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GordonD

Ups and Downs for April

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1945 Wallops Island approval

 

The US Congress passes appropriation authorising expanded research on guided missiles at NACA (the National Advisory Council on Aeronautics, forerunner of NASA) Langley Laboratory, including the establishment of a rocket launch facility at Wallops Island, Va..

 

 

 

1950 Anastasia launch

Crew: Daniel Dare (Captain); Albert Digby, Jocelyn Peabody

 

The Anastasia departed on the first manned expedition to Venus. The mission was not a diplomatic success as it encountered hostile natives, the Treen, led by the dictator The Mekon. Over the next few years the Mekon would attempt the invasion of Earth on numerous occasions but was always driven back by the Interplanet Space Fleet under Dare's command.

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2 APRIL

 

1992 STS-45 landing

Crew: Charlie Bolden (CDR); Brian Duffy (P); Kathy Sullivan, David Leestma, Michael Foale (MS); Dirk Frimout [Belgium], Byron Lichtenberg (PS)

Landing Site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Flight time was 8d 22h 9m; 143 orbits. This was the first flight of British-born (but US citizen) Michael Foale, who would go on to fly five more missions, including residencies aboard both Mir and the ISS.

 

 

 

2010 Soyuz TMA-18 launch

Crew: Aleksandr Skvortsov (CDR); Mikhail Korniyenko, Tracy Caldwell-Dyson [USA] (FE)

 

ISS Expeditions 23/24. Docking with the station was achieved two days into the flight, where the crew joined the 22/23 team of Kotov, Noguchi and Creamer., whom they would work alongside until the beginning of June.

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3 APRIL

 

1984 Soyuz T-11 launch

Crew: Yuri Malyshev (CDR); Gennadi Strekalov (FE); Rakesh Sharma [India] (RC)

 

This was a Taxi Flight for the Salyut 7 Expedition 3 crew, ensuring they could remain in orbit beyond the 'shelf life' of their Soyuz TM-10 spacecraft. The T-11 cosmonauts would return to Earth in a week's time aboard the older capsule. Docking with Salyut was achieved after a one-day approach and the crew carried out a varied experimental programme: Sharma concentrated on the fields of biomedicine and remote sensing, and also used Yoga techniques to combat the effects of weightlessness, assuming five different postures on each day of the mission.

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4 APRIL

 

1968 Apollo 6

Crew: none

 

This was the second test flight of the Saturn V. While the first had been highly successful, this one was anything but. During the first stage burn, the launch vehicle developed an unforeseen longitudinal vibration, known as pogoing, which caused some of the panels to break free of the LM adapter. Fortunately this did not unduly affect the vehicle’s structural integrity, and the flight was able to continue. More seriously, one of the second stage engines shut down after only four and a half minutes, a minute and a half short of the planned burn time. Almost immediately a second engine went out, leaving the vehicle flying on only three out of the five. But the Instrument Unit was programmed to compensate and it ran the three survivors for as long as the propellant lasted. Finally the faltering second stage was cut loose and the S-IVB kicked in. This of course used a single J‑2 identical to those that had caused problems on the S-II burn, and the controllers watched anxiously as it powered Apollo on towards orbit. A third premature shutdown would be fatal for the mission, since there were no other engines to maintain the thrust. But there was no repetition and after running for thirty seconds longer than planned to compensate for the earlier problems the third stage shut down. Two orbits later, following a systems check, Mission Control transmitted the command to restart the S-IVB engine. Nothing happened and an alternative flight plan had to be followed, separating the CSM and using the Service Module engine to boost the spacecraft into a high elliptical orbit reaching to more than 22,000km up. This was more or less what had been planned for the S-IVB but it meant that propellant intended for further manoeuvres had now been used up. The Command Module was recovered successfully at the end of the flight but that was routine by now and attention turned to the problems with the launch vehicle. The pogoing was relatively simple to fix: it seemed that the natural vibration of the F-1 first stage engines was harmonious with the structural frequency of the vehicle as a whole: by “detuning” the engines the pogo problem vanished. The cause of the J-2 failures took longer to track down but after a month the engineers came up with the solution: bellows-like structures in the propellant lines, allowing for expansion and contraction in flight, were rupturing from the vibration of the engines. Ground tests initially failed to reproduce the failure because the surrounding air became supercooled and dampened the vibration; whereas the problem on Apollo 6 took place at an altitude where the air was too thin to do so. When the engineers carried out tests in a vacuum chamber, the bellows failed every time. By replacing them with coiled steel tubing, the engineers could be confident that the problem was solved. The next time a Saturn V flew, there would be men on board.

 

 

 

1983 STS-6 launch

Crew: Paul Weitz (CDR); Karol Bobko (P); Story Musgrave, Donald Peterson (MS)

 

6th Shuttle mission; maiden flight of Challenger

Deployed the TDRS-A communications satellite, and on Day 4 Musgrave and Peterson performed the first EVA of the Shuttle programme. This had been planned for the previous mission but was cancelled because of problems with one of the space-suits. The EVA lasted 4h 10m, during which the astronauts practised closing the payload bay doors manually, without actually shutting them.

 

 


1997 STS-83 launch

Crew: James Halsell (CDR); Susan Still (P); Janice Voss, Michael Gernhardt, Donald Thomas (MS); Roger Crouch, Greg Linteris (PS)

 

83rd Shuttle mission; 22nd flight of Columbia

This carried the Microgravity Science Laboratory and was intended to last 15 - 16 days but a fuel cell problem would lead to the flight being terminated early. However that was not the end of the MSL-1 story...

 

 


2000 Soyuz TM-30 launch

Crew: Sergei Zalyotin (CDR); Aleksandr Kaleri (FE)

 

Mir Expedition 28. Docking was achieved after two days. The initial objective was to refurbish the station to extend its operational life: the mission was privately funded and it was hoped to fly future commercial missions but there was insufficient funding for these and Zalyotin and Kaleri would be Mir's final occupants. A single EVA was carried out, on 12 May, lasting 5h 3m during which a special sealant was used to repair minor cracks in the station's skin, and a solar battery on the Kvant module was inspected: it was found that an electrical cable had burned through, leaving the solar panel unable to rotate to the most efficient angle.

 

 


2011 Soyuz TMA-21 launch

Crew: Aleksandr Samokutyayev (CDR); Andrei Borisenko, Ron Garan [USA] (FE)

 

ISS Expeditions 27/28. Docking was made after the usual two-day flight where the crew joined the Expedition 26/27 team of Kondratiyev, Nespoli and Coleman. The mission patch was in the shape of a Vostok capsule, with Yuri Gagarin's face included, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his pioneer flight.

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5 APRIL

 

1975 Soyuz 18A abort

Crew: Vasili Lazarev (CDR) Oleg Makarov (FE)

Landing site: 50° 50' N, 83° 25 E

 

What should have been the second expedition to Salyut 4 became instead the first in-flight abort of a manned mission. The second stage failed to separate properly, only three of the six locks releasing, and while ignition of the third stage broke the remaining three the vehicle deviated off the planned course. At T+295 seconds the automatic escape system went into operation - as the LES had already been jettisoned this was carried out by the Soyuz's own engines - separating the spacecraft from the third stage then jettisoning the Orbital and Equipment Modules so the crew cabin could go into its recovery sequence. The cosmonauts were subjected to deceleration forces reaching 21.3G at one point. During the descent the crew repeatedly sought assurance that they would not land in China: as it happened they came down 829km north of the border. The re-entry module landed on a snow-covered slope and immediately began rolling towards a 150m sheer drop; fortunately the parachutes became snagged in vegetation. The cosmonauts were soon recovered and though initial reports said they were unharmed, it later emerged that Lazarev had been injured by the deceleration forces. He never flew again (though he was selected as backup for Soyuz T-3). Makarov came out better and actually did fly Soyuz T-3, as well as the earlier Soyuz 27 mission.

