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GordonD

Ups and Downs for February

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1 FEBRUARY

 

1958 Explorer 1 launch

 

After the humiliating failure to launch Vanguard 1, when the rocket rose about four feet then fell back onto the pad and exploded, the focus switched to the Army team led by Wernher von Braun to put America’s first satellite in orbit. After several delays the Juno booster was finally launched and the cylindrical satellite reached orbit successfully. During its lifetime it detected the belt of charged particles surrounding the Earth and trapped by the planet’s magnetic field which is now known as the Van Allen Belt. The satellite finally re-entered the atmosphere and burnt up on 31 March 1970.

 

Note: launch time at Cape Canaveral was 10:48pm on 31 January, which is the date listed in most record books.

 

 

 

1993 Soyuz TM-15 landing
Crew: Anatoli Solovyev (CDR); Sergei Avdeyev (FE)
Landing site: 100km NW of Arkalyk

 

The crew had carried out Mir Expedition 12. At launch on 27 July the previous year they were accompanied by French spationaut Michel Tognini, who returned to Earth with the Expedition 11 team. Solovyev and Avdeyev’s flight time was 188d 21h 40m.

 

 

 

2003 STS-107 break-up
Crew: Rick Husband (CDR); Willie McCool (P); David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark (MS); Ilan Ramon [Israel] (PS)

 

For the second time the Space Shuttle programme was hit by tragedy when the Orbiter Columbia broke up during re-entry with the loss of all aboard. It transpired that during launch a large piece of insulating foam had broken free of the External Tank and struck the leading edge of the port wing, punching a large hole. Though NASA was aware of the impact it was felt it would not cause a problem and thus the astronauts were not informed. As the Orbiter came back through the atmosphere, however, the ionised gases entered the interior of the wing and caused structural failure. Columbia yawed to the right and the extreme aerodynamic forces caused the spacecraft to break up. Contact with the crew was lost and attempts to reach them were unsuccessful. Observers saw a series of fiery streaks across the sky as the remains of the craft fell to Earth. A major salvage operation centred on the town of Nacogdoches, Texas recovered a large quantity of debris as well as, distressingly, human remains. The Shuttle programme was suspended while the investigation studied the cause of the accident, leading directly to a temporary scaling-down of activities aboard the ISS. The Shuttle would not fly again until July 2005.

 

Flight time up to the moment of Loss of Signal was 13d 21h 32m.

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2 FEBRUARY

 

1977 Salyut 4 Re-entry

 

Salyut 4 was the first of the second-generation civilian Soviet space stations (Salyut 3 was military) and was occupied twice: Expedition 1 for 29 days and Expedition 2 for 63 days. Expedition 2 was actually in progress during the Apollo-Soyuz flight: this was because the first attempt to put the second crew aboard ended in a launch abort; otherwise the mission would have come to an end before ASTP took place. A third spacecraft visited the station, though this was unmanned: Soyuz 20 remained docked for three months, proving the system's long-term durability for forthcoming lengthy missions. Salyut 4 was deorbited and broke up in the upper atmosphere as planned.

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3 FEBRUARY

 

1966 Luna 9 lunar landing

Landing site: Oceanus Procellarum, approx. 7.08N 64.37W

 

Luna 9 was the first probe to land (as opposed to crash) on the Moon. The landing sequence involved shutting down the main engine at an altitude of around 250m and allowing the spacecraft to descend on its thrusters. 5m up, a contact sensor touched the surface, shutting down the engines and jettisoning the spherical landing capsule, which bounced several times before coming to rest. Petals then opened to bring the craft upright and transmission of photographs began. Though the Soviet authorities did not officially release them immediately, the signals were monitored at Jodrell Bank and decoded. The lander continued to transmit for three days before contact was lost but it proved that the lunar surface was firm enough to support a landed spacecraft.

 

 


1984 STS-41B launch

Crew: Vance Brand (CDR); "Hoot" Gibson (P); Ron McNair, Robert Stewart, Bruce McCandless (MS)

 

Tenth Shuttle mission; fourth flight of Challenger

Two communications satellites were deployed but both failed to reach their operational orbits due to malfuntions in the Payload Assist Modules (PAM-D). They would be retrieved on a later flight. However the mission highlight was the first tests of the Manned Maneuvering Unit. McCandless carried out the first untethered spacewalk and the photographs of him have become iconic among space images.

