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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 18

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Born, Charles Goodyear, inventor of the vulcanization of rubber. (Neither Goodyear nor his family was ever connected with the company named in his honor.)

The first photographic picture of the Moon was taken by Prof. John W. Draper from his rooftop in New York City, the first celestial photograph taken in the United States of America.

The first photograph of the Moon through a telescope was taken under the direction of William Cranch Bond, director of the Harvard College Observatory.

Born, Joseph John Thomson, English physicist, discovered the electron (Nobel 1906 "in recognition of the great merits of his theoretical and experimental investigations on the conduction of electricity by gases")

Born, Edwin Armstrong, American inventor (regenerative circuit, super-regenerative circuit, Super Heterodyne receiver, FM radio)

Edwin Howard Armstrong (18 December 1890 - 31 January 1954) was an American electrical engineer and inventor. He was one of the most prolific inventors of the radio era, with a vision that was ahead of his time.

Armstrong was the inventor of FM radio. He also invented the Regenerative circuit (invented while he was a junior in college, and patented 1914), the Super-regenerative circuit (patented 1922), and the Super Heterodyne receiver (patented 1918). Many of Armstrong's inventions were ultimately claimed by others in patent lawsuits. Armstrong's life is both a story about the great inventions he brought about, and the tragedy wherein those inventions' rights were claimed by others.

A Charlois discovered asteroids #430 Hybris, #431 Nephele & #432 Pythia.

Born, Boris Volynov (at Irkutsk, Irkutsk Oblast, Russian SFSR), USSR cosmonaut (Soyuz 5, Soyuz 21)

The Shippingport, Pennsylvania Atomic Power Station became the first civilian US nuclear power plant to generate electricity for the power grid.

1958 23:02:00 GMT
The US Army launched SCORE, the first US communications test satellite, and the first large US satellite.

The US Army's SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting RElay) satellite, launched 18 December 1958, was an 80 ft long, 10 ft diameter Atlas missile used as the platform for a communications relay experiment. This mission was to demonstrate the feasibility of, and explore problems associated with, operation of a satellite communication system. The communications repeater installed on the missile would receive a signal, amplify it, and then retransmit it. Two redundant sets of equipment were mounted in the nose of the SCORE missile. Four antennas were mounted flush with the missile surface, two for transmission and two for reception. SCORE's other equipment included two tape recorders, each with a four-minute capacity. Any of four ground stations in the southern United States could command the satellite into playback mode to transmit the stored message or into record mode to receive and store a new message. One of the messages it carried on a tape recorder was a Christmas greeting from President Eisenhower. Performance was nominal with the experiment operation for 12 days. The planned orbit lifetime was 20 days, the spacecraft remained in orbit 35 days. The tracking beacon operated at 108 MHz.

Atlas-B S/N 10B being prepared to launch the SCORE satellite from Cape Canaveral LC-11; the rocket without booster engines constituted the satellite, USAF photo

1958 23:50:00 GMT
The first voice transmission from space was made, a recorded Christmas message by US President Eisenhower. (" all mankind, America's wish for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men everywhere")

1965 14:05:04 GMT
NASA's Gemini 7 splashed down in the Atlantic after a successful 13.75 day mission.

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.

Saturn's moon Epimetheus was discovered by Richard L. Walker, then lost for 12 years when astronomers didn't realize it shared its orbit with Janus.

1973 11:55:00 GMT
USSR launched Soyuz 13 with cosmonauts Klimuk and Lebedev aboard for an 8 day mission in space.

USSR launched Soyuz 13 on 18 December 1973, the flight lasted 188 hours 32 minutes, landing on 26 December 1973. Its basic flight objectives were: Observation of stars in the ultraviolet range using a special system of telescopes; survey of separate sections of Earth's surface and acquisition of data; continuation of comprehensive verification of onboard systems; test of manual and automatic control and methods of autonomous navigation in various flight conditions. The flight was successful.