 

All of this came to light because of the upcoming Apollo-Soyuz mission. The Americans were informed of the incident on 7 April and were naturally concerned about the possibility of a repeat, but were assured that the problem had been located. There was further concern when the Soviets launched a new crew to Salyut on 24 May: had the original mission been successful then the crew would have been back on Earth before ASTP began, but the replacements would still be on orbit during the joint flight. However the Soviets were confident they could handle two completely separate missions at the same time and this proved to be the case. The new mission was also designated 'Soyuz 18', leading to the aborted flight being referred to as 'Soyuz 18A', 'Soyuz 18-1' or in the Soviet Union itself, 'the 5 April anomaly'.

 

 


1991 STS-37 launch

Crew: Steve Nagel (CDR); Ken Cameron (P); Linda Godwin, Jerry Ross, Jay Apt (MS)

 

39th Shuttle mission; 8th flight of Atlantis

Deployed the Gamma Ray Observatory, named for US physicist and Nobel laureate Arthur Holly Compton. However the high-gain antenna stuck and an unscheduled EVA was required to free it. This took place on 7 April, carried out by Ross and Apt, and succeeded in releasing the dish. The EVA lasted 4h 26m and the satellite was sent off into its operational orbit. The following day a second EVA was conducted. This one was planned, and Apt and Ross tested a number of devices to transport themselves along the payload bay, practising for use on the then-planned Space Station Freedom. The EVA lasted 5h 47m. Total time for both EVAs was 10h 13m.

 

 

 

2010 STS-131 launch

Crew: Alan Poindexter (CDR); James Dutton (P); Rick Mastracchio, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Naoko Yamazaki [Japan]. Clayton Anderson (MS)

 

131st Shuttle mission; 38th flight of Discovery

Delivered supplies and equipment to the ISS. The Leonardo Logistics Module was also carried: this was berthed to the station then retrieved before Discovery returned to Earth. This was its seventh and last round trip: it would be carried into orbit once more but left permanently attached to the ISS. Docking with the station was achieved on 7 April and the crew began working alongside the Expedition 23 team. Three EVAs were carried out, all by Mastracchio and Anderson using the ISS's Quest airlock. On 9 April they removed an ammonia tank from the Shuttle's payload bay and temporarily attached it to the station, then replaced a faulty gyroscope and conducted various other maintenance tasks. The EVA lasted 6h 27m. Two days later, in an EVA lasting 7h 26m, the ammonia tank was transferred to the ISS's equipment cart then moved to its permanent position; however the astronauts ran into a problem when the tank could not be bolted securely in place. As a result Mission Control decided to postpone connecting up the fluid lines. This was finally achieved on the third EVA, on 13 April. This lasted 6h 24m, but because of the delays some minor tasks were not carried out. Total EVA time for both men was 20h 17m.

 

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6 APRIL

 

1984 STS-41C launch

Crew: Bob Crippen (CDR); Dick Scobee (P); Terry Hart, James van Hoften, George Nelson (MS)

 

Eleventh Shuttle mission; fifth flight of Challenger

Primary objective was to deploy the Long Duration Exposure Facility, an octagonal cylinder the size of a single-decker bus carrying various materials on its sides, to see how they would be affected by long-term exposure to space conditions. This was intended to be retrieved by a future mission in about a year's time but flight delays and the grounding of the Shuttle fleet following the Challenger disaster on STS-51L meant that it would not be brought back until 1990. The mission's next task was to retrieve the malfunctioning Solar Max satellite, repair it, and return it to orbit. This was achieved on two EVAs. both by Nelson and van Hoften: the first, on 8 April, lasted 2h 38m but was unsuccessful: attempts by Nelson to capture the satellite using a docking facility attached to his Manned Maneuvering Unit failed and the satellite began spinning and the astronauts returned to the Orbiter. Three days later, by which time the satellite had been stabilised, it was grappled by the Orbiter's manipulator arm and repairs were carried out. The satellite was then redeployed. This EVA took 6h 44m. Total time for both men was 9h 22m.

 

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7 APRIL

 

2007 Soyuz TMA-10 launch

Crew: Oleg Kotov (CDR); Fyodor Yurchikhin (FE); Charles Simonyi [USA] (SP)

 

Kotov and Yurchikhin formed the ISS Expedition 15 crew. Simonyi was a Spaceflight Participant (fare-paying passenger) who would return to Earth with the Expedition 14 crew in two weeks' time.

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8 APRIL

 

1964 Gemini 1

Crew: none

 

The first flight of the Gemini programme was essentially a test of the structural integrity of the Gemini/Titan II combination. No attempt was made to separate the spacecraft from the second stage of the launch vehicle and the mission was declared over after just three orbits, during which the new tracking and communications systems were tested, and ground controllers could rehearse their procedures for the forthcoming manned flights. The spacecraft re-entered on its sixty-third orbit but holes had been drilled in the heat-shield to ensure it would burn up as no recovery was planned.

 

 

 

1993 STS-56 launch

Crew: Ken Cameron (CDR); Stephen Oswald (P); Michael Foale, Ken Cockrell, Ellen Ochoa (MS)

 

54th Shuttle mission; 16th flight of Discovery

Carried the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS-2), collecting data on the relationship between the sun's energy output and Earth's middle atmosphere and how these factors affect the ozone layer. The flight also deployed a free-flying experiment pallet called SPARTAN-201 (Shuttle Point Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy) to study the solar wind. This was retrieved two days later.

 

 


1997 STS-83 landing

Crew: James Halsell (CDR); Susan Still (P); Janice Voss, Michael Gernhardt, Donald Thomas (MS); Roger Crouch, Greg Linteris (PS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

The Microgravity Science Lab (MSL-1) mission had been due to last two weeks but a problem developed with one of the Orbiter's fuel cells and it had to be shut down. Though the Shuttle could operate on only two cells, loss of a second one would require severe power-downs and flight rules called for the mission to be terminated. The flight lasted just 3d 23h 13m and 63 orbits. However after landing it was decided that the normal post-flight maintenance was not required and Columbia could be made ready for another launch by changing out the engines and replenishing the consumables (propellant, oxygen, water and food) and the mission could be reflown in three months' time.

 

 


2002 STS-110 launch

Crew: Michael Bloomfield (CDR); Stephen Frick (P); Rex Waldheim, Ellen Ochoa, Lee Morin, Jerry Ross, Steven Smith (MS)

 

109th Shuttle mission; 25th flight of Atlantis

Delivered the S0 Truss to the ISS, as well as the Mobile Transporter for use in moving around the exterior of the station during EVAs. Jerry Ross became the first man to make seven space flights (though counting the lift-off from the Moon John Young had already experienced seven launches). Four EVAs were carried out: on 11 April Smith and Walheim began the task of securing the truss segment to the ISS: it had already been manoeuvred into position using the station's own manipulator arm. Now the astronauts bolted it in place and connected up various electrical cables. This lasted 7h 48m. On 13 April Ross and Morin completed the work of attaching the truss to the station in an EVA lasting 7h 30m. Then on 14 April Smith and Walheim installed the Mobile Transporter cart: this lasted 6h 27m. Finally on 16 April Ross and Morin tested electrical switches that would come into operation when additional truss segments were added on forthcoming flights, as well as installing various pieces of equipment that would assist with EVAs in future. This lasted 6h 37m, bringing the mission total for the two astronauts to 14h 7m each; Smith and Walheim's total for the flight was 14h 15m.

