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GordonD

Ups and Downs for May

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1 MAY

 

2001 STS-100 landing

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

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

The mission had delivered and installed the Canadarm 2 manipulator to the ISS. Flight time was 11d 21h 30m, 186 orbits.

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I'm going away for a few days, so here are some posts I prepared earlier!

 

2 MAY

 

1945 Peenemuende rocket team surrenders to US forces

 

As American troops reached the market town of Reutte, in Austrian Tyrol, Magnus von Braun (brother of Wernher) cycled there with only a white handkerchief tied to the handlebars as a symbol of truce, to surrender the rocket team to the US, which they saw as infinitely preferable to being captured by the Russians. The Americans agreed to further talks and later that afternoon the Von Braun brothers and five more engineers were taken into custody.

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3 MAY

 

1998 STS-90 landing

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

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

This had been the Neurolab mission, the final flight of Spacelab. Flight time was 15d 21h 50m, 256 orbits.

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4 MAY

 

1989 STS-30 launch

Crew: David Walker (CDR); Ron Grabe (P); Mark Lee, Norm Thagard, Mary Cleave (MS)

 

29th Shuttle mission; fourth flight of Atlantis

The Magellan Venus radar mapper was deployed. Initial plans had called for the probe to use a Centaur-G booster to send it on its way but following the Challenger accident it was decided it was too dangerous to carry liquid-fuelled rocket stages in the Orbiter’s payload bay so instead a standard Inertial Upper Stage was used. As this was not powerful enough to send Magellan directly to Venus, the probe was placed in a heliocentric orbit which circled the Sun one and a half times before reaching the planet some fifteen months later.

 

 

 

2003 Soyuz TMA-1 landing

Crew: Nikolai Budarin (CDR) Ken Bowersox, Don Pettit [both USA] (FE)

Landing site: 49° 37' 47" N, 61° 20' 36" E (405 km west of Arkalyk)

 

The crew had been ISS Expedition 6 and had expected to return to Earth in the Shuttle. However, during their mission the Columbia accident took place and the Shuttle was grounded, requiring them to land in the Soyuz lifeboat. Their flight time was 161d 1h 15m; 2,534 orbits.

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5 MAY

 

1961 Mercury MR-3 (Freedom 7)

Pilot: Alan Shepard

Splashdown site: 27° 13.7' N, 75° 53' W

 

Public interest in America’s first manned spaceflight had been building up for weeks, particularly since the flight of Vostok 1. NASA had refused to announce who would make the flight, though the astronauts themselves had known since January that Shepard would fly the mission. Problems with the capsule delayed the flight until early May but at last everything was ready—except the weather. On May 2nd Shepard put on his silver space-suit and waited for the rain to stop, but after three hours the launch was postponed. By this time media speculation was over since Shepard’s identity had been revealed during the countdown and the question changed from who to when. Two days later a second launch attempt was called off early on, but May 5th seemed more promising. At 5am local time Shepard was driven out to the pad and squeezed into the tiny Mercury capsule. By six o’clock the hatch was sealed, and the astronaut was on his own. But now a series of holds began as first the weather closed in and later computer checks were required. None of these were serious in themselves but taken together they created an unexpected problem: on such a short flight, no thought had been given to toilet facilities, but now Shepard had been sealed in the spacecraft for nearly four hours and his need to urinate was rapidly becoming critical. It would take too long to open the hatch and bring him out, so after some discussion he was given permission to relieve himself in his space-suit and the countdown proceeded. All across the United States, people stopped what they were doing as launch time approached. The Redstone engine fired at last and America’s first astronaut was on his way into space. As the vehicle climbed into the sky, Shepard continued to report that all was well, and the phrase A-OK entered the language. The Redstone engine shut down 142 seconds after launch and the spacecraft separated from the booster. Shepard now used the attitude thrusters to turn it around as he climbed towards his maximum altitude of 187km. Soon his brief spell of weightlessness was over as the retro-rockets fired—not necessary on this flight but a vital test for future orbital missions. As the spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere, the G-forces climbed to eleven times normal, within the design limits. Shepard kept reporting, “Okay…okay…” forcing the word out to reassure those on the ground that he was still in command of the situation. Three kilometres up the main parachute opened, lowering the spacecraft gently into the Atlantic 487km downrange of the Cape, just 15m 22s after launch. Shepard was picked up by the USS Lake Champlain. The US had put a man into space at last—but they still had to put one into orbit.