Soyuz 13 was a second test flight of the redesigned Soyuz capsule that first flew as Soyuz 12. This particular spacecraft was further specially modified to carry a large camera for astrophysical observations. Using the instrument, cosmonauts Valentin Lebedev and Pyotr Klimuk carried out ultraviolet photography of stars and spectroscopic photography of the Earth.

Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroid #2077 Kiangsu.

M Lovas discovered asteroid #3579.

Died (cancer), Lev Dyomin, USSR cosmonaut (Soyuz 15)

Lev Stepanovich Dyomin (11 January 1926 - 18 December 1998) was a Soviet cosmonaut who flew on the Soyuz 15 mission. Demin received a doctoral degree in engineering from the Soviet Air Force Engineering Academy and gained the rank of Colonel in the Soviet Air Force. He only made a single spaceflight before resigning from the space program in 1982 and taking up deep-sea research. Demin died of cancer in 1998.

2001 20:00:00 GMT
NASA turned off the ion engines on the Deep Space 1 spacecraft after it had visited asteroid Braille and comet Borrelly.

NASA's Deep Space 1 (DS1), launched 24 October 1998, was the first of a series of technology demonstration probes being developed by NASA's New Millennium Program. The spacecraft flew by the Mars-crossing near-Earth asteroid 9969 Braille (formerly known as 1992 KD) in July, 1999 and flew by comet Borrelly on 22 September 2001. As part of the technology demonstrations, the probe carried the Miniature Integrated Camera-Spectrometer (MICAS), an instrument combining two visible imaging channels with UV and IR spectrometers. MICAS was used to study the chemical composition, geomorphology, size, spin-state, and atmosphere of the target objects. It also carried the Plasma Experiment for Planetary Exploration (PEPE), an ion and electron spectrometer which measured the solar wind during cruise, the interaction of the solar wind with target bodies during encounters, and the composition of the cometary coma.

DS1 flew by the near-Earth asteroid 9969 Braille at 04:46 UT (12:46 a.m. EDT) on 29 July 1999 at a distance of about 26 km and at approximately 15.5 km/sec relative velocity. The spacecraft made its final pre-encounter transmission about 7 hours before closest approach, after which it turned its high-gain antenna away from Earth to point the MICAS camera/spectrometer camera towards the asteroid. The spacecraft had a target-tracking problem and the MICAS instrument was not pointed towards the asteroid as it approached, so no images or spectra were obtained. MICAS turned off about 25 seconds before closest approach at a distance of about 350 km and measurements were taken with the PEPE plasma instrument. The spacecraft then turned after the encounter to obtain images and spectra of the opposite side of the asteroid as it receded from view, but due to the target-tracking problem only two black and white images and a dozen spectra were obtained. The images were taken at 915 and 932 seconds after closest approach from 14,000 km and the spectra were taken about 3 minutes later. The data were transmitted back to Earth over the next few days. The diameter of Braille is estimated at 2.2 km at its longest and 1 km at its shortest. The spectra showed it to be similar to the asteroid Vesta.

The original plan was to fly by the dormant comet Wilson-Harrington in January 2001 and comet Borrelly in September 2001. The star tracker failed on 11 November 1999 and a new extended mission to fly by comet Borrelly (using techniques developed to operate the spacecraft without the star tracker) was planned. On 22 September 2001, Deep Space 1 entered the coma of comet Borrelly and made its closest approach (2171 km) to the nucleus at 22:29:33 UT (6:29:33 p.m. EDT) at a relative velocity of 16.58 km/second. At the time of the flyby the spacecraft and comet were 1.36 AU from the Sun. The PEPE instrument was turned on throughout the encounter. MICAS started making measurements and imaging 80 minutes before encounter and operated until a few minutes before encounter as planned. Both instruments successfully returned data and images from the encounter.

The ion engines on DS1 were commanded off on 18 December 2001 at about 20:00 UT (3:00 p.m. EST) to end the mission. The radio receiver was left on in case future contact with the spacecraft is desired. All new technologies on board DS1 were successfully tested during the primary mission.

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