 

 


2006 Soyuz TMA-7 landing

Crew: Valeri Tokarev (CDR); Bill McArthur [USA] (FE); Marcos Pontes [Brazil] (SP)

Landing site: 50° 40' 03.42" N, 67° 21' 22.32" E (55 km northeast of Arkalyk)

 

Tokarev and McArthur were ISS Expedition 12 and had been in space for 189d 19h 52m and 2,991 orbits. Pontes was a Brazilian Air Force officer who had been launched along with the Expedition 12 crew aboard Soyuz TMA-8: his flight time was 9d 21h 17m and 155 orbits.

 

 


2008 Soyuz TMA-12 launch

Crew: Sergei Volkov (CDR); Oleg Kononenko (FE); Yi Soyeon [South Korea] (SP)

 

Volkov and Kononenko would form ISS Expedition 17. Yi was actually a late addition to the crew: she was originally backup to  Ko San, who was dropped because he breached regulations surrounding removal of books from the training center in Russia.

 

 


2009 Soyuz TMA-13 landing

Crew: Yuri Lonchakov (CDR); Mike Fincke [USA] (FE); Charles Simonyi [USA] (SP)

Landing site:  48°33'56"N, 69°23'51"E (151 km northeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

Lonchakov and Fincke were ISS Expedition 18 and had been in space for 178d 0h 14m and 2,803 orbits. Simonyi was a fare-paying passenger making his second space flight. He had been launched with the Expedition 19 crew: his flight time was 12d 19h 25m, 201 orbits.

 

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9 APRIL

 

1959 NASA reveals Mercury Seven

 

At a press conference in Washington DC NASA introduced the seven men who had been chosen to fly in Project Mercury. These had been selected from 508 names of test pilots submitted by the military services. These were quickly whittled down to 110, who were split into three groups. The first group of 35 reported to the Pentagon on 2 February 1959 with the second group of 34 reporting a week later. Six were rejected as being too tall, fifteen for other reasons, and sixteen men declined to take part. The remaining 41 who had not yet been seen were not considered further. Initially NASA planned to select twelve men but this was later cut to six. To reach this number the remaining 32 were subjected to gruelling medical tests, but only one was eliminated - Jim Lovell, whose failure was found to be in error; he of course went on to have a distinguished astronaut career after being chosen for the second group. Eighteen of the survivors were recommended without reservation but NASA found themselves unable to choose only six, so ultimately seven men were selected: Alan Shepard, Virgil Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, Gordon Cooper and Donald Slayton.

 

 


1980 Soyuz 35 launch

Crew: Leonid Popov (CDR); Valeri Ryumin (FE)

 

Salyut 6 Expedition 4. Ryumin was originally a backup, drafted in to replace prime crewmember Valentin Levedev, who had injured his knee while working out on a trampoline. Ryumin had actually been part of Expedition 3 and had only returned to Earth the previous August after a six-month mission. When Soyuz docked with Salyut Ryumin opened a note he himself had left for the station's next occupants! This expedition was also scheduled to last six months and as usual the crew had to ensure they remained fit to avoid being unable to move around when they returned to Earth. This was achieved with the help of a treadmill, which broke in mid-June. The cosmonauts avoided repairing it for several days as they felt this would involve unscrewing several bolts and would take up too much time, but the doctors ordered them to fix it!

 

 

 
1983 STS-6 landing

Crew: Paul Weitz (CDR); Karol Bobko (P); Story Musgrave, Donald Peterson (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Flight time was 5d 0h 24m; 81 orbits. This had been the maiden flight of Challenger.

 

 


1994 STS-59 launch

Crew: Sid Gutierrez (CDR); Kevin Chilton (P); Jay Apt, Rich Clifford, Linda Godwin, Thomas Jones (MS)

 

62nd Shuttle mission; sixth flight of Endeavour

Carried the Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-1) to study the Earth and help scientists distinguish human-induced environmental changes from other natural forms of change. The crew also carried out the MAPS experiment to measure air pollution, particularly carbon monoxide in the lower atmosphere, and the X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar, though this initially presented a problem when it would not power up properly. The fault was traced to an over-sensitive circuit breaker, which was bypassed and allowed the instrument to operate normally.

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10 APRIL

 

1979 Soyuz 33 launch

Crew: Nikolai Rukavishnikov (CDR); Georgi Ivanov [Bulgaria] (RC)

 

Fourth Interkosmos mission, part of the programme which took cosmonauts from Warsaw Pact countries to Salyut 6 for a week. This was also a Taxi Flight, in which the crew would return to Earth aboard the older Soyuz 32 capsule, leaving their own craft for the future use of the resident Expedition 3 team. However things would not go according to plan.

 

 


2017 Soyuz MS-02 landing

Crew: Sergei Ryzhikov (CDR); Andrei Borisenko, Robert Kimbrough [USA] (FE)

Landing site: 47°22'11,76"N, 69°36'42,06"E (150 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

ISS Expeditions 49/50. Flight time 173d 3h 15m; 2,694 orbits.

 

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11 APRIL

 

1970 Apollo 13 launch

Crew: Jim Lovell (CDR); Fred Haise (LMP); Jack Swigert (CMP)

 

Intended to be the third manned lunar landing, but (Spoiler!) it would not get there.

CSM: Odyssey; LM: Aquarius

The mission had problems even before launch: backup LMP Charlie Duke was exposed to the German Measles virus and infected the other astronauts. Though most were immune, CMP Ken Mattingly was not, and the medics grounded him, stating that given the incubation period of the disease he would begin showing symptoms at around the time the others were ending their exploration  of the lunar surface. Lovell protested that he and Haise would be able to cover for Mattingly during the flight home, adding that the prime crew had bonded as a unit to the amount that they could almost read one another's minds, which would not be the case if he was forced to fly with the backup. This was in vain and only after a few days of intense catch-up training did he agree to take Swigert. Launch was not without incident either: the centre engine of the S-II second stage shut down 132 seconds early, causing the remaining four to burn for 34 seconds longer than planned to compensate. However Trans-Lunar Injection was achieved and the crew settled down to what they hoped would be as routine a flight as a trip to the Moon could be.

 

 


1984 Soyuz T-10 landing

Crew: Yuri Malyshev (CDR); Gennadi Strekalov (FE); Rakesh Sharma [India] (RC)

Landing site: 46 km E of Arkalyk

 

This was a Taxi Flight: the cosmonauts had been launched a week earlier aboard Soyuz T-11, which they left docked to Salyut 7 for the use of the Expedition 5 crew. Returning in the Soyuz T-10 capsule meant the resident crew could remain in orbit for longer than the 'shelf life' of their own craft. Flight time for this crew was 7d 21h 40m; 126 orbits.

