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Space History for December 23


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1672
Saturn's second-largest moon Rhea was discovered by Giovanni Cassini.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhea_(moon)#Discovery

1690
John Flamsteed observed Uranus without realizing it was an undiscovered planet.

John Flamsteed (19 August 1646 - 31 December 1719) was the first Astronomer Royal of England. Among other things, he accurately calculated the solar eclipses of 1666 and 1668. He also observed Uranus on 23 December 1690, without realizing it was an undiscovered planet, mistaking it for a star which he classified as 34 Tauri.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Flamsteed

1907
Died, Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen, discovered helium in the Sun (1868)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Janssen

1937
Born, Karol J. Bobko, (at New York, New York, USA), Col USAF, NASA astronaut (STS 6, STS 51D, STS 51J)

Astronaut Karol Bobko, NASA photo
http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/bobko-kj.html

1939
Died, Anthony H G Fokker, airplane builder
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Fokker

1947
The transistor was first demonstrated by John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain, and William Shockley at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. The trio later won a Nobel Prize for their invention.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_transistor#The_first_transistor

1966
The Agena target vehicle from NASA's Gemini 12 mission reentered the atmosphere.

The Gemini 12 Agena Target Vehicle (GATV-12) was launched from Cape Canaveral on 11 November 1966 into a near-circular 300 km orbit using an Atlas-Agena D rocket. During the target vehicle ascent manuever, 140 seconds after primary propulsion system initiation, a 30-psi drop occurred in thrust chamber pressure for 1 second, then returned to normal for the remaining 42 seconds of firing. The anomaly did not affect the GATV-12 orbit insertion, but uncertainties about the significance of the pressure drop caused the plan to use the primary propulsion system to lift the spacecraft into a higher orbit after docking with Gemini 12 to be cancelled. The Gemini 12 spacecraft, launched an hour and 40 minutes later, rendezvoused and docked with GATV-12 at 8:00 PM EST. Two phasing maneuvers using the GATV secondary propulsion system were accomplished to allow the spacecraft to rendezvous with the 12 November total eclipse visible over South America at about 9:20 AM EST. On 13 November, Buzz Aldrin began a two-hour EVA at 10:34 AM. After performing tasks on the Gemini 12 spacecraft, he moved to the target vehicle adapter area and carried out a series of tasks, including use of a torque wrench while tethered. He attached a 30 meter long tether stowed in the GATV adapter to the Gemini adapter bar. At 3:09 PM, Gemini 12 undocked from the GATV, moved to the end of the tether connecting the two vehicles, and began the tether experiment by moving in a cicular orbit about the GATV. The tether tended to remain slack, but the crew believed the two craft slowly attained gravity-gradient stabilization. The tether was released at 7:37 PM, GATV-12 was left in a 260 x 295 km orbit from which it decayed on 23 December 1966.

The Gemini Agena Target Vehicle was designed to be launched into Earth orbit prior to a Gemini mission and used for rendezvous and docking practice. The GATV had a docking cone at the forward end into which the nose of the Gemini spacecraft could be inserted and held with docking latches. The GATV was a 6 meter long cylinder with a diameter listed on NASA sites as 4.9 meters, a figure that is obviously erroneous because of the visible length-to-diameter ratio of the vehicle. (It is possible the NASA diameter may include the extended boom of the L-band antenna.) The primary and secondary propulsion systems were at the back end of the target vehicle with the attitude control gas tanks and the main propellant tanks. The docking cone was connected to the front end by shock absorbing dampers. Acquisition running lights and target vehicle status display indicators were situated on the front end. A 2.1 meter long retractable L-band boom antenna extended from the side of the cylinder near the front. Tracking and command of the GATV were also aided by a rendezvous beacon, two spiral L-band antennas, two tracking antennas (C-band and S-band), two VHF telemetry antennas, and a UHF command antenna. Micrometeoroid packages and other experiments could also be mounted on the GATV.