 

 


1994 STS-60 launch

Crew: Charlie Bolden (CDR); Kenneth Reightler (P); Nancy Jan Davis, Ron Sega, Franklin Chang-Diaz, Sergei Krikalev [Russia] (MS)

 

60th Shuttle mission; 18th flight of Discovery

This mission was notable as the first Shuttle flight to carry a Russian cosmonaut. The mission patch depicted the Orbiter seen from above with a background of US and Russian flags and an alternative version was created with the crew names in Cyrillic characters, The cargo bay contained the commercially-developed SPACEHAB module for the second time, as well as the first flight of the Wake Shield Facility, a stainless steel disc that was deployed into an independent orbit then retrieved before re-entry. Flying clear of the Orbiter, it was hoped that it would generate an "ultra-vacuum" environment in space within which to grow thin semiconductor films for next-generation advanced electronics.

 

 


1995 STS-63 launch

Crew: James Wetherbee (CDR); Eileen Collins (P); Bernard Harris, Michael Foale, Janice Voss, Vladimir Titov [Russia] (MS)

 

67th Shuttle mission; 20th flight of Discovery

This saw the first Shuttle flight with a female pilot but more significantly it was the first Shuttle-Mir rendezvous. Though no docking was intended this time, the two vehicles closed to a distance of ten metres in a manoeuvre that (like Apollo-Soyuz) was more symbolic than anything else. Shuttle Commander Wetherbee told the Mir occupants, in a clearly scripted speech, "As we are bringing our spaceships closer together, we are bringing our nations closer together. The next time we approach, we will shake your hand and together we will lead our world into the next millennium." From Mir, Aleksander Viktorenko responded, "We are one. We are human." This exchange aside, the whole rendezvous seemed far more informal than the Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975: there was much laughter from both crews who were clearly enjoying the whole thing. After Discovery moved away, the crew conducted experiments including plant growth, and deployed six small objects to be monitored by ground radar as research into tracking orbital debris.

 

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4 FEBRUARY

 

1961 Sputnik 7 launch

 

The Soviets launched a 6.5 tonne satellite described as a test of a "Heavy Satellite" which would serve as a launch platform for future missions. In fact it was the first Venus probe which had failed to leave parking orbit; as usual a cover story was announced to avoid any admission of failure.

 

 

 

1967 L1/L3 launch schedules set

 

The Soviet authorities drew up a schedule for lunar orbital and lunar landing missions, including a manned loop around the Moon in June or July that year, a manned lunar orbital mission with unmanned lander in August 1968 and manned landing a month later.

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5 FEBRUARY

 

1971 Apollo 14 lunar landing
LM: Antares
Crew: Al Shepard (CDR); Ed Mitchell (LMP)
Landing site: Fra Mauro; 3° 38' 43.08" S 17° 28' 16.90" W

 

The lunar landing was not without incident: firstly, the computer kept receiving an erroneous ABORT signal, probably caused by a tiny ball of solder which had shaken loose and was floating between the switch and the contact, closing the circuit. The immediate solution - tapping on the panel next to the switch - did work briefly, but the circuit soon closed again. If the problem recurred after the descent engine fired, the computer would think the signal was real and would initiate an auto-abort, causing the Ascent Stage to separate from the Descent Stage and climb back into orbit. NASA determined the fix would involve reprogramming the flight software to ignore the false signal. The software modifications were transmitted to the crew, and Mitchell manually entered the changes (amounting to over 80 keystrokes on the LM computer pad) just in time. A second problem occurred during the powered descent, when the radar altimeter failed to lock onto the moon's surface, depriving the navigation computer of vital information on altitude and groundspeed. This was later determined to be an unintended consequence of the software patch. After the astronauts cycled the landing radar breaker, the unit successfully acquired a signal near 18,000 feet (5,500 m), again just in the nick of time. Alan Shepard then manually landed the LM closer to its intended target than any of the other six moon landing missions. Edgar Mitchell believes that Alan Shepard would have continued with the landing attempt without the radar, using the LM inertial guidance system and visual cues. But a post-flight review of the descent data showed the inertial system alone would have been inadequate, and the astronauts probably would have been forced to abort the landing as they approached the surface.

 

 

 

1987 Soyuz TM-2 launch
Crew: Yuri Romanenko (CDR); Aleksander Leveykin (FE)

 

This was the first manned flight of the upgraded Soyuz-TM spacecraft; the initials stood for Transportnyi Modifitsirovannyi or Transport Modified. It had new docking and rendezvous, radio communications, emergency and integrated parachute/landing engine systems. The mission was Mir Expedition 2 and the spacecraft docked with the station two days after launch, as was normal for those days.

