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GordonD

Ups and Downs for January

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1 JANUARY

 

1801 Discovery of Ceres

On the very first day of the nineteenth century Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazza discovered an object which turned out to be the first of the asteroids. He named it Ceres Ferdinandea, after the Roman and Sicilian goddess of grain and King Ferdinand IV of Naples and Sicily. The name was later shortened to Ceres for political reasons.

 

 

2019 New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule

NASA hopes to obtain photos and other information from the most distant object yet surveyed (43.4 AU). At the time of writing the encounter has taken place but signals have not yet been received - fingers crossed!

 

Update 5:25pm - the signal has been received in Madrid. The probe is healthy and will begin transmitting its data soon, a process which will take months.

 

This thing has travelled six and a half billion kilometres and is still working - so why do I only get a one-year guarantee on my phone?

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2 JANUARY

 

1959 Lunik 1 launch

The first probe to go beyond Earth orbit. It was intended to crash onto the Moon but a programming error meant that the duration of the upper stage burn was incorrect and the probe missed the Moon by just under 6,000km. It is now in heliocentric orbit.

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3 JANUARY

 

1962 Mercury Mk. II officially designated 'Gemini'

The name had been suggested by Alex P. Nagy of NASA Headquarters because the twin stars Castor and Pollux in constellation Gemini (the Twins) seemed to him to symbolise the programme's two-man crew, its rendezvous mission, and its relation to Mercury. Coincidentally, the astronomical symbol (II) for Gemini, the third constellation of the zodiac, corresponded neatly to the Mark II designation.

 

 

2019 Chang'e-4 lunar landing

The unmanned Chinese probe is the first to land on the lunar Farside. Communications are relayed through the satellite Queqiao, which is in a halo orbit around the Lagrange L2 point.

 

 

 

Some information from Encyclopedia Astronautica website

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4 JANUARY

 

1958 Sputnik 1 re-entry

After 123 days and 1,440 orbits, Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, re-entered the atmosphere and burned up. Its launch had stunned the United States because it was almost sixty times heavier than the Vanguard satellite they were preparing.

 

 

1959 Lunik 1 lunar fly-by

Though it was intended to hit the Moon, a programming error in the upper stage burn time meant that it missed by just under 6,000km. The probe is now in solar orbit.

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5 JANUARY

 

1959 NASA establishes qualifications for Mercury selection

Applicants for the Mercury programme had to be under 40 years old, less than 5' 11" tall, in excellent physical condition, hold a bachelor's degree (or equivalent), a graduate of test pilot school with more than 1,500 hours' flight time, and a qualified jet pilot

 


1969 Venera 5 launch

The Soviet probe reached Venus on 16 May when the descent module was released from the carrier at a distance of 37,000km. The parachute was deployed and transmissions began once velocity had slowed to 210m/s and read-outs were sent every 45 seconds until the probe was overcome by the temperature (320 °C) and pressure (around 26 bar). 

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6 JANUARY

 

1955 Convair awarded Atlas contract

A contract was awarded to the Convair Division of the General Dynamics Corporation for the development and fabrication of the Atlas ICBM which would eventually be used in the Mercury programme

 

 

1999 China announces plans for a manned space flight

The official Chinese Liberation Daily reported that a Chinese manned flight would take place "by the end of this century or the beginning of the next," . This would make China the first country in more than 30 years to join the United States and Russia in the exclusive club of manned mission launchers.

 

 

Information from Encyclopedia Astronautica

 

 

(Can you tell that I'm struggling to fill this first week? Proper manned spacecraft with actual people aboard coming soon, I promise!)

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7 JANUARY

 

1610 Galileo discovers four Jovian moons

Galileo Galilei discovered Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa using a 20x refracting telescope at the University of Padua. Initially Io and Europa were recorded as a single object but by the following night they had separated enough for Galileo to realise they were two separate bodies. For this reason the official discovery date of these moons is 8 January.

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8 JANUARY

 

1994 Soyuz TM-18 launch

Crew: Viktor Afanasiyev (CDR), Yuri Usachyov (FE), Valeri Polyakov (Doctor)

 

This was Mir Expedition 15. Docking was achieved on 10 January. Afanasiyev and Usachyov would return to Earth in six months' time, but Polyakov was facing a much longer mission: if all went to plan he would remain aboard Mir until March the following year.

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9 JANUARY

 

1990 STS-32 launch

Crew: Daniel Brandenstein (CDR), James Wetherbee (P), Bonnie Jean Dunbar, Marsha Ivins, George Low (MS)

 

33rd Shuttle mission; 9th flight of Columbia

Comsat Syncom IV-F5 was deployed and reached geostationary orbit but suffered a systems failure soon afterwards and never went into service. However the mission's primary objective was the retrieval of the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), a satellite the size of a single-decker bus which had been launched in April 1984. Its exterior was coated with numerous different types of material to see how they were affected by exposure to space conditions. The satellite was originally meant to be returned to Earth in March 1985 but flight delays and then the Challenger accident meant it stayed in orbit far longer than intended. Had the retrieval mission been delayed any further then LDEF would have dropped too low for the Shuttle to reach it safely.