 

 

 

1986 Soyuz T-15 transfer to Salyut 7

Crew: Leonid Kizim (CDR); Vladimir Solovyov (FE)

 

Mir’s first resident crew had been aboard the station for just 51 days when they boarded their Soyuz capsule and undocked, but instead of returning to Earth they began a rendezvous with Salyut 7, which had been vacant since the last occupants departed the previous November after one crewman became ill. Soyuz T-15 docked with Salyut the following day and the crew became that station’s Expedition 6. They had to restore power to get Salyut operational but were then able to complete experiments left unfinished by the previous residents. Two EVAs were conducted: on 28 May they retrieved some space exposure experiment packages and extended a truss structure carrying an experiment from the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute to measure the environment around Salyut: this lasted 3h 40m. Three days later the cosmonauts made further tests of the truss and conducted additional experiments. This EVA lasted 5h 1m, a total for each man of 8h 41m. Soyuz T-15 undocked on 25 June and returned to Mir.

 

 

 

2002 Soyuz TM-33 landing

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

Landing site: 50° 02' N, 66° 59' E (26 km southeast of Arkalyk)

 

ISS Taxi Flight 2; the crew had been launched aboard Soyuz TM-34. Their flight time was 9d 21h 25m; 156 orbits

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6 MAY

 

1985 STS-51B landing

Crew: Robert Overmyer (CDR); Drew Gregory (P); Don Lind, Norm Thagard, William Thornton (MS); Taylor Wang, Lodewijk van den Berg (PS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Spacelab 3 mission. Flight time was 7d 0h 9m; 111 orbits.

 

 

 

1991 STS-39 landing

Crew: Michael Coats (CDR); Lloyd Hammond (P); Greg Harbaugh, Don McMonagle, Guy Bluford, Charles Veach, Rick Hieb (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

The first unclassified DoD mission. Flight time: 8d 7h 22m; 134 orbits.

 

 

 

1993 STS-55 landing

Crew: Steve Nagel (CDR); Terry Henricks (P); Jerry Ross, Charles Precourt, Bernard Harris (MS); Ulrich Walter, Hans Schlegel [both Germany] (PS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Spacelab D-2 mission; financed by the German government. Flight time 9d 23h 40m; 160 orbits. Landing was switched to Edwards because of bad weather at KSC.

 

 

 

2000 Soyuz TM-31 landing

Crew: Talgat Musabeyev (CDR); Yuri Baturin (FE); Dennis Tito [USA] (SP)

Landing site: 82 km NNE of Arkalyk

 

ISS Taxi Flight 1; the crew had been launched a week earlier aboard Soyuz TM-32. Flight time was 7d 22h 4m; 125 orbits. Tito was the first fare-paying passenger to visit the ISS.

 

 

 

2015 Crew Dragon abort test

Crew: none

 

This was a simulation of an off-pad abort, similar to those conducted in the Mercury and Apollo programmes. The spacecraft carried a crash test dummy fitted with sensors, with weights in the other seats to represent a full crew. The test was successful, Dragon splashing down 99 seconds after the escape system was triggered.

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7 MAY

 

1992 STS-49 launch

Crew: Daniel Brandenstein (CDR); Kevin Chilton (P); Rick Hieb, Bruce Melnick, Pierre Thuot, Kathy Thornton, Tom Akers (MS)

 

47th Shuttle mission; Maiden flight of Endeavour

The primary objective of this mission was to retrieve and repair the Intelsat-VI (F-3) satellite which had been launched by a Titan III two years earlier but left stranded in parking orbit when the third stage failed to separate. On 10 May Thuot and Hieb carried out an EVA lasting 3h 43m but were unable to capture the satellite as the specially-designed retrieval tool failed to lock in place. A second attempt was made the following day, the EVA this time lasting 5h 30m, but again the capture bar would not hold. On 13 May a third EVA was performed, this time with Tom Akers joining in - the only time in history that a three-man EVA has been conducted. They dispensed with the capture tool and simply reached up and caught hold of the satellite and lowered into the cargo bay where it could be worked on. A solid rocket motor was attached which would take the satellite up to its operational orbit and then Intelsat was set free again. This EVA had lasted 8h 29m, taking Thuot and Hieb's total time to 17h 42m. Then on 14 May Akers conducted a second EVA, this time with Thornton, during which they practised assembly tasks which would later be used in the construction of the International Space Station. This lasted 7h 45m, with a total time for Akers of 16h 14m.