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6 FEBRUARY

 

1971 Apollo 14 lunar liftoff

LM: Antares

Crew: Alan Shepard (CDR); Ed Mitchell (LMP)

 

After a day and a half on the Moon, which included two EVAs during which some 42kg of samples were collected, Antares lifted off and reached orbit safely. There was no repetition of the problems experienced on the way out: docking was achieved first time. However NASA asked the crew to bring the docking probe back for examination rather than abandoning it in the LM as normal.

 

 

 

1995 STS-63 Mir rendezvous

Crew: James Wetherbee (CDR); Eileen Collins (P); Bernard Harris, Michael Foale, Janice Voss, Vladimir Titov [Russia] (MS)

 

On the third day of the mission Discovery made the long-awaited rendezvous with Mir. There were fears early in the flight that the Russians would call off the manoeuvre because of leaks in the aft thrusters but after an extensive exchange of technical information the crew were given the go-ahead. One of the Mir occupants was Valeri Polyakov, who had been there since January the previous year and would spend another six weeks in space before returning home. It is his face in the Mir porthole greeting the Shuttle crew. 

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7 FEBRUARY

 

1977 Soyuz 24 launch

Crew: Viktor Gorbatko (CDR); Yuri Glazkov (FE)

 

Salyut 5 Expedition 3. The previous expedition had been cut short after the crew reported toxic fumes in the station and the Soyuz 24 crew were sent to deal with the problem. Docking took place a day after launch and the cosmonauts entered the station wearing breathing apparatus. After tests showed conditions were safe they breathed cabin air as normal but on 21 February the complete atmosphere was replenished, with air being vented through the airlock while simultaneously being replenished from tanks carried in the Soyuz Orbital Module.

 

 


1991 Salyut 7 re-entry

 

After nearly nine years in orbit, during which six long-duration missions took place, Salyut 7 re-entered the atmosphere and burned up. The station survived two major problems: a fuel leak during Expedition Three and a complete loss of power after they had departed. which left the station drifting. Both problems were repaired by the Expedition Four crew and this mission was dramatised in the 2017 Russian film Salyut 7. The last crew to visit was that of Soyuz T-15, who transferred from Mir and returned there, the only time to date that this has taken place. Salyut 7 completed 51,917 orbits in 3,215 days, 816 of them with cosmonauts aboard.

 

 


2001 STS-98 launch

Crew: Kenneth Cockrell (CDR); Mark Polansky (P); Robert Curbeam, Marsha Ivins, Thomas Jones (MS)

 

102nd Shuttle mission; 23rd flight of Atlantis

This mission delivered the Destiny Laboratory Module to the International Space Station. Three EVAs were conducted by Jones and Curbeam, the longest lasting 7 hours 34 minutes. Total EVA time was 19 hours 45 minutes.

 

 


2008 STS-122 launch

Crew: Stephen Frick (CDR); Alan Poindexter (P); Lee Melvin, Rex Walheim, Hans Schlegel [Germany], Stanley Love, Leopold Eyharts [France] (MS)

 

121st Shuttle mission; 29th flight of Atlantis

Delivered the European Space Agency's Columbus Module to the ISS. Three EVAs were conducted, two by Walheim and Love (the longest lasting 7 hours 58 minutes) and the third by Walheim and Schlegel. Total EVA time was 22 hours 8 minutes. The mission also carried out a partial crew exchange, Eyharts remaining aboard the ISS while Daniel Tani occupied his seat on the way down.

 

 

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8 FEBRUARY

 

1974 Skylab 4 splashdown

Crew: Gerald Carr (CDR); Edward Gibson (SPT); Bill Pogue (P)

Splashdown site: Pacific Ocean, 31° 18' N, 119° 48' W

 

This was actually Skylab Expedition 3 and the mission patch depicted that numeral, but for some reason the launch of the workshop itself was designated 'Skylab 1' with the three manned flights continuing from there. Carr, Gibson and Pogue set a new duration record of 84d 1h 16m during which they completed 1,214 orbits. Four EVAs were conducted: Gibson and Pogue on 22/23 November (6hr 33m); Carr and Pogue on Christmas Day (7hr 1m); Carr and Gibson on 29 December (3hr 29m) and Carr and Gibson again on 3 February (5hr 19m). Total EVA time for each man was: Carr, 15hr 49m; Gibson, 15hr 21m; Pogue, 13hr 34m.