 

 


1991 STS-37 landing

Crew: Steve Nagel (CDR); Ken Cameron (P); Linda Godwin, Jerry Ross, Jay Apt (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

The landing was delayed one day due to weather conditions at both Edwards AFB and Kennedy Space Center. Due to an incorrect call on winds aloft, Atlantis landed 190 meters short of the runway. This did not present a problem, since the orbiter landed on the dry lake bed of Edwards, and it was not obvious to most viewers. Had the landing been attempted at Kennedy, the result would have been a touchdown on the paved underrun preceding the runway and would have been much more obvious. Flight time was 5d 23h 33m; 93 orbits.

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12 APRIL - Yuri's Night!

 

1961 Vostok 1

Pilot: Yuri Gagarin

Landing site: 26 km SW of Engels

 

Following the success of the test flight known as Korabl-Sputnik 5, Western observers felt that a Soviet manned mission was imminent and speculation increased in the first week of April when it was rumoured that it had already taken place but had resulted in serious injury to the pilot. This stemmed from the hospitalisation of pilot Vladimir Ilyushin, son of the aircraft designer, following a car crash. But the world did not have long to wait, and on 12 April—during the flight itself—it was announced that Yuri Gagarin had been launched into orbit. This very act of reporting the launch before Gagarin was safely back should have (but did not) put a stop to the persistent rumours that on at least one previous attempt at a manned flight the Soviets had lost a cosmonaut: had that been the case then they would certainly have waited until the mission was over before making it public. Thus the honour of being the first of all men in space undoubtedly falls to Flight-Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin, a 27-year-old military pilot from Smolensk. Married with two young children, Gagarin’s place in history was assured with one orbit of the Earth. He was little more than a passenger on the spacecraft, with no ability to control it, but the very fact of him being aboard was a major scientific achievement. He reported no ill-effects from the zero-gravity conditions, though on his pioneer flight he remained in his couch and did not unstrap. The capsule’s orbit had been chosen to decay naturally within ten days if the retro-rocket failed to fire, but as things developed this precaution proved unnecessary: as Vostok passed over Africa the return sequence began with a perfect burn. However not until 1996 was it revealed that the spherical re-entry capsule had not separated properly: it was still linked to the equipment section by a thick cable trunk. For several minutes there was real concern for Gagarin’s safety but at last the cable burned through and the capsule took up its proper re-entry position. At an altitude of some 8km Gagarin’s ejector seat rocketed him clear of the capsule to allow him to descend separately. (This was not admitted by the authorities until nearly twenty years later, the official line being that Gagarin had landed in the spacecraft. The reason for this was probably to satisfy the rules laid down by the International Aeronautical Federation, which stated that to qualify for a new flying record a pilot had to take off and land in his vehicle. If it became known that Gagarin had ejected, the Soviets feared that the flight might be ineligible: hence the deception. By the time the truth was admitted, the flight was far enough in the past that there was no question of its not being recognised and Gagarin being denied his place in the record books.) He landed in a field near Smelovaka, not far from Saratov, watched by a woman planting potatoes with her six-year-old granddaughter. Legend has it that she asked him, “Have you come from outer space?” to which Gagarin replied, “Yes! Would you believe it? I certainly have!” then reassured the woman that he was a Soviet citizen and not the advance guard of an extra-terrestrial invasion force! The spot where he landed is now marked by a 40m-high titanium obelisk. Two days later Gagarin was back in Moscow for a ceremonial welcome by Nikita Khrushchev that was televised live across Europe and elsewhere, a major undertaking in the days before communication satellites. A world tour followed, with cheering crowds flocking to see him wherever he appeared. Prior to his flight he had been completely unknown; now he was arguably the most famous man on the planet. Gagarin never flew in space again: some sources say that Khrushchev grounded him to avoid the risk of a Soviet Hero being lost in an accident. Tragically, however, he would lose his life in a conventional aircraft crash seven years later, the true circumstances of which remain shrouded in mystery even now. Vostok 1's flight time was 1h 46m; one (incomplete) orbit.

 

 

 

1979 Soyuz 33 landing

Crew: Nikolai Rukavishnikov (CDR); Georgi Ivanov [Bulgaria] (RC)

Landing site: 320km south-east of Dzheskasgan

 

Launched just two days earlier, Soyuz 33 had failed to reach Salyut 6 due to a malfunction of the main engine. A pressure sensor in the combustion chamber was shutting down the engine when it seemed normal combustion pressure was not being reached. This shut-down mechanism was designed to prevent propellants from being pumped into a damaged engine thus risking damage and/or an explosion. It was only in 1983 that the Soviets revealed how serious the situation was. The craft had a back-up engine but it was feared that it may have been damaged by the main engine, potentially leaving the crew stranded with five days of supplies while it would take ten days for the orbit to decay. One option to return the crew if the backup engine was inoperable would have been to use attitude control thrusters to slow the Soyuz below orbital velocity, but there may have not been enough propellant to do this, and the landing point would have been unpredictable if it worked. The main option was to fire the back-up engine, but this option was not guaranteed to work, even if the engine fired. The nominal burn time was 188 seconds, and as long as the burn lasted more than 90 seconds, the crew could manually restart the engine to compensate. But this would mean an inaccurate landing. If, however, the burn was less than 90 seconds, the crew could be stranded in orbit. A burn longer than 188 seconds could result in too-high loads on the crew during re-entry. In the end, the backup engine did fire, though for 213 seconds, 25 seconds too long, resulting in an unusually steep trajectory and loads of 10 G's to be endured by the crew. Nikolai Rukavishnikov and Georgi Ivanov were safely recovered. Flight time was 1d 23h 1m; 31 orbits.

 

 


1981 STS-1 launch

Crew: John Young (CDR); Bob Crippen (P)

 

First Shuttle mission; maiden flight of Columbia

Lift-off was originally scheduled for 10 April, but a computer malfunction forced a postponement: consequently, it was on the twentieth anniversary of the first manned spaceflight that the Shuttle made its debut. SRB thrust exceeded spacecraft weight by a larger margin than predicted, leading to a climb 5% steeper than planned, though still within safety limits. SRB separation was achieved at T-plus 2 minutes 11 seconds, 45.8km high and 38.6km downrange, and SSME cutoff followed at 8m 42s, with External Tank jettison twenty seconds later. At T-plus 10m 38s, orbit insertion was achieved, following an 86s OMS burn. The payload bay doors were opened to check that they could be closed again when exposed to temperatures varying from -170 up to 350°F and at this point it was learned that several of the heat-resistant tiles had been lost from the front of the OMS pods (a result of the pressure pulse at SRB ignition rebounding from the service tower), leading to speculation by the media about the state of the tiles on the Orbiter’s underside. Attempts were reputedly made to photograph Columbia from a spy satellite to check, though NASA would not confirm this.