 

During the EVA on 13 May all three astronauts had to squeeze into the Shuttle airlock at the same time, since mission rules did not allow the outer hatch to be closed while someone was outside, in case it could not be opened again. The airlock had been designed to hold two space-suited people but three was a very tight fit and this was never repeated on any other Shuttle mission, or (to date) on the ISS.

 

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8 MAY

 

1989 STS-30 landing

Crew: David Walker (CDR); Ron Grabe (P); Mark Lee, Norm Thagard, Mary Cleave (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

A shorter than normal Shuttle mission whose primary objective had been to deploy the Magellan Venus Radar Mapper. Flight time was 4d 0h 56m; 65 orbits.

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9 MAY

 

1960 Mercury Beach Abort 5

 

The first flight of the Mercury programme to use a production spacecraft, as opposed to a boilerplate, was another in the series of Beach Aborts, simulating an escape from the pad before lift-off. The LES fired on command, lifting the spacecraft about 800m into the air. It landed safely in the ocean 1.6km away, one minute and sixteen seconds later. However programme officials were concerned by the escape tower separation, which had been slower than anticipated, and studies began on improving this. In the end the tower jettison motor, located on the centreline of the escape system, was redesigned with three exhaust nozzles rather than the single one used on previous tests.

 

 


1965 Luna 5 launch

 

This was the USSR's first successful launch of a lunar probe in two years: since the flight of its predecessor, Luna 4, there had been three failures but in line with Soviet policy at the time these were concealed by not allocating them numbers in the Luna programme. It was yet another attempt to soft-land a probe on the Moon, but following a mid-course correction the spacecraft began spinning and the main engine did not fire, resulting in it crashing on the surface at 8°N 23°W (near crater Copernicus).

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10 MAY

 

1966 Voskhod 3 flight delayed

 

At a meeting to certify the readiness for launch of Voskhod 3, then scheduled for 25 May or shortly after, Leonid Smirnov, a member of the Central Committee, argues that the flight should be cancelled because it will be nothing new and further work will only interfere with development of the Soyuz spacecraft. Given that the Voskhod is unable to manoeuvre in orbit or dock, as the US Gemini capsule had already demonstrated, would only highlight the lead that the Americans are opening up. Nikolai Kamanin, leader of the cosmonaut group, counters that the long work of preparing for the flight is finally complete, and that it will set two new space records (in manned flight altitude and duration). Furthermore the flight will include important military experiments, which cannot be flown on early Soyuz missions. Nevertheless the flight is postponed indefinitely and while never officially cancelled, it quietly fades away.

 

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11 MAY

 

2009 STS-125 launch

Crew: Scott Altman (CDR); Greg Johnson (P); Michael Good, Katherine McArthur, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Andrew Feustel (MS)

 

126th Shuttle mission; 30th flight of Atlantis

This was the fifth Hubble servicing mission, known as HST-SM4 (the third servicing mission was split in two, known as 3A and 3B). The flight was originally scheduled for late 2005 or early 2006 but was cancelled in January 2004, by NASA's then-administrator Sean O'Keefe. This was for safety reasons, as a problem with the Orbiter's heat shield could not be resolved by taking refuge in the ISS as this was in a very different orbit and impossible to reach. However O'Keefe resigned and was replaced by Michael Griffin, who reinstated the mission in October 2006 with an anticipated launch date of 2008. However a combination of delays--including a new fault on the telescope itself, requiring further training for the crew so they could deal with it--pushed the mission into 2009. Five EVAs were carried out once Atlantis finally made it into orbit:

 

(1) 14 May: Grunsfeld and Feustel; 7h 20m. The Wide Field Camera was replaced and new batteries installed.

(2) 15 May: Massimino and Good; 7h 56m. Three rate sensor units (part of the gyroscope system) were replaced, as well as additional batteries

(3) 16 May: Grunsfeld and Feustel: 6h 36m. A new Cosmis Origins Spectrograph was installed and the Advanced Camera for Surveys repaired

(4) 17 May: Massimino and Good; 8h 2m. The Imaging Spectrograph was repaired and a stainless steel thermal blanket installed on Hubble's exterior. The spectrograph had not been designed to be serviced in space and the astronauts had to remove more than one hundred screws to reach it. Additionally, a handrail had to be detached, a task made more difficult because of a stripped bolt.