 


1984 Soyuz T-10 launch

Crew: Leonid Kizim (CDR); Vladimir Solovyov (FE); Oleg Atkov (RC)

 

Salyut 7 Expedition 3. This was the first Soviet manned flight since the original Soyuz T-10 caught fire on the pad and the crew were snatched to safety by the Launch Escape System. This time everything went according to plan and the spacecraft docked with Salyut a day later, beginning an eight-month stay. 

 

 


2010 STS-130 launch

Crew: George Zamka (CDR); Terry Virts (P); Kay Hire. Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken (MS)

 

130th Shuttle mission; 24th flight of Endeavour

Delivered the Tranquility Module and the Cupola to the ISS. The Cupola is a dome-shaped module with large windows allowing the crew to monitor operations going on outside the station, or just to watch the world below. There are six side windows and a circular central one, 80cm in diameter, providing unprecedented views. In the years to come the Cupola will be a popular place to relax.

 

 

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9 FEBRUARY

 

1971 Apollo 14 splashdown

Crew: Al Shepard (CDR); Ed Mitchell (LMP); Stuart Roosa (CMP)

Splashdown site: Pacific Ocean, 27° 2' S, 172° 67' W

 

Third lunar landing, the last one in which the astronauts had to go into isolation in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory to guard against any unknown germs brought back from the Moon. Mission duration was 9d 0h 2m.

 

 


1975 Soyuz 17 landing

Crew: Aleksei Gubarev (CDR); Georgi Grechko (FE)

Landing site: 110 km NE of Tselinograd

 

Salyut 4 Expedition 1. Mission duration was 29d 13h 20m (466 orbits).

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10 FEBRUARY

 

Soyuz TM-25 launch

Crew: Vasili Tsibliyev (CDR); Aleksandr Lazutkin (FE); Reinhold Ewald [Germany] (RC)

 

Mir Expedition 23. Docking was achieved two days into the flight and the crew joined the Expedition 22 team of Valeri Korzun and Aleksandr Kaleri, who were winding down in preparation for their return to Earth at the beginning of March. Also aboard Mir was US astronaut Jerry Linenger, who had arrived a month earlier aboard STS-81. Tsibliyev and Lazutkin would remain aboard Mir until mid-August, while Ewald would return with the Expedition 22 crew.

 

 

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11 FEBRUARY

 

1984 STS-41B landing

Crew: Vance Brand (CDR); "Hoot" Gibson (P); Ron McNair, Robert Stewart, Bruce McCandless (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Mission highlight was the first test of the Manned Maneuvering Unit by McCandless. Flight time was 7d 23h 16m

 

 


1990 Soyuz TM-9 launch

Crew: Anatoli Solovyov (CDR); Aleksandr Balandin (FE)

 

Mir Expedition 6. Planned flight duration is six months.

 

 


1994 STS-60 landing

Crew: Charlie Bolden (CDR); Kenneth Reightler (P); Nancy Jan Davis, Ron Sega, Franklin Chang-Diaz, Sergei Krikalev [Russia] (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

The first Shuttle flight with a Russian cosmonaut aboard. Mission duration 8d 7h 9m

 

 


1995 STS-63 landing

Crew: James Wetherbee (CDR); Eileen Collins (P); Bernard Harris, Michael Foale, Janice Voss, Vladimir Titov [Russia] (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

First Shuttle-Mir rendezvous, though no docking was planned. Flight time: 8d 6h 28m

 

 


1997 STS-82 launch

Crew: Ken Bowersox (CDR); Scott Horowitz (P); Joseph Tanner, Steven Hawley, Greg Harbaugh, Mark Lee, Steven Smith (MS)

 

82nd Shuttle mission; 22nd flight of Discovery

Second Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. Five EVAs were carried out: (1) Smith & Lee (6h 42m) to replace the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS) by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS) by the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS).

(2) Tanner & Harbaugh (7h 27m) - the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) and one Engineering / Science Tape Recorder (ESTR) were exchanged and the Optical Control Electronics Enhancement Kit was installed. (3) Smith & Lee (7h 11m) exchanged one Data Interface Unit (DIU) and replaced a second ESTR by a Solid State Recorder (SSR). A Reaction Wheel Assembly (RWA) was replaced. (4) Tanner & Harbaugh (6h 34m) exchanged one of the Solar Array Drive Electronics (SADE) and installed covers on the magnometers. Repairs were also carried out to the thermal insulation, which had not been planned. (5) Smith & Lee (5h 17m) completed repairs to the thermal insulation. This EVA had not been planned in advance. Total EVA times were: Lee and Smith, both 19h 10m;  Harbaugh and Tanner, both 14h 1m.

