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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 24

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Born, James Prescott Joule, British physicist

James Prescott Joule (24 December 1818 - 11 October 1889) was an English physicist. He studied the nature of heat, and discovered its relationship to mechanical work, which led to the theory of conservation of energy (the First Law of Thermodynamics). The SI unit of work, the joule (pronounced to rhyme with "fool"), is named after him. He worked with Lord Kelvin to develop the absolute scale of temperature, made observations on magnetostriction, and found the relationship between the flow of current through a resistance and the heat dissipated, now called Joule's law.

M Wolf discovered asteroid #499 Venusia.

Born, Howard Hughes, aviation pioneer, film producer, inventor, recluse

Howard Robard Hughes (24 December 1905 - 5 April 1976) was at times a pilot, a movie producer, a playboy, an eccentric, a recluse, and one of the wealthiest people in the world. As a teenager, he declared that his goals in life were to become the world's best golfer, the world's best pilot, and the world's best movie producer. In 1923 while attending Rice University he inherited the highly profitable Hughes Tool Company from his father, Howard R. Hughes, Sr., who invented the diamond-studded drill bit for oil wells. He dropped out of Rice and became CEO of Hughes Tool in 1924 at the age of 19. In aviation, Hughes set many world records, and designed and built aircraft through his Hughes Aircraft company.

One of his most famous projects was the Spruce Goose, a massive flying boat completed just after the end of World War II. The Spruce Goose only flew once, with Hughes at the controls, in 1947. Because of metal rationing during the war, the plane was built largely from wood (birch, rather than spruce as its name would imply). The plane was on display alongside the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for many years before being moved to McMinnville, Oregon.

On 19 January 1937 Hughes set an air record by flying from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds. Also, on 10 July 1938, he set another record by completing a 91 hour airplane flight around the world.

J H Metcalf discovered asteroid #581 Tauntonia.

Reginald A Fessenden of Massachusetts claims to have been the first to broadcast music over radio in a radio program consisting of a poetry reading, a violin solo and a speech.

Born, Sir William Hayward Pickering ONZ KBE, former head of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

C W Tombaugh discovered asteroid #2941 Alden.

A Patry discovered asteroid #1756 Giacobini.

USSR Luna 13 soft landed on the Moon and returned its initial Lunar surface images.

The Luna 13 spacecraft was launched 21 December 1966 toward the Moon and accomplished a soft landing on 24 December 1966, in the region of Oceanus Procellarum. The petal encasement of the spacecraft opened, antennas were erected, and radio transmissions to Earth began four minutes after landing. On 25 December and 26 December 1966, the spacecraft television system transmitted panoramas of the nearby Lunar landscape at different Sun angles. Each panorama required approximately 100 minutes to transmit. The spacecraft was equipped with a mechanical soil-measuring penetrometer, a dynamograph, and a radiation densitometer for obtaining data on the mechanical and physical properties and the cosmic-ray reflectivity of the Lunar surface. Transmissions from the spacecraft apparently ceased before the end of December 1966.

1968 09:59:20 GMT
NASA's Apollo 8 astronauts Borman, Lovell and Anders became the first men to reach and orbit the Moon.

Apollo 8 was originally meant to be an Earth orbital test, like the Apollo 9 mission. However, it was becoming clear the Soviets were trying to preempt the first Lunar flyby with their Zond program, which aimed to fly a stripped down Soyuz on a Proton rocket carrying 1 or 2 cosmonauts to the Moon. The Soviets conducted a partially successful unmanned test in September 1968, which spurred NASA into redesignating the Apollo 8 mission on short notice. Apollo 8 was therefore moved up to be a Lunar flight. The Apollo 8 crew rode inside the Command Module, with no Lunar lander attached. They were the first astronauts to be launched by the Saturn V, which had flown only twice before.

Apollo 8 was launched 21 December 1968, crewed by Frank Borman, commander; Jim Lovell, Command Module pilot; William A. Anders, Lunar Module pilot (a misnomer, since there was no Lunar Module on the mission). Approximately two hours and fifty minutes after leaving the ground, the Saturn V's S-IVB third stage was restarted, propelling the crew from an Earth parking orbit velocity of 7792.8 meters per second to a translunar trajectory velocity of 10,822 meters per second. 66 hours 16 minutes later, on 24 December 1968, the Service Module engines were ignited to put Apollo 8 into orbit around the Moon.