(5) 18 May: Grunsfeld and Feustel; 7h 2m. A Fine Guidance Sensor was replaced and another thermal blanket installed.

 

Total EVA time for Grunsfeld and Feustel was 20h 58m; for Massimino and Good, 15h 58m.

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12 MAY

 

1946 Douglas Aircraft spaceship feasibility study

 

Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., completed an engineering study on the feasibility of designing a man-carrying satellite. The study showed that if a vehicle could be accelerated to a speed of 27 360 km per hr and aimed properly it would revolve on a circular orbit above the Earth's atmosphere as a new satellite. Such a vehicle would make a complete circuit of the Earth approximately every hour and a half.

 

 


1953 X-2 explodes in mid-air

 

During a Bell captive-carry flight test over Lake Ontario, X-2 number 46-675 suddenly exploded, killing Bell test pilot Jean Ziegler and observer Frank Wolko. The EB-50A mothership managed to land, although damaged. Only after several other mysterious X-plane losses was the cause found to be a rocket engine gasket made of Ulmer leather, which decomposed and became explosively unstable after sustained exposure to liquid oxygen.

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13 MAY

 

1964 A-001

 

The first in-flight test of the Apollo LES from a Little Joe II, launched from White Sands like all of the escape system tests, saw the launch vehicle deliberately blown up at an altitude of around 5.9km, at which point it was undergoing trans-sonic buffeting. The LES immediately went into operation and pulled the Command Module—BP12—clear of the Little Joe, lifting it to a height of about 7.3km. Now the escape tower’s pitch control motor fired to tumble the assembly over to point the blunt heat-shield forwards, after which the LES was jettisoned and the recovery sequence began. At 2.2km high, the main parachutes opened but in what would have been a rough ride for any men aboard, the spacecraft began swinging violently from side to side that eventually caused one of the ‘chutes to rip free. The Command Module was, however, designed to land safely with only two parachutes open and landing speed was an acceptable 9.15m/s: had men really been aboard, they would undoubtedly have been shaken but alive. The whole flight took just seven and a half minutes and all the test objectives were met.

 

 


1982 Soyuz T-5 launch

Crew: Anatoli Berezovoy (CDR); Valentin Levedev (FE)

 

Salyut 7 Expedition 1. Docking took place on 14 May and the cosmonauts settled in for a marathon flight. During their seven months in orbit only one EVA was carried out, on 30 July, lasting 2h 33m. The crew installed a film camera and floodlight, and swapped out samples on a space exposure experiment. They also practised assembly tasks which would be used on future missions to attach solar panel extensions.

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14 MAY

 

1973 Skylab OWS launch

 

The concept of an Orbital Workshop using an empty Saturn S‑IVB stage was first considered in 1965, under the title of the Apollo Applications Programme. As first envisaged, the flight plan would involve an unmanned Saturn IB launch to deliver the spent S-IVB, along with the Airlock Module and Docking Adapter. This would be followed by a second Saturn carrying the CSM, which would dock with the Workshop and allow the crew to purge any residual liquid hydrogen propellant and begin the task of fitting out the interior. A third Saturn IB, also unmanned, would deliver the Apollo Telescope Mount, at that time made out of a modified Lunar Module. In 1969, however, this plan was changed in favour of a fitted-out Workshop and Telescope Mount being launched by a two-stage Saturn V. One advantage of the “dry” concept was that it eliminated the health risk from any remaining traces of propellant. In February 1970 the programme was officially christened Skylab. Three manned flights were planned, the first lasting twenty-eight days and the others fifty-six days each. The last of the Saturn Vs looked different from all its predecessors: replacing the familiar shape of the LM adapter, Apollo CSM and LES atop the third stage, Skylab 1 had a simple aerodynamic shroud that made the whole vehicle some 9m shorter, though in unfuelled condition it was 23 tonnes heavier than the dry Apollo version. Fuelled up and ready for launch, the manned vehicle was heavier by about ninety tonnes. Skylab climbed off the pad on schedule, watched by less than half a million people: considerably fewer than the Apollo missions had attracted. The launch controllers celebrated as the Cape echoed to the thunder of the last of the Saturn Vs, but it soon became clear that things were going badly wrong. Telemetry from the Workshop seemed to indicate that one of the main solar panels had deployed, something not due to take place until Skylab was safely in orbit. In addition, the micro-meteoroid shield had been released to its operational position, a few centimetres clear of the hull. Mission Control suspected that the signals might be erroneous, but nobody was sure: the only thing to do was to wait and see. Skylab went into orbit as planned some 442km up, then the deployment sequence began. The solar panels were commanded to unfold and the aerodynamic shroud was jettisoned, allowing the Telescope Mount to rotate to its operational position and expose the Docking Adapter ready for the arrival of the first crew, due the following day. But something had gone drastically wrong, and Mission Control was already frantically trying to find out what was happening. By now, telemetry should have confirmed the deployment of the main solar panels, but no such signal had been received. The Workshop’s interior temperature was far above the planned level, and it was getting less than half of the electrical power it required to function. It soon became clear what had happened, but not why: one of the big solar panels had been torn away; the other was still attached, but it had not opened properly. Only the smaller panels of the ATM were supplying Skylab and they could not keep it running for long. And finally, the thermal protection had been lost when the air pressure tore away the micro-meteoroid shield and the internal temperature was far above a comfortable level for occupancy. Clearly nobody was going to live there until the problems were sorted out, and NASA postponed the first manned mission while it considered what to do.