 

 


2000 STS-99 launch

Crew: Kevin Kregel (CDR); Dominic Gorey (P); Gerhard Thiele [Germany], Janet Kavandi, Janice Voss, Mamoru Mohri [Japan] (MS)

 

97th Shuttle mission; 14th flight of Endeavour

Shuttle Radar Topography Mission: the object was to use a specially modified radar system to acquire a high-resolution topographic map of the Earth's land mass (between 60°N and 56°S) and to test new technologies for deployment of large rigid structures and measurement of their distortions to extremely high precision. The SRTM mast was a truss structure consisting of 87 cube-shaped sections which were deployed out of the storage canister to a length of 60 meters 

 

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12 FEBRUARY

 

1961 Venera 1 launch

 

Venera 1 was the Soviets' second attempt to launch a Venus probe in the current window. The first, eight days earlier, had failed to leave Earth orbit and was disguised with the name Sputnik 7. Venera 1, however, successfully departed parking orbit and set course for Venus. It confirmed the existence of the solar wind, discovered by Lunik 2, and carried out further studies of cosmic rays. Unfortunately on 26 February the probe failed to signal back and no further contact was received. Venera 1 flew within 100,000km of Venus on 19 May but no data was sent back. Soviet engineers believed that a solar direction sensor may have overheated, resulting in the loss of contact.

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13 FEBRUARY

 

1961 Mercury Mk. II

 

On this day in 1961 NASA and the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation began formal discussions about the development of a two-man spacecraft to follow on from Mercury. This would eventually be formally named 'Gemini'.

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14 FEBRUARY

 

1972 Luna 20 launch

 

Luna 20 was the second successful attempt by the Soviet Union to return a sample of soil from the Moon. The first attempt, Luna 15, had been flown at the same time as Apollo 11 and was seen as a last-ditch attempt to beat the astronauts home with lunar samples, but the probe crashed while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the Moon. Luna 16 was successful but the next attempt, Luna 18, also crashed. However Luna 20 soft-landed in the Sea of Fertility on 21 February and picked up 30g of soil by means of an extending drill. The samples were deposited in a capsule on top of the ascent stage and launch took place on 22 February. The mission came to a successful conclusion on 25th February when the capsule parachuted down onto an island in the Karkingir River, 40km north of the town of Jezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

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15 FEBRUARY

 

1977 Space Shuttle Orbiter/SCA taxi tests

 

Prior to the first flight, the linked Orbiter Enterprise and the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft carried out a short series of taxi runs to check out the handling and braking characteristics. The first of these involved accelerating the combination to 76 knots then reducing speed to 23 knots before applying the brakes. After an inspection of the wheel assemblies revealed no damage or overheating, the aircraft began its second run, reaching a top speed of 120 knots. At 95 knots the pilot raised the 747’s nosewheel off the ground to test the elevators. Brakes were applied at 20 knots. The third and final taxi run saw a maximum speed of 137 knots, during which the nose was lifted 5°. The aircraft would have taken off at a speed of 145 knots and a pitch of 6.5° but at this stage there was no intention of it becoming airborne. Brakes were applied at a speed of over 40 knots, bringing the taxi tests to an end.

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16 FEBRUARY

 

1965 A-103/SA-9

 

This was the eight launch of the Saturn I, launched out of numerical sequence because it was ready for flight before #8. The meteoroid research satellite Pegasus 1 was carried inside the hollow shell of the BP-16 Service Module and, as planned, remained attached to the S-IV second stage after separation of the Apollo CSM, unfolding wing-like panels 29m across to detect and record meteoroid impacts to learn if they were likely to pose a hazard on Moon-bound flights.

 

 

 

1976 Soyuz 20 landing

Crew: none

Landing site: 56 km SW of Arkalyk

 

After the Soyuz 18 crew departed from Salyut 4, an unmanned Soyuz was launched to dock with the vacant station on a long-duration test of the spacecraft's systems. Docking was achieved on 19 November 1975 and the craft then began a simulation of the three-month flights that were to come. Though the capsule landed safely, post-flight analysis showed that several systems had begun to degrade, placing an upper limit of around ninety days on this version of the spacecraft. This would lead to the concept of Taxi Flights, where space station occupants could remain in orbit for longer missions by sending a new crew up with a fresh spacecraft and returning in the old one before its 'use by' date was reached.

