 over its first Lunar night on the Moon's surface. An additional 1048 pictures and 22 hours of alpha-scattering data were received during the second Lunar day. On 18 October Surveyor 5 acquired thermal data during a total eclipse of the Sun. Transmissions for the second day were received until 1 November 1967, when shutdown for the second Lunar night occurred about 200 hours after sunset. Transmissions were resumed on the third and fourth Lunar days, with the final transmission occurring at 04:30 UT on 17 December 1967. Pictures were transmitted during the first, second, and fourth Lunar days. A total of 19,118 pictures were transmitted.

Alpha-scattering results indicated soil composition, resembling Earth basaltic rock, of 53% to 63% oxygen, 15.5% to 21.5% silicon, 10% to 16% sulphur, iron, cobalt, and nickel; 4.5% to 8.5% aluminum, and small quantities of magnesium, carbon, and sodium. The quantity of material adhering to the magnet was consistent with a mixture of pulverized basalt and 10% to 12% magnetite with no more than 1% metallic iron. The vernier engine experiment produced minor but observable erosion of the surface. All mission objectives were accomplished.

The US Air Force closed Project Blue Book, announcing that its investigation of thousands of UFO sightings had found no evidence of extraterrestrial spacecraft.

Died, Charles G Abbot, US astronomer (solar constant)

H Kosai & G Sasaki discovered asteroid #3392 Setouchi.

2001 17:55:00 GMT
NASA's STS 108 (Endeavor) shuttle mission ended after delivering a new crew to the International Space Station.

STS 108 was launched 5 December 2001, and docked at the International Space Station on 7 December 2001, where it remained until 15 December 2001. The mission ended when Endeavor landed on 17 December 2001. Orbit altitude: 122 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 51.6 degrees. Mission duration: 11 days, 19 hours, 36 minutes.

STS-108 was the 12th shuttle flight to visit the International Space Station, and the first since the installation of the Russian Pirs airlock. Endeavour delivered the Expedition Four crew -- Commander Yury Onufrienko and Flight Engineers Carl Walz and Dan Bursch -- to the orbital outpost. The Expedition Three crew -- Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin -- returned to Earth on Endeavour.

While at the station, the crew conducted one spacewalk and attached the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the station so that about 2.7 metric tons (3 tons) of equipment and supplies could be unloaded. The crew later returned Raffaello to Endeavour's payload bay for the trip home.

The Student-Tracked Atmospheric Research Satellite for Heuristic International Networking Experiment (STARSHINE 2) was deployed from Endeavour's payload bay 16 December 2001, one day before landing.

The first supersonic flight was made by Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne.

NASA B-52, Tail Number 008, was formally retired after having participated in some of the most significant projects in aerospace history.

NASA B-52, Tail Number 008, was an air launch carrier aircraft, "mothership," as well as a research aircraft platform used on a variety of research projects. The aircraft, a "B" model, was first flown on 11 June 1955, was the oldest B-52 in flying status at the time of its retirement, and was used on some of the most significant research projects in aerospace history.

Some of the important projects supported by B-52 008 include the X-15, the lifting bodies, HiMAT (highly maneuverable aircraft technology), Pegasus, validation of parachute systems developed for the space shuttle program (solid-rocket-booster recovery system and the orbiter drag chute system), and the X-38.

NASA 008 was formally retired on 17 December 2004 in a joint NASA and US Air Force ceremony and returned to the Air Force. It is now on permanent public display near the north gate of Edwards Air Force Base.

NASA's venerable B-52B mothership launch aircraft served as the backdrop at its retirement ceremony, NASA photo

2004 12:07:00 GMT
The US commercial AMC-16 television satellite was launched on a Lockheed Martin-built Atlas 5 rocket.

Riding its 196-foot Lockheed Martin-built Atlas 5 booster, AMC-16 was launched at 7:07 a.m. EST (1207 GMT) on 17 December 2004 in a flight staged from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. About 4.5 minutes after liftoff, the Atlas 5 shut down and the Centaur upper stage ignited for an 11 minute burn, the first of two maneuvers that propelled AMC-16 into its geosynchronous orbit. Spacecraft separation occured smoothly about 8:55 a.m. EST (1355 GMT).

The flight was originally scheduled for liftoff at 4:41 a.m. (0941 GMT), but was delayed by a glitch where computers controlling the countdown detected problems associated with a booster valve (which proved to be functioning correctly) and by temporary high wind conditions. Since mission controllers were working with a two-hour and 48-minute launch window, however, the launch was able to proceed when the weather subsided.

Built by Lockheed Martin for Princeton, New Jersey-based satellite provider SES AMERICOM, AMC-16, like its twin AMC-15 (launched 14 October 2004) was designed to provide direct-to-home entertainment and broadband services across the United States for satellite television customers under EchoStar's DISH Network.

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