 

 

 

1981 Soyuz 40 launch

Crew: Leonid Popov (CDR); Dumitru Prunariu [Romania] (RC)

 

Ninth Interkosmos mission. Docking with Salyut 6 was achieved the day after launch and the cosmonauts joined in with the Expedition 5 team. Experiments carried out included Reo - investigating changes in cerebral blood flow of central and peripheral; Capillary - technology of obtaining profile single crystals determined by using the capillary effect in conditions of weightlessness; Biodose - the study of the Earth's magnetic field and space radiation, and its influence on living organisms; Astro - identifying new forms of existence of nuclear matter; and Nanobalance - establishing thin protective layers of silicon dioxide under the action of the cosmic environment.

 

 


2010 STS-132 launch

Crew: Kenneth Ham (CDR); Tony Antonelli (P); Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Stephen Bowen, Piers Sellers (MS)

 

132nd Shuttle mission; 32nd flight of Atlantis

Delivered the Russian-built Rassvet Mini-Research Module to the ISS, where Expedition 23 was in progress. Docking was achieved after a two-day approach. The new module was berthed to the ISS on 18 May and the crew first entered it two days later following leak checks. They reported small metal filings floating around but as a standard precaution for the first entry of a new module they were wearing eye and breathing protection so there was no immediate health risk and they worked with Mission Control in Houston and Moscow to develop a technique for safely removing the floating debris. Three EVAs were carried out during Atlantis's stay:

 

(1) 17 May: Reisman and Bowen; 7h 25m. A spare Ku-band antenna was installed on the ISS truss and bolts holding batteries were loosened ready for the next EVA 

(2) 19 May: Bowen and Good; 7h 9m. Four of the six batteries on the port truss were removed and new ones fitted, and a snagged cable for the laser imager freed

(3) 21 May: Good and Reisman; 6h 46m. Two more batteries were replaced and a grapple fixture from Atlantis's payload bay brought inside the ISS

 

Total EVA time for Reisman was 14h 11m; for Bowen, 14h 34m and for Good, 13h 55m.

 

 

 

2014 Soyuz TMA-11M landing

Crew: Mikhail Tyurin (CDR); Rick Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata [Japan] (FE)

Landing site: 47°20'59,478"N , 69°31'24,834"E (145 km SE of Dzheskasgan)

 

This flight had been ISS Expeditions 38/39. Flight time was 187d 21h 44m and 2,916 orbits.

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15 MAY

 

1963 MA-9 (Faith 7) launch

Pilot: Gordon Cooper

 