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17 FEBRUARY

 

1965 Ranger 8 launch

 

Ranger 8 was the third of the 'Block 3' probes, with a purely photographic goal and the attempt to rough-land an instrument probe removed. Ranger 6 had failed because of a camera malfunction but Ranger 7 had been a success and hopes were high for a repeat. In the event Ranger 8 returned 7,137 photographs up to the moment of lunar impact, which took place on 20 February when the spacecraft was travelling at around 2.6km/sec. The final image was taken from a height of 4.2km, two seconds before impact, and is incomplete because the probe crashed while it was being transmitted back to Earth. Its impact point was in the Sea of Tranquillity, some 60km from where Apollo 11's LM Eagle would land four years later.

 

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18 FEBRUARY

 

1930 Discovery of Pluto

 

On this day astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet Pluto, which had been thought to exist for some time because of gravitational effects on the outermost known planets. By comparing photographs of the same portion of the night sky taken several days apart, Tombaugh spotted that one of the objects had moved. The announcement of the discovery made headlines around the world and there were more than a thousand suggestions for a name. 'Pluto' was suggested by an eleven-year-old girl from Oxford, Venetia Burney. In 2006, however, after further bodies of similar size had been discovered at the edge of the Solar System, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet' by the International Astronomical Union. Burney was still alive and was quoted as saying, "At my age, I've been largely indifferent [to the debate]; though I suppose I would prefer it to remain a planet."

 

 

 

1977 Space Shuttle Orbiter/SCA Flight CI-1

 

Following the taxi tests a few days earlier, the Shuttle development programme began its next phase, consisting of a series of flights with the Orbiter unmanned and all its systems shut down, known as Captive-Inactive, to examine the aerodynamic handling characteristics of the craft. With a combined mass of 264.9 tonnes, the combination took to the air for the first time, leaving the ground at an airspeed of 142 knots following a take-off run of 1,830m. At a height of 4,900m the aircraft levelled off and began a series of tests including airspeed calibration with a Cessna A-37 flying alongside. Throughout the flight, engineers Horton and Guidry were checking instruments to monitor the stresses on the airframe: the problem was not with the added weight, since the Orbiter was actually lighter than a 747’s maximum load of passengers plus their luggage, but its location on top of the fuselage, which shifted the combination’s centre of gravity upwards. Despite this, pilots Fulton and McMurtry reported no problems: in fact the aircraft seemed more stable than expected. Fulton later stated that “most of the time we couldn’t even tell that the Shuttle was up there!” The carrier eventually descended to 3,050m for further instrument calibrations before making a safe landing more than two hours after take-off.

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19 FEBRUARY

 

1969 E-8 No.201 launch failure

 

Also identified by NASA as Luna 1969A, this turned out to be the Soviet Union's first attempt to land a roving vehicle on the lunar surface. Unfortunately during the launch phase, as the vehicle passed through the point of maximum dynamic pressure, the payload shroud collapsed and debris struck the external propellant tanks, causing spillage which was ignited by the engine exhaust. The first stage exploded though the upper stages were blasted free and crashed to the ground.

 

 


1990 Soyuz TM-8 landing

Crew: Aleksandr Viktorenko (CDR); Aleksandr Serebrov (FE)

Landing site: 55 km NE of Arkalyk

 

Mir Expedition 5. Flight time 166d 6h 58m; 2,631 orbits

 

 


1998 Soyuz TM-26 landing

Crew: Anatoli Solovyov (CDR); Pavel Vinogradov (FE); Léopold Eyharts [France] (RC]

Landing site: 50° 11' N, 67° 31' E

 

Solovyov and Vinogradov formed Mir Expedition 24, with flight time of 197d 17h 34m and 3,128 orbits. Eyharts had been launched at the end of January aboard

Soyuz TM-27; his flight time was 20d 16h 36m with 325 orbits.

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20 FEBRUARY

 

1962 Mercury MA-6 (Friendship 7)

Pilot: John Glenn

Landing site: Atlantic Ocean, 21° 29' N, 68° 48' W

 

First American orbital flight, following two sub-orbital missions. Glenn had to shut down the automatic attitude control system because of a faulty yaw thruster but was able to use the manual fly-by-wire system with no difficulty. A more serious problem was an indication that the spacecraft's heat shield had come loose (this was part of the landing procedure where the shield would drop down to expand a pneumatic bag designed to cushion the splashdown impact). Glenn was instructed not to jettison the retropack following retrofire, in the hope that the restraint straps would keep the shield in place, though he was not advised of the reason for this. As it turned out the signal was faulty and the shield was securely attached all the time. Splashdown was some 60km off target as when retrofire calculations were made no consideration had been given to the capsule's weight loss due to the use of onboard consumables, but Glenn was picked up by the destroyer USS Noa. Flight time was 4h 55m; three orbits.