https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1966-103A

1972
Died, Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev, Russian aircraft builder, Chief Designer and General Designer of (OKB-156 1943-1972)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Tupolev

1973
Died, Gerard Kuiper, astronomer

Gerard Peter Kuiper, born Gerrit Pieter Kuiper (7 December 1905 - 23 December 1973) was a Dutch-American astronomer. Born and educated in the Netherlands, he moved to the United States in 1933. Kuiper discovered Uranus's moon Miranda and Neptune's moon Nereid. He also suggested the existence of a belt of trans-Neptunian objects outside Neptune's orbit, now confirmed, and named the Kuiper belt. Kuiper also pioneered airborne infrared observing using a Convair 990 aircraft in the 1960s, and helped identify landing sites on the Moon for the Apollo program.


http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/lfs/kuiper-bio.html

1978
USSR's Venera 11 descent stage separated from the flight platform as the probe neared Venus.

Venera 11 was part of a two-spacecraft mission (Venera 11 and Venera 12) to study Venus and the interplanetary medium. Each of the two spacecraft consisted of a flight platform and a lander probe. Identical instruments were carried on both spacecraft. The flight platform had instruments to study solar-wind composition, gamma-ray bursts, ultraviolet radiation, and the electron density of the ionosphere of Venus. The lander probe carried instruments to study the characteristics and composition of the atmosphere of Venus.

Venera 11 was launched 9 September 1978 into a 177 x 205 km, 51.5 degree inclination Earth orbit from which it was propelled into a 3.5 month Venus transfer orbit. After ejection of the lander probe, the flight platform continued on past Venus in a heliocentric orbit. Near encounter with Venus occurred on 25 December 1978, at approximately 34,000 km altitude. The flight platform acted as a data relay for the descent craft for 95 minutes until it flew out of range, after which it continued to return its own measurements on interplanetary space. The platform was equipped with a gamma-ray spectrometer, retarding potential traps, UV grating monochromator, electron and proton spectrometers, gamma-ray burst detectors, solar wind plasma detectors, and two-frequency transmitters.

The Venera 11 descent craft carried instruments designed to study the detailed chemical composition of the atmosphere, the nature of the clouds, and the thermal balance of the atmosphere. After separating from its flight platform on 23 December 1978, it entered the Venus atmosphere two days later at 11.2 km/sec (approximately 25,000 mph). During the descent, it employed aerodynamic braking followed by parachute braking and ending with atmospheric braking. It made a soft landing on the surface at 06:24 Moscow time (03:24 GMT) on 25 December after a descent time of approximately 1 hour. The touchdown speed was 7-8 m/s (15-18 mph). Information was transmitted to the flight platform for retransmittal to Earth until the latter moved out of range 95 minutes after touchdown.

Both Venera 11 and 12 landers failed to return the planned color television views of the surface, and to perform soil analysis experiments. All of the camera protective covers failed to eject after landing (the cause was not established). Some US literature noted that the imaging system "failed" but did return some data. The soil drilling experiment was apparently damaged by a leak in the soil collection device, the interior of which was exposed to the high Venusian atmospheric pressure. The leak had probably formed during the descent phase because the lander was less aerodynamically stable than had been thought.

Two other experiments on the lander also failed, and their failure was acknowledged by the Soviets at the time.

Among the instruments on board were a gas chromatograph to measure the composition of Venus' atmosphere, instruments to study scattered solar radiation and soil composition, and a device named Groza which was designed to measure amospheric electrical discharges. Results reported included evidence of lightning and thunder, a high Ar36/Ar40 ratio, and the discovery of carbon monoxide at low altitudes.

See also the Venera 11 Descent Craft page.


https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1978-084A

1979
L Zhuravleva discovered asteroid #3724.

1982
L G Karachkina discovered asteroids #3068 Khanina, #3345 and #3675.

1984
Oak Ridge Observatory discovered asteroid #3773.

1986 08:06:00 PST (GMT -8:00:00)
Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager completed the first non-stop around-the-world flight of an airplane without refueling.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutan_Voyager


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