 

 


1985 STS-51D launch

Crew: Karol Bobko (CDR); Donald Williams (P); Rhea Seddon, David Griggs, Jeff Hoffman (MS); Charlie Walker, Jake Garn (PS)

 

16th Shuttle mission; fourth flight of Discovery

Mission STS-51D was originally set for a March launch and included deployment of the Hughes LEASAT 3 spacecraft and retrieval of NASA's Long Duration Exposure Facility. It was remanifested following the decision to cancel Mission STS-51E, which was to have been flown by Challenger. The revised STS-51D cargo included the Hughes satellite plus the Canadian comsat Anik C-1. Other payloads included the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System, the American Echocardiograph Experiment, two middeck student experiments and two Getaway Special canisters. The crew included politician Jake Garn, head of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that dealt with NASA. Cynics saw his flight as an incentive by the space agency to increase their budget! The space sickness he experienced during the mission was so severe that a scale for this was jokingly based on him, where "one Garn" is the highest possible level of sickness. An unplanned spacewalk was carried out by Hoffman and Griggs on 16 April: the Hughes satellite failed to power up after deployment and they attached custom-made devices cut from the covers of flight plan binders to the manipulator arm in an attempt to trip a switch on the side of the comsat. Though the devices (nicknamed 'the flyswatter' and 'the lacrosse stick' due to their shapes) did catch the switch the satellite still failed to activate and had to be left to be dealt with on a future mission. The EVA lasted 3h 6m.

 

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13 APRIL

 

1970 Apollo 13 explosion

Crew: Jim Lovell (CDR); Fred Haise (LMP); Jack Swigert (CMP)

 

CSM: Odyssey; LM: Aquarius

Apollo 13 was heading for the Moon for what was intended to be the third lunar landing but things were about to go wrong in spectacular fashion. The trouble started when Mission Control instructed CMP Swigert to perform a "cryo stir" - in other words, mix up the slushy contents of the liquid oxygen tanks. This was a routine procedure but this time, about a minute and a half after he pressed the switch, the crew heard a loud bang and the spacecraft began shaking uncontrollably. Swigert reported this in one of the most misquoted lines in space history: "Houston, we've had a problem here." (Note the past tense.) Lovell backed this up: "Houston, we've had a problem." Initially the crew thought that the LM had been struck by a meteorite and tried to seal the hatch between the craft but were unable to do so and abandoned the attempt when they realised they were not losing pressure. In fact, In fact, the number 2 oxygen tank, one of two in the Service Module, had exploded. Damaged Teflon insulation on the wires to the stirring fan inside oxygen tank 2 allowed the wires to short-circuit and ignite this insulation. The resulting fire rapidly increased pressure beyond its 6.9 MPa limit and the tank dome failed, filling the fuel cell bay (Sector 4) with rapidly expanding gaseous oxygen and combustion products. It is also possible some combustion occurred of the Mylar/Kapton thermal insulation material used to line the oxygen shelf compartment in this bay. The resulting pressure inside the compartment blew off the outer aluminium skin panel, which as it spun away caused minor damage to the nearby high-gain S-band antenna used for trans-lunar communications. Communications and telemetry to Earth were lost for 1.8 seconds, until the system automatically corrected by switching the antenna from narrow-band to wide-band mode. Mechanical shock forced the oxygen valves closed on the number 1 and number 3 fuel cells, which left them operating for only about three minutes on the oxygen in the feed lines. The shock also either partially ruptured a line from the number 1 oxygen tank, or caused its check or relief valve to leak, causing its contents to leak out into space over the next 130 minutes, entirely depleting the SM's oxygen supply. On Earth, Mission Control watched in disbelief as the CSM's oxygen supply ran down to zero. The lunar landing was scrubbed, but it wasn't long before the full extent of the problem became clear: the CSM was unable to support the astronauts, who would have to rely on the LM to keep them alive. And that was designed for two men for three days: it would now have to supply three men for five or six days. And it could not re-enter the atmosphere.

 

 

 

1984 STS-41C landing

Crew: Bob Crippen (CDR); Dick Scobee (P); Terry Hart, James van Hoften, George Nelson (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

The mission had successfully deployed LDEF and repaired the Solar Max satellite, though that had taken longer than planned due to difficulties with capturing it. As a result the flight was extended by one day. Challenger flew back to Edwards, landing after 6d 23h 40m and 108 orbits.

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14 APRIL

 

1959 Mercury Beach Abort 2

 

Five days after NASA revealed its first seven astronauts to the world, it carried out a second test of the escape system which would snatch them to safety if something went wrong. The nozzles of the Recruit solid-rocket motor had been redesigned to prevent the burn-through that had occurred on the first test, and the thrust was deliberately offset to simulate the spacecraft being pitched clear of an errant launch vehicle standing on the pad. This time the spacecraft tumbled only once before the escape tower separated. Splashdown was again successful and NASA moved on to the next phase of testing.

 

 


1964 Project Fire 1

 

This was a test of the Apollo Command Module configuration, in which a 90kg conical body was launched by Atlas-D on a sub-orbital trajectory with a peak altitude of 800km. At this point an Antares solid-fuel rocket ignited to boost the capsule back into the atmosphere at about 41,500km/hr, simulating a Command Module re-entering at a velocity typical of a return from lunar orbit. The spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic, more than 8,400km downrange, having passed its fiery test with flying colours.

 

 

 

1970 Apollo 13

Crew: Jim Lovell (CDR); Fred Haise (LMP); Jack Swigert (CMP)

 

CSM: Odyssey; LM: Aquarius

With the lunar landing cancelled all the stops were being pulled out to get the astronauts home. The flight plan included an abort option to turn back before reaching the Moon, but this involved discarding the LM and using the CSM engine to reduce the spacecraft's apogee (orbital high point), and this was obviously out of the question. There was no option but to fly around the Moon, but even this posed a problem: previous lunar missions had flown a 'free return' trajectory which would have brought them back to Earth if something prevented them going into orbit, but Apollo 13's landing site meant it was not on this course and would miss the Earth when it came back. A firing of the LM descent engine was required to put it back on this trajectory.

 

 


1981 STS-1 landing

Crew: John Young (CDR); Bob Crippen (P)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

The maiden flight of the Space Shuttle programme came to a successful end with Columbia's safe landing at Edwards after 2d 6h 21m and 37 orbits. Only later did it emerge that there had been a number of anomalies during the mission, the most serious being the discovery that an overpressure wave from the Solid Rocket Booster had forced the shuttle's "body flap" – an extension on the Orbiter's underbelly that helps to control pitch during re-entry - more than 5° out of position and into an angle well beyond the point where cracking or rupture of the hydraulic system would have been expected. Such damage would have made a controlled descent nearly impossible, with Young later admitting that had the crew been privy to the potential for catastrophe, they would have flown the Shuttle up to a safe altitude and ejected, causing Columbia to have been lost on the first flight. 

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15 APRIL

 

1970 Apollo 13

Crew: Jim Lovell (CDR); Fred Haise (LMP); Jack Swigert (CMP)

 

CSM: Odyssey; LM: Aquarius

Apollo 13 had looped round the Moon (in the process setting a human altitude record which stands to this day) and was heading for home, but to speed up the Trans-Earth Coast the Lunar Module descent engine was fired again, reducing the flight time by ten hours and moving the splashdown point from the Indian to the Pacific Ocean. A further problem arose when the LM's lithium hydroxide canisters, which removed carbon dioxide from the air, became exhausted. Though the Command Module carried its own supply they were the wrong shape to fit the LM system: the crew were literally trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Mission Control once again triumphed, designing a way in which the CM's canisters could be used. Not only did this have to use only supplies that the crew had on board, but its assembly had to be described to them by radio. (Imagine trying to build a model by having a friend read the instructions to you over the phone!) On top of all this, Haise was coming down with a urinary tract infection, possibly due to a misunderstanding that led to the crew limiting their drinking water intake.