As the spacecraft passed behind the Moon for the first time, and communications were interrupted, the Apollo 8 crew became the first humans to see the far side of the Moon. The next 12 hours of crew activity in Lunar orbit involved photography of both the near and far sides of the Moon and landing-area sightings. The crew completed photographic exercises in an excellent manner. Over 800 70 mm still photographs were obtained. Of these, 600 were good-quality reproductions of Lunar surface features, and the remainder were of the S-IVB during separation and venting, and long-distance Earth and Lunar photography. Over 700 feet of 16 mm film were also exposed during the S-IVB separation, Lunar landmark photography through the sextant, Lunar surface sequence photography, and documentation of intravehicular activity.

One of the most famous photos from this mission is the "Apollo 8 Earthrise View" (AS08-14-2383) where the Earth was about five degrees above the Lunar horizon in a telephoto view taken when the Apollo 8 spacecraft was near 110 degrees east longitude. The horizon, about 570 kilometers (350 statute miles) from the spacecraft, was near the eastern limb of the Moon as viewed from the Earth. The width of the view at the horizon was about 150 kilometers (95 statute miles). On the Earth, 240,000 statute miles away, the sunset terminator was crossing Africa. The crew took the photo around 10:40 a.m. (Houston time) on the morning of 24 December (approximately 15:40 GMT). In the picture, the South Pole is in the white area near the left end of the terminator, and North and South America are under the clouds.

The crew initially followed the Lunar orbit mission plan and performed all scheduled tasks. However, because of crew fatigue, the commander made the decision to cancel all activities during the final four hours in Lunar orbit to allow the crew to rest. The only activities during this period were a required platform alignment and preparation for transearth injection. A planned 26-minute 43-second television transmission of the Moon and Earth was made Christmas Eve, during which the crew read the first ten verses of Genesis from the Bible, then wished viewers "Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth." An estimated one billion people in 64 countries heard or viewed the live reading and greeting; delayed broadcasts reached an additional 30 countries that same day.

After ten revolutions and 20 hours 10 minutes 13.0 seconds in Lunar orbit, the transearth injection maneuver was performed with the Service Propulsion System, and the astronauts were on their way home.

The Service Module was jettisoned as Apollo 8 approached Earth, and the Command Module followed an automatically guided entry profile. The Command Module reentered Earth's atmosphere (400,000 feet altitude) at a velocity of 36,221.1 ft/second following a transearth coast of 57 hours 23 minutes 32.5 seconds. The ionization became so bright during entry that the Command Module interior was bathed in a cold blue light as bright as daylight. At 180,000 feet, as expected, the lift of the Command Module bounced it to 210,000 feet, where it then resumed its downward course. The parachute system effected splashdown of the Command Module in the Pacific Ocean at 15:51:42 GMT (10:51:42 a.m. EST) on 27 December 1968. Mission duration was 147:00:42.0. The impact point was 1.4 nautical miles from the target point and 2.6 n mi from the recovery ship U.S.S. Yorktown.

Basic flight objectives: Demonstration of performance in cislunar and Lunar orbit environment; evaluation of crew performance in Lunar orbit mission; demonstration of communications and tracking; high-resolution photography. Summary of results: Successful; first manned Lunar orbit; first manned Saturn V launch. Flight time: 147:00:42

Apollo 8 interior, Commander Frank Borman at center, NASA photo

1968 10:40:00 (GMT -5:00:00)
Apollo 8 astronauts took the "Apollo 8 Earthrise View" photograph of the Earth rising over the Lunar horizon.
see above

Earth rising over the Lunar horizon as seen from Apollo 8
NASA photo AS08-14-2383 (24 Dec. 1968)

C Kowal discovered asteroid #2134 Dennispalm.

L Zhuravleva discovered asteroids #3074 & #3566.

1979 17:14:38 GMT
Technological Capsule (CAT) 1 was launched on Ariane 1, the first European Space Agency launch, and the first Ariane rocket launch.

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