 

 


1986 Mir launch

 

With the US space programme grounded following the Challenger accident, the Soviet Union took their own programme to a new level with the launch of their next generation space station. Instead of a single forward docking port, Mir (the name translates as either 'peace' or 'village') had a spherical docking module with five ports, one on the centre line as usual and four more around the outside. Clearly they were looking to expand the station by attaching research modules as time went by, and indeed this was the case, with the base block being expanded over the next few years. Over the course of its orbital life, which was much longer than originally planned, Mir would host twenty-eight resident crews and numerous short-term visitors, including even a series of dockings by the US Space Shuttle, as the two countries' space programmes merged.

 

 


1999 Soyuz TM-29 launch

Crew: Viktor Afanaseyev (CDR); Jean-Pierre Haigneré [France] (FE); Ivan Bella [Slovakia] (RC)

 

Mir Expedition 27. Afanaseyev and Haigneré would remain aboard for six months, while Bella would return to Earth with Gennadi Padalka aboard Soyuz TM-28 after a week. However Sergei Avdeyev, launched the previous August, continued his mission for a full year. Haigneré's backup for his mission was Claudie André-Deshays; the two would later marry.

 

 


2001 STS-98 landing

Crew: Kenneth Cockrell (CDR); Mark Polansky (P); Robert Curbeam, Marsha Ivins, Thomas Jones (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Due to bad weather at the Kennedy Space Center the mission was extended by two days and landing eventually switched to Edwards. Flight time was 12d 21h 20m; 202 orbits.

 

 

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21 FEBRUARY

 

1961 MA-2

Crew: none

 

The first flight of a Mercury-Atlas combination had ended in failure when the launch vehicle broke up under the stresses of Maximum Dynamic Pressure. NASA engineers made sure the problem could not recur by adding a steel band 20cm wide below the adapter ring, thus moving the stressed region to a less-critical area of the rocket. It was a temporary solution: later flights would be launched by a thicker-skinned vehicle where the band would not be required. But temporary or not, the solution was effective, the Atlas sending the capsule to a peak altitude of 183km and a maximum velocity of 21,290km/hr. Landing came 2,300km downrange, after which the spacecraft was retrieved by the destroyer USS Greene.

 

 


1996 Soyuz TM-23 launch

Crew: Yuri Onufriyenko (CDR); Yuri Usachyov (FE)

 

Mir Expedition 21. The planned mission duration was six months, during which the residents would be joined by US astronaut Shannon Lucid who arrived in March.

 

 


1997 STS-82 landing

Crew: Ken Bowersox (CDR); Scott Horowitz (P); Joseph Tanner, Steven Hawley, Greg Harbaugh, Mark Lee, Steven Smith (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

This concluded the second Hubble Space Telescope maintenance mission. Flight time was 9d 23h 37m, 149 orbits.

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22 FEBRUARY

 

1977 Space Shuttle Orbiter/SCA Flight CI-2

 

The second Captive-Inactive flight took place four days after the first, with a take-off weight of 283.7 tonnes. The extra mass this time meant the aircraft’s take-off run was just under 2km. The primary task on the second flight was to evaluate stability and control characteristics and study the “flutter regime” at altitudes up to 6.7km. Checks were made at various heights and speeds up to a maximum of 288 knots. This was some ten knots above the planned Orbiter release speed but as always NASA was building in a safety margin. After 3hr 13min the aircraft landed back at Edwards, and ALT programme manager Deke Slayton announced that the planned sixth test would be dropped if everything continued to go as well as the first two flights.

 

 


1996 STS-75 launch

Crew: Andy Allen (CDR); Scott Horowitz (P); Jeffrey Hoffman, Maurizio Cheli [Italy], Claude Nicollier [Switzerland], Franklin Chang-Diaz (MS);

Umberto Guidoni [Italy] (PS)

 

75th Shuttle mission; 19th flight of Columbia

Second flight of the Italian Tethered Satellite System, in which a probe would be deployed on a long cable to interact with the Earth's ionospheric environment of charged gas (plasma) and its magnetic and electric fields, to understand how a tethered satellite makes contact with the ionospheric plasma and how an electrical current is extracted and to demonstrate electrical power generation, as a product of current and voltage, to determine how such a system could be used as a space-based power source. The TSS's first flight, on STS-46, had been a failure becayse the tether jammed and the satellite was only deployed some 260 metres instead of the planned 20km. This time, although the probe almost reached its target distance the tether snapped and the experiment failed again.