 

 

 

2005 Soyuz TMA-6 launch

Crew: Sergei Krikalev (CDR); John Phillips [USA], Roberto Vittori [Italy] (FE)

 

Krikalev and Phillips would become ISS Expedition 11, while Vittori would spend around a week aboard the station before returning to Earth with the Expedition 10 crew, Docking was achieved two days after launch and the two crews worked together until the departure of Soyuz TMA-5 on 24 April. A high point of the mission came on 28 July, with the arrival of STS-114 Discovery, the first Shuttle flight since the Columbia accident, demonstrating that normal station operations were ready to resume following more than two years of caretaker occupation.

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16 APRIL

 

1972 Apollo 16 launch

Crew: John Young (CDR); Charlie Duke (LMP); Ken Mattingly (CMP)

 

CSM: Casper; LM: Orion

Fifth lunar landing; second of the extended science J-missions equipped with a Lunar Roving Vehicle.

Mattingly had originally been assigned to Apollo 13 but was dropped when he was exposed to the German Measles virus and replaced by backup Jack Swigert. Both he and Duke were making their first flight, though Duke's place in space history was already assured as he had been CAPCOM when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. Young had two Gemini missions and Apollo 10 under his belt. Launch was originally scheduled for March but was delayed due to a technical problem. Ultimately lift-off went without a hitch and after the usual check-out in parking orbit Apollo 16 set course for the Moon.

 

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17 APRIL

 

1967 Surveyor 3 launch

 

This was the third American lunar lander probe and reached the Moon on 20 April, touching down in the Mare Cognitum at 3° 01' 41.43" S, 23° 27' 29.55" W. Reflective rocks confused the spacecraft's lunar descent radar and as a result the engines failed to cut off at 4.3m in altitude as called for in the mission plans, and this delay caused the lander to bounce on the lunar surface twice. Its first bounce reached the altitude of about 10m and the second  reached a height of about 3.4m. On the third impact with the surface—from the initial altitude of 3 meters, and velocity of zero, which was below the planned altitude of 4.3m, and very slowly descending—Surveyor 3 settled down to a soft landing as intended. In November 1969 the probe was visited by the crew of Apollo 12, which had made a pinpoint landing nearby. Several components were removed and returned to Earth for analysis.

 

 


1970 Apollo 13 splashdown

Crew: Jim Lovell (CDR); Fred Haise (LMP); Jack Swigert (CMP)

Splashdown site: 21° 63' S, 165° 37' W (Pacific Ocean)

 

CSM: Odyssey; LM: Aquarius

The ordeal of the Apollo 13 crew had a happy ending with a safe splashdown. As re-entry time approached, the Service Module was jettisoned and the astronauts saw for the first time that the explosion had taken off one entire side panel. This left just the Command Module docked with the LM, a unique configuration not repeated on any other flight. Finally the Lunar Module was cast adrift: as it spun away CAPCOM Joe Kerwin called up, "Farewell, Aquarius, and we thank you." Following a nerve-shredding communications blackout lasting six minutes (87 seconds longer than expected) the crew made contact. However the danger was not yet over: the parachutes had not yet opened and (unlike in the film, where this happened simultaneously with Acquisition of Signal for dramatic purposes) there was still some concern that the system might have been damaged. However all was well and the spacecraft landed close to the USS Iwo Jima. There was one further consideration: though obviously the astronaut's lives were by far the primary concern, some thought had to be given to the ultimate fate of the Lunar Module. It carried a slug of plutonium-238 which had been intended to power the lunar surface experiments. This was contained in a protective cask to prevent hazardous material being scattered to the winds in the event of an accident at launch, and would thus survive re-entry unlike the rest of the spacecraft. The final trajectory was therefore arranged so that the cask would land in the Tonga Trench in the south-west Pacific. 

 

 

 

1993 STS-56 landing

Crew: Ken Cameron (CDR); Stephen Oswald (P); Michael Foale, Ken Cockrell, Ellen Ochoa (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Flight time was 9d 6h 8m; 148 orbits

 

 


1998 STS-90 launch

Crew: Richard Searfoss (CDR); Scott Altman (P); Rich Linnehan, Kay Hire, Dafydd Williams [Canada] (MS); Jay Buckey, Jim Pawelczyk (PS)

 

90th Shuttle mission; 25th flight of Columbia

This was the Neurolab mission, studying the mechanisms responsible for neurological and behavioural changes in space. Its experiments focused on the adaptation of the vestibular central nervous systems and the pathways which control the ability to sense location in the absence of gravity. The sleep patterns of the crew were also examined, to see why many astronauts sleep poorly during flights.

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18 APRIL

 

1951 Aeromed 1

 

First flight of an American rocket carrying a living creature - a monkey whose name is unknown. The Aerobee rocket was launched from Holloman AFB in New Mexico and  reached a peak altitude of 61.2km.

 

 

 

(Can you tell that I was really struggling to find a space event on this date?)

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19 APRIL

 

1971 Salyut 1 launch

 

Salyut 1 was the world's first space station. Launch was originally planned for 12 April, the tenth anniversary of Gagarin's pioneer flight (the name 'Salyut' is Russian for salute and was chosen as a salute to him) but was delayed by a week. The station was visited twice but only occupied once: Soyuz 10 was unable to achieve an airtight hard dock and the mission was abandoned. The Soyuz 11 crew remained on board for 22 days but perished during re-entry when their capsule depressurised. The Soyuz spacecraft had to be modified to prevent a recurrence, which meant it could not be flown again before Salyut's orbit decayed, and the station re-entered and burned up on 11 October after 175 days and 2,929 orbits.

 

 


1982 Salyut 7 launch

 

Following the huge success of Salyut 6, the Soviets launched its replacement on the eleventh anniversary of the first station in the series. During its lifetime Salyut 7 suffered a number of technical failures but crews were able to repair these and keep the station operating. Six main expeditions were carried out, plus four secondary flights. The station ultimately re-entered on 7 February 1991: a total of 3,215 days (816 occupied) and 51,917 orbits.

 

 


1985 STS-51D landing

Crew: Karol Bobko (CDR); Donald Williams (P); Rhea Seddon, David Griggs, Jeff Hoffman (MS); Charlie Walker, Jake Garn (PS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Flight time 6d 23h 55m; 110 orbits

 

 


2001 STS-100 launch

Crew: Kent Rominger (CDR); Jeff Ashby (P); Chris Hadfield [Canada], John Phillips, Scott Parazynski, Umberto Guidoni [Italy], Yuri Lonchakov [Russia] (MS)

 

104th Shuttle mission; 16th flight of Endeavour

Delivered the Canadarm 2 manipulator to the ISS. Though the Orbiter docked with the station on 21 April, the two crews did not meet face to face until Day 5 of the mission, due to a lower cabin pressure that was maintained aboard the shuttle as part of the space walk preparations. Two EVAs were conducted, both by Hadfield and Patazynski: on 22 April, after Ashby had used the Orbiter's own manipulator arm to attach a pallet containing the ISS's new arm to the side of the station, they hooked up temporary electrical connectors then removed bolts that had held it firmly stowed during launch. They also installed a UHF antenna on the exterior of the station. This EVA lasted 7h 10m. Then on 24 April a second EVA was carried out: further power and data cables were connected and the temporary ones removed. This allowed the storage pallet to be detached from the station and returned to the Orbiter's cargo bay: this was done in a 'handshake' manoeuvre in which the ISS arm handed the pallet over to that of the Shuttle for stowage. A redundant antenna was also disconnected from the ISS to clear the way for the arrival of the Airlock Module to be delivered on a future mission. This EVA lasted 7h 40m, giving a total for the mission of 14h 50m for each man.

