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Space History for December 20

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Race To Space
Someone will win the prize...
               ... but at what cost?
Visit to find out more!

Born, Walter S. Adams, US astronomer, director of Mount Wilson observatory 1923-1945, Bruce Medal 1928

Michel Giacobini discovered comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, which later became the first comet visited by a spacecraft.

Born, Robert Van de Graaff, physicist, inventor (high voltage generators, transformers)

Robert Jemison Van de Graaff, (20 December 1901 - 16 January 1967) was an American physicist and instrument maker. He was the designer of the Van de Graaff generator, a device which produces high voltages. In 1929, Van de Graaff developed his first generator at Princeton University, producing 80,000 volts. During the 1950s, Van de Graaff invented the insulating core transformer, which produces high voltage direct current. He also developed tandem generator technology.

Russian immigrant Vladimir K. Zworykin of Pennsylvania received a patent for the Iconoscope TV system, which used a kinescope, now known as a cathode-ray tube, as its display.

Renaming of the NASA Launch Operations Center (LOC), including facilities on Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral, to the John F. Kennedy Space Center, NASA, officially took effect.

NASA announced organization of a moonwatch network to assist the "Moon Blink" search for Lunar phenomena.

Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroids #2085 Henan and #2886.

1971 01:10:00 GMT
NASA launched Intelsat 4 F-3 for the COMSAT Corporation. It had 12 transponders, each with a 36-MHz bandwidth. The satellite had a capacity of 3000 circuits in earth mode, 9000 circuits in spot-beam coverage mode, and/or up to 12 TV channels.

N. Chernykh discovered asteroid #2427 Kobzar and #2700 Baikonur.

A. Mrkos discovered asteroids #3130, #3334 and #3550; E. Bowell discovered asteroids #2904 Millman and #3353 Jarvis; Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroids #3611 and #3704.

T. Kojima discovered asteroid #3774.

Died, Carl Sagan, American astronomer, promoted SETI, popularized science

Carl Edward Sagan (9 November 1934 - 20 December 1996) was an American astronomer and science popularizer. He pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He is also famous for his popular science books and the television series Cosmos, which he co-wrote and presented. In his works he frequently advocated the scientific method.

Nozomi, the Japanese Mars mission, swung by Earth for a gravity assist.

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

Died, Grote Reber, US astronomer (first parabolic radio telescope)

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