Schirra’s six-orbit flight had proved that the Mercury capsule could sustain its pilot for up to nine hours, twice the original design life. The next step was to send a man around the world eighteen times, lasting in excess of a day. Early in the planning stages, however, it was realised that a delayed retrofire—as on Carpenter’s flight—would bring the spacecraft down on land, and the mission was extended by a further six orbits to prevent this. A 22-orbit flight would last around 34 hours, far in excess of the spacecraft’s design life, but the engineers were confident that it could be done. Among the items removed to save weight was the 34kg periscope, with the RSCS attitude control mode also being deleted, after most of the astronauts had deemed it unnecessary and wasteful of fuel. The fully-modified capsule weighed in at some 1,376kg: only 21kg heavier than Glenn’s! As on Schirra’s mission, the tracking network would present a problem, with ships having to be brought in to fill some of the gaps caused when the Earth rotated beneath the spacecraft’s orbital plane. Lift-off was postponed by 24 hours, not because of any problems with the spacecraft or launch vehicle, but due to a fault in the diesel engine propelling the service tower that prevented it being rolled back from the rocket. The following day things went so smoothly that Cooper actually fell asleep during the countdown! After orbit insertion, Cooper used only 0.09kg of propellant to turn the spacecraft around, much less than on any previous mission. Then he settled down to begin his programme of scientific experiments, one of which involved releasing an inflatable sphere in order to examine the reaction of two objects in close proximity in zero-gravity. The sphere failed to jettison properly, but that was one of the few failures of the flight. One factor that surprised the scientists was the amount of surface detail which Cooper reported seeing from orbit: he claimed to be able to distinguish individual houses and streets in cloudless areas, and in India he saw a railway locomotive moving along a track. Nobody had believed that such details could be visible from so high up, and some even felt that Cooper was exaggerating. After a sleep period—the first during an American mission—the astronaut carried out a systems check which revealed that power and fuel levels were much higher than had been anticipated for this stage in the flight.

 

 


1997 STS-84 launch

Crew: Charles Precourt (CDR); Eileen Collins (P); Jean-François Clervoy [France], Carlos Noriega, Edward Lu, Yelena Kondakova [Russia], Michael Foale (MS)

 

84th Shuttle mission; 19th flight of Atlantis

Sixth Shuttle-Mir docking; Foale replaced Linenger as the US resident aboard the station. Expedition 23 was in progress. Kondakova is the wife of cosmonaut Valeri Ryumin and had already spent five months aboard Mir in 1994/95.

 

 


2012 Soyuz TMA-04M launch

Crew: Gennadi Padalka (CDR); Sergei Revin, Joseph Acaba [USA] (FE)

 

ISS Expeditions 31/32. Docking with the station was achieved two days after launch and the crew joined Kononenko, Kuipers and Pettit who had been aboard the station since just before Christmas.

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16 MAY

 

1963 MA-9 (Faith 7) splashdown

Pilot: Gordon Cooper

Splashdown site: 27°30' N, 176°15' W (130 km southeast of the Midway Islands in the Pacific Ocean)

 

The Mercury spacecraft had not been designed for a day-long flight but modifications had enabled it to carry out such a mission, however, as time went on a number of faults developed. The most serious came on the 21st orbit when a short-circuit left the automatic control system without power; thus Cooper had to make a manual re-entry but still managed a pinpoint landing close to the recovery ship USS Kearsarge. His flight time was 1d 10h 20m and 22 orbits, a new American record but well short of what the Soviets were doing.

 

 


1992 STS-49 landing

Crew: Daniel Brandenstein (CDR); Kevin Chilton (P); Rick Hieb, Bruce Melnick, Pierre Thuot, Kathy Thornton, Tom Akers (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

With the repaired comsat safely on its way to its operational orbit, Endeavour flew back to Edwards to complete her first mission. The flight had been extended by two days because of the problems in retrieving the satellite: in the end it lasted 8d 21h 18m and 141 orbits. This also saw the first use of the Orbiter's drag chute, deployed between main and nose gear touchdown.

 

 


2011 STS-134 launch

Crew: Mark Kelly (CDR); Gregory H. Johnson (P); Michael Fincke, Roberto Vittori [Italy], Andrew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff (MS)

 

134th Shuttle mission; 25th and final flight of Endeavour

During training, Frederick Sturckow was appointed backup Commander when Mark Kelly was forced to take a leave of absence following the shooting of his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. However she made rapid progress and Kelly was able to return and fly the mission. For reasons unconnected with this, launch was delayed until the end of April, and by the time Endeavour got off the ground Kelly's twin brother Scott had ended his tour of duty on the ISS and returned to Earth; this would have seen the first meeting of two family members in orbit. Docking with the ISS was achieved on Day 3 of the mission and the astronauts began working alongside the Expedition 27 crew. Four EVAs were carried out:

 

(1) 20 May: Chamitoff and Feustel (6h 19m). Retrieval and replacement of external experiment packages and equipment added to the port truss

(2) 22 May: Feustel and Fincke (8h 7m). Refilling radiators with ammonia and lubrication of a solar array joint

(3) 25 May: Feustel and Fincke (6h 54m) Installation of a grapple on the robotic manipulator arm and additional cabling for backup power to the Russian segment

(4) 27 May: Fincke and Chamitoff (7h 24m). Stowage of the Orbiter's Boom Sensor System on the ISS truss and relocation of various other equipment.