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10 JANUARY

 

1975 Soyuz 17 launch

Crew: Alexei Gubarev (CDR), Georgi Grechko (FE)

 

Salyut 4 Expedition 1. There were actually two space station programmes running in parallel under the Salyut banner: Salyuts 3 and 5 were military-based but Salyut 4 was civilian. The planned duration of the first expedition was around a month.

 

 

1978 Soyuz 27 launch

Crew: Vladimir Dzhanibekov (CDR), Oleg Makarov (FE)

 

Salyut 6 Taxi Flight 1. This was the first example of what would become common practice during the Salyut and Mir programmes: a way of ensuring that the duration of a resident crew's mission was not restricted by the service life of their Soyuz ferry. During the residency, a visiting crew would arrive and after a week or so would return to Earth in the older spacecraft already docked, leaving behind their own fresher capsule. 

 

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11 JANUARY

 

1996 STS-72 launch

Crew: Brian Duffy (CDR), Brent Jett (P), Leroy Chiao, Winston Scott, Koichi Wakata [Japan], Daniel Barry (MS)

 

74th Shuttle mission; 10th flight of Endeavour

Primary objective was to retrieve the Japanese research probe known as Space Flyer Unit, which had been launched by conventional rocket from Tanagashima, Japan, on 18 March 1995. The probe was recovered on Day 3 but the solar panels failed to latch properly when retracted and had to be jettisoned. This was not an unexpected occurrence and the astronauts were trained to deal with it.

The Shuttle also deployed the OAST-Flyer experiment pallet on Day 4 and retrieved it again on Day 6.

 

 

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12 JANUARY

 

1907 Birth of Sergei Pavlovich Korolyev

 

Lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the 1950s and '60s; involved in the development of the R-7 'Semyorka' launch vehicle which is the basis of the Soyuz launcher in use to this day. During his lifetime his name was a state secret; he was known only as the 'Chief Designer' to guard against assassination attempts from the West.

 

 

 

1986 STS-61C launch

Crew: 'Hoot' Gibson (CDR), Charles Bolden (P), George Nelson, Steve Hawley, Franklin Chang-Diaz (MS), Robert Cenker, Bill Nelson (PS)

 

24th Shuttle mission; 7th flight of Columbia

Deployed the Satcom K-1 communications satellite; also carried the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL-2), carrying out research into liquid bubble suspension by sound waves, melting and resolidification of metallic samples and container-less melting and solidification of electrically conductive specimens. Crewman Bill Nelson was a member of Congress (D, Florida).

 

 


1997 STS-81 launch

Crew: Michael Baker (CDR), Brent Jett (P), Jeff Wisoff, John Grunsfeld, Marsha Ivins, Jerry Linenger (MS)

 

81st Shuttle mission; 18th flight of Atlantis

Fifth Shuttle-Mir docking; took place during Expedition 22. Delivered supplies and equipment. Jerry Linenger replaced John Blaha as NASA's Mir Resident. Shuttle also carried the SPACEHAB double module for secondary experiments.

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13 JANUARY

 

1993 STS-54 launch

Crew: John Casper (CDR), Ray McMonagle (P), Mario Runco, Greg Harbaugh, Susan Helms (MS)

 

53rd Shuttle mission; 3rd flight of Endeavour

Deployed a Tracking & Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-F), part of a network providing communications, telemetry and other services for the Space Shuttle and other satellites. Four previous TDRS satellites were already in orbit (a fifth was lost in the Challenger accident) but only two were fully operational. If one of those was to fail, orbital communications would be badly affected for nearly a year before a replacement could be launched. EVA tests were also carried out to evaluate the ability to move large objects around and other techniques that would be required for on-orbit construction.

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14 JANUARY

 

1966 Death of Sergei Korolyev

 

Two days after his 59th birthday the Soviet Union's Great Designer died, apparently during a botched operation for either stomach ulcers or haemorrhoids. Korolyev began to bleed uncontrollably and attempts to fit a breathing tube were hampered because his jaws, injured during the time he spent in a gulag, had not healed properly. His obituary, along with a photograph, appeared in Pravda and only now was his identity revealed to the public. Korolyev's ashes were placed in the Kremlin Wall.

 

 


1969 Soyuz 4 launch

Crew: Vladimir Shatalov (CDR)

 

As the Soviet space programme never did anything twice--each succeeding mission had to be a step forward from the previous one--Western observers did not expect this to be a further test of the redesigned Soyuz spacecraft, and awaited further developments.

 

 


1994 Soyuz TM-17 landing

Crew: Vasili Tribliev (CDR), Aleksandr Serebrov (P)

Landing site 49° 37' N, 70° 07' E

 

Tsibilev and Serebrov had formed Mir Expedition 14. Mission duration was 196d 17h 45m and 3,113 orbits.