 

 


2002 STS-110 landing

Crew: Michael Bloomfield (CDR); Stephen Frick (P); Rex Waldheim, Ellen Ochoa, Lee Morin, Jerry Ross, Steven Smith (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Flight time: 10d 19h 43m; 171 orbits

 

 


2004 Soyuz TMA-4 launch

Crew: Gennadi Padalka (CDR); André Kuipers [Netherlands], Mike Finke [USA] (FE)

 

Padalka and Fincke formed ISS Expedition 9; Kuipers would return to Earth with the Expedition 8 crew in ten days' time. Docking was achieved on 21 April. Padalka and Fincke carried out four EVAs during their time aboard, though the first, on 21 June, was aborted after only 14 minutes due to a problem with Fincke's space-suit. This was repaired and on 30 June the men installed a new circuit breaker on one of the station's gyroscopes: this lasted 5h 40m.  On 3 August they replaced packages of various materials mounted on the exterior of the station to test their reaction to exposure to space, and also installed equipment that would be used when the ESA started flying its own cargo modules. This lasted 4h 30m. The final EVA of the mission took place on 3 September and lasted 5h 21m, during which further antennas were installed for the European cargo freighter, as well as the fitting of handrails and other equipment. Total EVA time for each man was 15h 45m.

 

 


2008 Soyuz TMA-11 landing

Crew: Yuri Malenchenko (CDR); Peggy Whitson [USA] (FE); Yi Soyeon [South Korea] (SP)

Landing site: 50°31'58"N, 61°05'59,5"E

 

Malenchenko and Whitson had been ISS Expedition 16: they had been in space for 191d 19h 7m; 3,028 orbits. Yi had been launched with the TMA-12 crew and her flight time was 10d 21h 13m; 171 orbits. There was a minor problem during re-entry when the Service Module failed to separate properly after one of the explosive bolts failed. As a result the spacecraft followed a ballistic trajectory, resulting in higher than normal G-forces and a landing some 475km short of the target point. Yi suffered minor injuries to her neck muscles and spinal column but there were no lasting effects. After the flight Anatloy Perminov, head of the Russian Space Agency, speculated that the ballistic reentry was connected to a Russian nautical superstition that having more women than men on a craft was unlucky! The return flight of Soyuz TMA-11 was the first time two women flew together on board a Soyuz and it was the first time women outnumbered men aboard a spacecraft. "This isn't discrimination," Perminov stated when challenged on the point. "I'm just saying that when a majority is female, sometimes certain kinds of unsanctioned behaviour or something else occurs." Perminov said he would try to ensure that the number of women would not exceed the number of men in the future.

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20 APRIL

 

1983 Soyuz T-8 launch

Crew: Vladimir Titov (CDR); Gennadi Strekalov (FE); Aleksandr Serevrov (RC)

 

The main objective of this mission was to repair a faulty solar array on Salyut 7 but when the spacecraft reached orbit the main rendezvous antenna failed to deploy. Post-flight analysis revealed that it had actually been torn off when the payload shroud was jettisoned but the crew were unaware of this and attempted to shake it loose using the attitude thrusters. When this failed they attempted a manual docking but the final approach was made in darkness and Titov aborted the manoeuvre because he thought the closing speed was too high. Too much propellant had been used for a second attempt and the mission was terminated.

 

 


1994 STS-59 landing

Crew: Sid Gutierrez (CDR); Kevin Chilton (P); Jay Apt, Rich Clifford, Linda Godwin, Thomas Jones (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Flight time 11d 5h 49m; 183 orbits

 

 


2010 STS-131 landing

Crew: Alan Poindexter (CDR); James Dutton (P); Rick Mastracchio, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Naoko Yamazaki [Japan]. Clayton Anderson (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Flight time: 15d 2h 47m; 238 orbits

 

 


2017 Soyuz MS-04 launch

Crew: Fyodor Yurchikhin (CDR); Jack Fischer [USA] (FE)

 

ISS Expedition 51/52. For operational reasons Soyuz flew with a two-man crew, though when the spacecraft landed in September the third seat would be occupied by Peggy Whitson, who had been aboard the station since the previous November. To avoid leaving the ISS with only two occupants after the current crew departed in June, it was agreed that she would extend her stay by three months.

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21 APRIL

 

1972 Apollo 16 lunar landing

Crew: John Young (CDR); Charlie Duke (LMP); Ken Mattingly (CMP)

Landing site: 8° 58' 22.84" S 15° 30' 0.68" E (Descartes Highlands)

 

CSM: Casper; LM: Orion

The lunar landing came close to being called off. Apollo 16 had flown a different profile from the earliest lunar landings: instead of the LM undocking and entering an elliptical orbit before firing its engine to carry it down to the surface, the CSM would carry out this manoeuvre while the craft were still linked, thus giving the LM more propellant for the descent. However after separation, as Mattingly prepared for the burn that would circularise his orbit again in preparation for the LM's eventual return, he discovered a problem in the Service Module engine's backup gimballing system: when he tested it, the spacecraft shuddered violently. Though the primary system was fine, mission rules would not allow the LM to land in case its engine had to be used for Trans-Earth Injection should the fault spread to the primary system as well. This was all happening on the far side of the Moon, so the astronauts had to wait until they regained contact with Mission Control to report back and await instructions. Houston debated the problem for around six hours before finally giving the go-ahead for the landing and Orion took men down to the Moon for the fifth time. The touchdown took place at 0223 UTC; most accounts will list it as taking place on 20 April, according to Houston time.

 

 

 

2007 Soyuz TMA-9 landing

Crew: Mikhail Tyurin (CDR); Michael Lopez-Alegria [USA] (FE); Charles Simonyi [USA] (SP)

Landing site: 48° 26 '00" N, 69° 13' 35" E (135 km northeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria had been ISS Expedition 14, which lasted 215d 8h 22m and 3,401 orbits. Simonyi was a Spaceflight Participant (fare-paying tourist) who had been launched aboard Soyuz TMA-10: his flight time was 13d 19h and 219 orbits. He evidently enjoyed the experience so much that two years later he would buy himself a second trip into space.

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22 APRIL

 

1971 Soyuz 10 launch

Crew: Vladimir Shatalov (CDR); Aleksei Yeliseyev (FE); Nikolai Rukavishnikov (TE)

 

This should have been the first expedition to a space station: Salyut 1 had been launched just three days earlier and the Soviets were looking to regain the flight duration record, currently held by Gemini VII. However the automatic rendezvous system failed and the final approach of around 180m was carried out manually. Soft-dock was achieved but the crew were unable to achieve an airtight seal, preventing them boarding the station. The spacecraft remained docked for five and a half hours but then had a problem separating: several attempts were needed. Though in theory the Soyuz Orbital Module could have been jettisoned, leaving the spacecraft free to depart, this would have left Salyut's docking port blocked and prevented any future use of the station. Shatalov was finally able to undock cleanly and the crew prepared to return to Earth.