 

Total EVA times for each astronaut were: Chamitoff, 13h 43m; Feustel, 21h 20m; Fincke, 22h 25m. 

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17 MAY

 

1966 Gemini IX scrubbed

Crew: Tom Stafford (CDR); Gene Cernan (P)

 

Gemini VIII had achieved the first docking two months earlier but the mission had been aborted soon afterwards when the spacecraft developed an uncontrollable roll manoeuvre. It was hoped that Gemini IX would have better luck, though the deaths of the prime crew in an aircraft crash had already cast a shadow. However, as the astronauts waited in the spacecraft word came that their Agena target vehicle had failed to reach orbit and the launch was scrubbed. Telemetry indicated that Agena staging had taken place on schedule at T+300 seconds. The Agena continued transmitting signals until T+436 seconds, when all telemetry ceased. Hidden behind clouds, the Atlas's B-2 engine gimballed hard to the right starting at T+120 seconds and remained fixed in that position, flipping the launch vehicle 216° around and sending it back towards Cape Kennedy. This rotation had made it impossible for ground guidance to lock on. Radar stations in the Bahamas tracked it heading north and descending. Vehicle stability was gradually regained following BECO, however it had pitched approximately 231° from its intended flight path. Both vehicles plunged into the Atlantic Ocean 107 nautical miles (198 km) downrange. The Agena's engine did not fire since the proper altitude and velocity had not been attained, preventing the guidance system from sending the start command.

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18 MAY

 

1969 Apollo 10 launch

Crew: Tom Stafford (CDR); Eugene Cernan (LMP); John Young (CMP)

 

CSM: Charlie Brown; LM: Snoopy

Apollo 10 was the second mission to orbit the Moon but the first to do so with a Lunar Module. It was a complete dress-rehearsal for the first lunar landing, duplicating the flight right up to the point of Powered Descent Initiation (PDI), when the LM engine would be fired to take it down to the surface. To this day stories persist that the propellant tanks had deliberately been left only partly filled in case the crew took it upon themselves to attempt a landing; these are slurs on the discipline of the astronauts, who were all military officers. This was the first astronaut crew where all three had previous flight experience: Stafford and Young had flown two Gemini missions and Cernan, one; all three would fly again, with Young and Cernan both reaching the lunar surface after all (and Young going on to fly the Space Shuttle twice) while Stafford was selected for the politically significant Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

 

 


1991 Soyuz TM-12 launch

Crew: Anatoli Artsebarsky (CDR); Sergei Krikalev (FE); Helen Sharman [United Kingdom] (RC)

 

This flight was highly publicised in the UK due to the presence of Britain's first astronaut, Helen Sharman. She had answered a recruitment advertisement which stated "Astronaut wanted; no experience necessary" and was chosen out of nearly 13,000 applicants. She was a research chemist with a confectionery company: tabloid headline writers around the country rejoiced at the chance to describe her as "the girl from Mars". The UK Government refused to underwrite the cost of her flight, which ended up being sponsored by various British companies as well as a public lottery. Despite this, the mission was launched on schedule, the spacecraft reaching Mir two days later, and Sharman becoming the first woman to visit. Expedition 8 was coming to an end; Artsebarsky and Krikalev would form Expedition 9 when the current occupants returned to Earth along with Sharman in a week or so.

 

 

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19 MAY

 

1965 A-003

 

The third Little Joe II abort flight was intended to be a high-altitude test, with the escape system being triggered at a height of around 34km, 89 seconds after launch, taking the Command Module up to more than 56km before going through an actual re-entry sequence. Only seconds after lift-off, however, the Little Joe’s guidance system malfunctioned and the vehicle pitched over and began a violent spinning motion. The LES cut in automatically and plucked Command Module BP-22 clear as the Little Joe started to break up. Though the mission had to be classed a failure so far as the high-altitude abort was concerned, the LES had proved its worth by operating in a real emergency—which was, as a NASA spokesman pointed out afterwards, the purpose for which it had been designed.