 

 

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15 JANUARY

 

1969 Soyuz 5 launch

Crew: Boris Volnyov (CDR), Aleksei Yeliseyev (FE), Yevgheni Khrunov (RE)

 

Just under twenty-four hours after the launch of Soyuz 4, its sister ship joined it in orbit. Most Western observers had been expecting this, and now anticipated a rendezvous and docking between the two craft. This appeared to be the mission originally planned for Soyuz 1 and 2, curtailed because of the numerous problems experienced by Vladimir Komarov.

 

 

 

 

 

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16 JANUARY

 

1969 Docking of Soyuz 4 & 5

 

As Western observers had anticipated, Soyuz 5 began a series of orbital manoeuvres that brought it into proximity with its predecessor and ultimately the first docking of two manned spacecraft was achieved. Then, with the respective Commanders sealed inside their Re-entry Modules, the Orbital Modules were depressurised and Khrunov and Yeliseyev carried out an EVA transfer between the two craft. This was necessary because this version of Soyuz, unlike Apollo, had no internal tunnel. As the EVA began Khrunov's safety tether became tangled and though he was able to free it quickly Yeliseyev was distracted and forgot to set up a movie camera that would have filmed the crossing. The EVA lasted 37 minutes and the two cosmonauts entered Soyuz 4 where they presented Vladimir Shatalov with letters from his family and a newspaper reporting his launch. The Soviets announced the docking as "the world’s first experimental cosmic station with four compartments for the crew" which was something of an overstatement! The two spacecraft undocked after four and a half hours.

 

 


1978 Soyuz 26 landing

Crew: Vladimir Dzhanibekov (CDR), Oleg Makarov (FE)

Landing site: 310 km W of Tselinograd

 

The Soyuz 26 spacecraft had been launched on 10 December the previous year but its crew on landing had only been in orbit for less than a week, having carried out the first 'Taxi Flight' where they left behind their fresher capsule for the future use of the resident Salyut 6 crew. Flight time for the cosmonauts was 5d 22h 59m.

 

 


2003 STS-107 launch

Crew: Rick Husband (CDR), Willie McCool (P), David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark (MS), Ilan Ramon [Israel] (PS)

 

113th Shuttle mission; 28th and last flight of Columbia

Unlike most Shuttle missions of this era, STS-107 was not an assembly flight for the ISS but carried out independent scientific research designated US Microgravity Laboratory. However the mission would end in tragedy as the leading edge of the Orbiter's port wing had been damaged during the launch phase, which would lead to the vehicle breaking up during re-entry.

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17 JANUARY

 

1969 Soyuz 4 landing

Crew: Vladimir Shatalov (CDR), Aleksei Yeliseyev (FE), Yevgheni Khrunov (RE)

Landing site: 40 km NW of Karaganda

 

After carrying out some medical and technical experiments Soyuz 4 returned to Earth, Yeliseyev and Khrunov becoming the first to land in a different spacecraft from the one in which they were launched. They had been in space for 1d 23h 45m; Shatalov, launched a day earlier, for 2d 23h 21m.

 

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18 JANUARY

 

1969 Soyuz 5 landing

Crew: Boris Volynov (CDR)

Landing site: 200 km SW of Kustanay

 

After Soyuz 4 undocked, carrying his former crewmates, Volynov carried out a series of scientific experiments before returning to Earth. However only many years later did it emerge that the re-entry had nearly ended in disaster. The Equipment Module failed to separate, resulting in the spacecraft entering the atmosphere nose-first. Not only did this mean that Volynov was subjected to the deceleration forces face down, pulled into his restraint harness rather than back into his padded couch, but that the relatively thin access hatch began to burn through. Smoke began to fill the cabin as the gasket seals melted, but fortunately at the last moment the Equipment Module broke free and the Re-entry Module was able to swing round to the correct heat-shield forward orientation. Volynov's troubles were not over: the parachute cables partially tangled and the soft-landing rockets failed to fire, resulting in a very hard impact which broke his jaw and several teeth. The landing was well off target, and Volynov had to wait aboard the capsule in temperatures of −38 °C, dressed only in a thin tracksuit, for over an hour until the rescue teams arrived. His flight time was 3d 0h 54m.

 

 


1986 STS-61C landing

Crew: 'Hoot' Gibson (CDR), Charles Bolden (P), George Nelson, Steve Hawley, Franklin Chang-Diaz (MS), Robert Cenker, Bill Nelson (PS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Bad weather delayed the return by two days; total flight time was 6d 2h 4m. This was the last flight before the Challenger accident.

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19 JANUARY

 

1965 Gemini 2

 

This was the second unmanned test of the Gemini spacecraft. It flew a suborbital trajectory, reaching a peak altitude of 171km. At T-plus 6 minutes 54 seconds the retrorockets were fired and the spacecraft splashed down 3,422km from the launch pad. Flight time was 18m 16s. Though the landing was 26km short of the target point the flight achieved most of its goals, with the exception of the fuel cells, which had failed before launch and were switched off. However it was declared an overall success and the way was clear for the first manned flight of the programme.

 

 

 

1993 STS-54 landing

Crew: John Casper (CDR), Ray McMonagle (P), Mario Runco, Greg Harbaugh, Susan Helms (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Flight time 5d 23h 38m.

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