 

 


1983 Soyuz T-8 landing

Crew: Vladimir Titov (CDR); Gennadi Strekalov (FE); Aleksandr Serevrov (RC)

Landing site: 60 km NE of Arkalyk

 

Soyuz T-8 had also been a failed attempt to board a space station, this time not even reaching its target. The physical loss of the rendezvous antenna, torn off when the payload shroud separated, meant that though rendezvous had been completed docking was not possible. The cosmonauts therefore returned to Earth after just 2d 0h 17m and 32 orbits.

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23 APRIL

 

1962 Ranger 4 launch

 

Ranger 4 was an unmanned lunar probe designed not only to return close-up photographs of the surface but also to rough-land a seismometer capsule as well as carrying out various measurements en route. Unfortunately the onboard computer failed and the solar panels were not deployed, meaning no information was returned. Ranger crashed on the far side of the Moon, the first US probe to reach another celestial body.

 

 


1967 Soyuz 1 launch

Pilot: Vladimir Komarov

 

With the Apollo programme stalled in the wake of the pad fire, this should have pushed the Soviets back into the lead with a triumphant demonstration of their new Soyuz craft. Many years later it emerged that the flight plan called for Soyuz 2 to be launched the following day and for two of its three-man crew to transfer to Soyuz 1: a manoeuvre finally achieved with Soyuz 4 and 5. (A clue to this came from the fact that the flight was announced as "Soyuz 1", implying that Soyuz 2 already existed: Gagarin's flight was described merely as "Vostok", with no following number; similarly for the first Voskhod mission.) However problems cropped up from the start: one of the solar panels failed to deploy and Komarov's efforts to shake it free were unsuccessful. This left the spacecraft short of power and the Soyuz 2 launch was cancelled. Komarov prepared to return to Earth, but tragedy was to follow.

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24 APRIL

 

1967 Soyuz 1 crash

Pilot: Vladimir Komarov

Crash site: 51.3615°N 59.5622°E (3km west of Karabutak)

 

With the mission abandoned, Komarov began re-entry but the recovery went catastrophically wrong when the main parachute failed to open. He attempted to deploy the reserve chute but this became entangled with the primary and the spacecraft hit the ground at a speed of around 140km/h and exploded. Komarov was of course killed instantly; the cause of death was determined to be multiple blunt force injuries rather than the fire. Flight time had been 1d 2h 48m and 18 orbits.

 

Several years after the flight, rumours emerged that Komarov had spoken to his wife in the final moments before impact, and/or that he had cursed the spacecraft designers for what they had done to him. These are untrue.

 

 


1971 Soyuz 10 landing

Crew: Vladimir Shatalov (CDR); Aleksei Yeliseyev (FE); Nikolai Rukavishnikov (TE)

Landing site: 120 km NW of Karaganda

 

Following their failed attempt to board Salyut 1, the cosmonauts landed safely. Flight time was 1d 23h 46m, 32 orbits.

 

 


1972 Apollo 16 lunar liftoff

Crew: John Young (CDR); Charlie Duke (LMP); Ken Mattingly (CMP)

 

CSM: Casper; LM: Orion

After three days on the Moon the LM ascent stage lifted off for rendezvous with the CSM. Three EVAs had been carried out, lasting 7h 11m, 7h 23m and 5h 41m - a total of 20h 15m for each man. Docking was achieved without incident and the following day the LM was jettisoned. However because of a wrongly-set switch it did not perform the retro-burn that would have crashed it onto the lunar surface; it remained in orbit for nearly a year before impacting. The CSM also deployed a subsatellite into orbit to study the plasma, particle, and magnetic field environment of the Moon and map the lunar gravity field, before departing for home.

 

 

 

1990 STS-31 launch

Crew: Loren Shriver (CDR); Charlie Bolden (P); Bruce McCandless, Steven Hawley, Kathy Sullivan (MS)

 

35th Shuttle mission; tenth flight of Discovery

This was the long-awaited deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, originally scheduled for August 1986 but postponed because of the Challenger accident. That flight would have had John Young as Commander, becoming the first astronaut to fly seven missions, but by the time the Shuttle resumed operations Young had been reassigned to an administrative position. The HST is more than 13 metres long, 4.27 metres across at the base and weighs 10,886kg. Deployment took place on Day Two, with Hawley gently lifting it out of the payload bay with the manipulator arm then waiting for the solar arrays to unfurl. However one failed to open properly, leading to Sullivan and McCandless preparing to make an EVA to release it. This ultimately proved unnecessary as Mission Control managed to open the array while the EVA crew were still pre-breathing in the airlock. Discovery then backed away, leaving the ground controllers to bring the telescope into operation--which was to prove a major headache.

 

 


2005 Soyuz TMA-5 landing

Crew: Salizhan Sharipov (CDR); Leroy Chiao [USA], Roberto Vittori [Italy] (FE)

Landing site: 51° 03' 24.96" N, 67° 18' 02.88" E (93 km north of Arkalyk)

 

Sharipov and Chiao had been ISS Expedition 10, spending 192d 19h 2m in space and completing 3.032 orbits. Vittori had arrived on the station with the Expedition 11 crew: his own flight time was 9d 21h 22m, 155 orbits.

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25 APRIL

 

1961 MA-3

 

The Mercury-Atlas 3 flight was originally planned to be just another sub-orbital test but after Gagarin went into space the flight programme was changed to a complete orbital checkout. Aboard the capsule was a Simulated Man, a device which placed the same loads on the spacecraft as a human occupant would, converting oxygen from the atmosphere into CO2 and water vapour, heating the cabin environment to duplicate an astronaut’s body heat and even playing back pre-recorded messages to evaluate the communications system. At first the flight seemed to be going well,  but forty seconds after launch the vehicle failed to begin arcing out over the Atlantic as planned, continuing instead to climb straight upwards. It was clear that the inertial guidance system had malfunctioned, and the Range Safety Officer was forced to blow up the Atlas. The LES performed flawlessly, pulling the spacecraft clear and taking it up to an altitude of more than seven kilometres before separating to allow the capsule to land safely in the ocean. Had there been a real astronaut aboard, he would certainly have survived, but that wasn’t the point: the Mercury programme had suffered another setback at the very time that NASA wanted desperately to be seen following the lead set by the Soviet Union.

 

 


1962 SA-2

 

The second development flight of the Saturn C-1 carried inert upper stages containing water ballast, which was jettisoned for an experiment in ionospheric physics known as Project High Water I. At an altitude of about 105km, explosive charges ripped open the propellant tanks of the S-IV and S-V upper stages, dispersing the water in a vast cloud of ice-crystals that grew to several kilometres in diameter in a matter of seconds. One of the primary objectives of the test was to study the effect on local weather conditions and radio transmission quality of an abort at high-altitude followed by the destruction of the launch vehicle by the Range Safety Officer, resulting in the dispersal of large quantities of propellant in the upper atmosphere.

 

 


2002 Soyuz TM-34 launch

Crew: Yuri Gidzenko (CDR); Roberto Vittori [Italy] (FE); Mark Shuttleworth [South Africa] (SP)

 

Third ISS Taxi Flight, replacing the Soyuz craft already docked with the station to allow the Expedition 4 team to remain aloft beyond the orbital lifetime of the older capsule. Shuttleworth was the second fare-paying passenger to visit the ISS and would spend his time there studying ocean life and carrying out biological experiments.

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