 

 


1996 STS-77 launch

Crew: John Casper (CDR); Curtis Brown (P); Andrew Thomas, Daniel Bursch, Mario Runco, Marc Garneau [Canada] (MS)

 

77th Shuttle mission; 11th flight of Endeavour

Carried out numerous experiments aboard the SPACEHAB module and also deployed and retrieved the SPARTAN-07 free-flying pallet which conducted independent research including a test of an inflatable antenna.

 

 


2000 STS-101 launch

Crew: James Halsell (CDR); Scott Horowitz (P); Mary Ellen Weber, Jeffrey Williams, James Voss, Susan Helms, Yuri Usachyov [Russia] (MS)

 

98th Shuttle mission; 21st flight of Atlantis

Third ISS assembly flight, designated ISS-03-2A.2A. (No, that's not a typo.) Originally intended to follow the launch of the Zvezda module but this was delayed, so the mission was split in two and this flight concentrated on repairs and resupply in the Zarya and Unity modules. Cooling fans, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and an on-board computer were installed and supplies placed for the eventual use of the Expedition 1 crew later in the year. One EVA was carried out, by Voss and Williams on 21 May, lasting 6h 44m. Handrails and a camera cable were installed, as well as the remaining parts of the Russian crane. This was the first flight of the refitted Atlantis with the glass cockpit.

 

 

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20 MAY

 

1958 NACA/Air Force Memorandum of Understanding on the DynaSoar

 

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the US Air Force signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the principles in the development and testing of the Air Force's Hypersonic Boost Glide Vehicle (DynaSoar). The following principles would apply to the project: (1) The project would be conducted as a joint Air Force-NACA project. (2) Overall technical control of the project would rest with the Air Force, acting with the advice and assistance of NACA. (3) Financing of the design, construction, and Air Force test of the vehicles would be borne by the Air Force. (4) Management of the project would be conducted by an Air Force project office within the Directorate of Systems Management, Headquarters, Air Research and Development Command. NACA would provide liaison representation in the project office and provide the chairman of the technical team responsible for data transmission and research instrumentation. (5) Design and construction of the system would be conducted through a negotiated prime contractor. (6) Flight tests of the vehicle and related equipment would be accomplished by NACA, the USAF, and the prime contractor in a combined test program, under the overall control of a joint NACA-USAF committee chaired by the Air Force.

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21 MAY

 

1986 Soyuz TM-1 launch

Crew: none

 

This was the first unmanned test flight of the upgraded version of the Soyuz spacecraft, intended to replace the Soyuz-T. It would become the standard ferry for the Mir programme, and would continue to be used right through to the ISS era. On 23 May, TM-1 docked with Mir, which was temporarily vacant as the resident crew had transferred to Salyut 7. 

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22 MAY

 

1965 Project Fire 2

 

This was a Command Module configuration test, with an Atlas-D boosting a small scale-model of the spacecraft to high altitude before a solid-fuel rocket slammed it back into the atmosphere to test the capsule’s performance during re-entry at a velocity that would be experienced by a vehicle returning from the Moon.

 

 

 

1969 Apollo 10

Crew: Tom Stafford (CDR); Eugene Cernan (LMP); John Young (CMP)

 

CSM: Charlie Brown; LM: Snoopy

Stafford and Cernan undocked the Lunar Module and fired the descent engine to take it to within 15km of the lunar surface. This was the point at which the descent engine would be fired again to take the LM down for a landing but that was for the next mission: after a few more orbits the ascent engine was fired, simulating a launch from the lunar surface. Here there was a brief moment of panic as the ascent stage spun wildly out of control: it was later established that an incorrectly-set switch meant that the computer immediately began trying to locate the CSM. Had the crew not regained control when they did, it is likely that they would have crashed on the Moon. However the crew's skill ensured a safe return and after docking they reported back, "Snoopy and Charlie Brown are hugging each other!"

 

 


1981 Soyuz 40 landing

Crew: Leonid Popov (CDR); Dumitru Prunariu [Romania] (RC)

Landing site: 225 km SE of Dzheskasgan

 

This was the final flight of the original Soyuz configuration (albeit modified several times along the way, not least following the Soyuz 11 accident when its capacity was reduced to two): the upgraded Soyuz-T was already in service. Popov and Prunariu had spent a week aboard Salyut 6, their Soyuz the last manned spacecraft to dock there. Flight time was 7d 20h 42m and 124 orbits.

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