 

 


2000 STS-99 landing

Crew: Kevin Kregel (CDR); Dominic Gorey (P); Gerhard Thiele [Germany], Janet Kavandi, Janice Voss, Mamoru Mohri [Japan] (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Flight time 11d 5h 39m; 181 orbits

 

 


2010 STS-130 landing

Crew: George Zamka (CDR); Terry Virts (P); Kay Hire. Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Flight time 13d 18h 6m; 217 orbits

 

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23 FEBRUARY

 

1963 Solid rocket motor test-firing

 

United Technology Center (UTC), the contractor for the solid-rocket motors planned for use with the Titan II launch vehicle, successfully conducted the first static firing of one segment of the large-size, 120-inch diameter motor. Eventually five-segmented boosters would be used on the Titan IIIC and its later variants. A version with seven segments, known as Titan IIIM, was planned to launch the Manned Orbiting Laboratory but it never flew.

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24 FEBRUARY

 

2011 STS-133 launch

Crew: Steven Lindsey (CDR); Eric Boe (P); Alvin Drew, Stephen Bowen, Michael Barratt, Nicole Stott (MS)

 

133rd Shuttle mission; 39th and final flight of Discovery

The original crew included Tim Kopra but he was injured in a bicycle accident on 15 January and was replaced by Bowen. Docking with the ISS, then occupied by the Expedition 26 crew, was achieved on 26 February. The mission delivered supplies and equipment, including the Italian-built Leonardo Multipurpose Module, which had made seven flights already on which it was temporarily attached with additional cargo aboard then brought down again when the Shuttle returned to Earth. On this occasion it was left permanently linked to the station, providing an additional 70 cubic metres of storage and work space. Two EVAs were carried out during the flight, both by Drew and Bowen: the first, on 28 February, lasted 6h 34m during which they connected a backup power cable between the Unity and Tranquility modules and carried out various other tasks; the second, on 2 March, lasted 6h 14m and covered a variety of minor maintenance jobs.

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25 FEBRUARY

 

1977 Space Shuttle Orbiter/SCA Flight CI-3

 

After two highly successful flight tests, NASA engineers were hopeful that things would go as smoothly on the third. Just after take-off, the outer starboard engine was deliberately throttled back to simulate a failure at this critical point, but the remaining three motors carried the combination up to a safe altitude without difficulty. At a height of 1,530m the number four engine was brought back to full power and the flight continued. Stability checks on this occasion were conducted during shallow dives from 4,880m; 7,320m and 7,930m with a maximum airspeed of 292 knots. During speed tests the pilots encountered some buffeting, while the pilot of the T-38 chase plane reported a visual ripple effect across the aerodynamic “boat-tail” fairing that covered the Orbiter’s dummy engine nozzles; however this was not seen as significant since it had happened at an airspeed somewhat higher than that at which the 747 would be flying under normal circumstances, particularly when the Orbiter was separating. At the end of the 2½-hour flight, Deke Slayton confirmed that the planned sixth test had been dropped and the remaining two would be brought forward.

 

 


1977 Soyuz 24 landing

Crew: Viktor Gorbatko (CDR); Yuri Glazkov (FE)

Landing site: 36 km NE of Arkalyk

 

Salyut 5 Expedition 2. The crew had carried out extensive repairs to the station, including a complete change of its atmosphere. Flight time was 17d 17h 26m, 285 orbits.

 

 


1979 Soyuz 32 launch

Crew: Vladimir Lyakhov (CDR); Valeri Ryumin (FE)

 

Salyut 6 Expedition 3. Planned duration was six months. Early in the mission the crew had to repair a leaking propellant tank in Salyut's propulsion system and later installed a TV monitor which had been delivered by Progress 5, allowing two-way video communications with the ground. It was felt that on long-duration missions the ability to see their families would be of great psychological importance to the cosmonauts. In June Progress 7 delivered a radio telescope which when expanded to full size was 10m in diameter. This was unfolded automatically and used until August, when it was jettisoned. Unfortunately the dish became snared on the aft docking target, blocking the rear hatch and the propulsion system. The crew had to carry out an unrehearsed EVA to cut it free.

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