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Ups and Downs for July


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1 JULY

 

1993 STS-57 landing

Crew: Ronald Grabe (CDR); Brian Duffy (P); David Low, Nancy Sherlock, Jeff Wisoff, Janice Voss (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

This had been the first flight of the privately-financed SPACEHAB module. The mission lasted 9d 23h 45m and 55 orbits.

 

 


1993 Soyuz TM-17 launch

Crew: Vasili Tsibliyev (CDR); Aleksandr Serebrov (FE); Jean-Pierre Haigneré [France] (RC)

 

Less than two hours after Endeavour's landing, Mir Expedition 14 was launched from Baikonur. Docking with the station took place two days later, with the Progress M-17 freighter clearing the way only thirty minutes earlier. After nearly three weeks of joint work, Haigneré returned to Earth with the TM-16 crew. Five EVAs were conducted during this expedition:

  1. 16 September, 4h 18m: assembly of the Rapana girder on top of the Kvant module, rehearsal of on-orbit construction activities that might be used on a future Mir station
  2. 20 September, 3h 13m: completion of the Rapana girder and installation of long-duration exposure packages for later retrieval and return to Earth
  3. 28 September, 1h 51m: various tasks including an examination of the external skin of Mir. This was cut short due to a fault in Tsibilyev's space-suit thermoregulator
  4. 22 October, 38m: further examination of the external skin. This was also curtailed, this time due to a fault in Serebrov's suit
  5. 29 October, 4h 12m: completion of the skin examination. Several impact sites were found though none had completely penetrated the hull.

Total EVA time for each man was 14h 12m.

 

 

 

1994 Soyuz TM-19 launch

Crew: Yuri Malenchenko (CDR); Talgat Musabayev (FE)

 

Mir Expedition 16, along with Valeri Polyakov, who had been aboard the station for six months and would remain a further nine, setting a duration record that stands to this day. On 27 August the Progress M-24 freighter arrived but the automatic docking failed; three days later during a second attempt the freighter bumped into the forward docking port at low speed. On 2 September Malenchenko was able to dock the craft manually. Malenchenko and Musabayev carried out two EVAs:

  1. 9 September, 5h 6m: inspection of the docking port, following the departure of Progress, to check for damage caused by the collision, but nothing significant was found
  2. 14 September, 6h 1m: assembly work connected with the transfer of the Kristall module's solar arrays to Kvant, plus various other minor tasks

Total EVA time was 11h 7m for each man.

 

 

 

1997 STS-94 launch

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

 

85th Shuttle mission; 23rd flight of Columbia

This was MSL-1R: the reflight of the Microgravity Science Laboratory. The original attempt in April, on STS-83, had been cut short after a failure of a fuel cell but NASA had dispensed with the usual full post-landing servicing and put the mission back into the launch manifest as soon as was practical, allocating it the next unused flight number, The mission patch was recycled, too, though with a blue surround rather than the original red. This was possible because the entire crew was flown again, conducting experiments involving equipment such as the Japanese Large Isothermal Furnace, the Combustion Module from NASA's Lewis Research Center and the Droplet Combustion Experiment.

 

 


2012 Soyuz TMA-03M landing

Crew: Oleg Kononenko (CDR); André Kuipers [Netherlands], Donald Pettit [USA] (FE)

Landing site: 47°20'56,3"N 69°32'47,4"E (146 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

ISS Expeditions 30/31. Flight time was 192d 18h 58m. 3,007 orbits.

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2 JULY

 

1982 Soyuz T-7 landing

Crew: Vladimir Dzhanibekov (CDR); Aleksandr Ivanchenkov (FE); Jean-Loup Chrétien [France] (RC)

Landing site: 65 km NE of Arkalyk

 

Salyut 7 Visiting Flight 1. On this occasion no spacecraft exchange was carried out; the crew returned in the same capsule in which they had been launched. Flight time was 7d 21h 51m; 125 orbits.

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3 JULY

 

1974 Soyuz 14 launch

Crew: Pavel Popovich (CDR); Yuri Artyukhin (FE)

 

Salyut 3 Expedition 1. After two test flights of the modified Soyuz capsule, this was the first successful Soviet space station mission. The American Skylab programme had taken all the records so the Soviet authorities were taking things slowly with their own station. Docking took place the day after launch and the crew began a programme of  Earth observations and other experiments. Salyut 3 was the 'Almaz' station, primarily concerned with military operations, though at the time this was not publicly revealed. News reports concentrated on the scientific activities of the crew, including studies of the heart and circulatory systems in orbit, studies of intracranial pressure, monitoring of blood composition, measuring of lung capacity and inhalation/exhalation rates and the testing of a water purification system which condensed moisture from the station's atmosphere.

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4 JULY

 

1982 STS-4 landing

Crew: Ken Mattingly (CDR); Hank Hartsfield (P)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

This was the final development flight of the Shuttle and after landing the vehicle was declared operational. Flight time was 7d 1h 10m, 113 orbits.

 

 


2006 STS-121 launch

Crew: Steven Lindsey (CDR); Mark Kelly (P); Michael Fossum, Lisa Marie Nowak, Stephanie Wilson, Piers Sellers, Thomas Reiter [Germany] (MS)

 

115th Shuttle mission; 32nd flight of Discovery

This was only the second flight following the Columbia accident, nearly a year after the previous one, and further evaluation was made of the safety and repair techniques introduced in the wake of the tragedy. Thomas Reiter would remain aboard the ISS, bringing the station's permanent crew back up to three: originally his position was to have been filled by Sergei Volkov but when the mission was postponed a switch was made. Another crew change came about when Piers Sellers replaced original choice Carlos Noriega, temporarily grounded for medical reasons. Docking with the ISS took place on 6 July: prior to this Discovery performed a slow back-flip manoeuvre to allow the station's crew to inspect the Orbiter's underside for tile damage: this would be standard procedure on future missions. Three EVAs were conducted during the mission, all by Sellers and Fossum:

  1. 8 July, 7h 31m: Maintenance of the ISS's mobile transporter and evaluation of astronaut movement on the end of the robotic arm for possible heat shield repair
  2. 10 July, 6h 47m: Installation of a space thermal control system pump on the outside of the Quest airlock
  3. 12 July, 7h 11m: Further evaluation of heat shield repair techniques using a pallet of pre-damaged tiles with cracks and gouges of various sizes. This test used a special caulk gun and several spatulas to determine the best method of carrying out a repair.

Total EVA time for each man was 21h 29m.

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5 JULY

 

1966 AS-203

 

This was the second flight of the Saturn IB, launched ahead of AS-202 to give the engineers more time to prepare the Apollo CSM for that mission. The primary objective this time was to examine the behaviour of liquid hydrogen in zero-gravity conditions, so no spacecraft was carried and the S-IVB second stage was topped by a simple aerodynamic fairing. During the countdown, a fault was discovered in one of the two TV cameras designed to film the interior of the S-IVB fuel tank, but after a two-hour hold it was decided to proceed with the launch and the flight was carried out with only one of the cameras working. Fortunately for the engineers it operated as planned, sending back pictures of the liquid hydrogen in the tank both during the acceleration of the launch phase and in weightless conditions in orbit. A simulated engine restart was carried out, though ignition did not actually take place since this would have required an additional 3200kg of propellant and associated hardware. Despite this, the vehicle’s performance made the engineers confident that the J-2 engine could be restarted when necessary. On the fourth orbit, the pressure in the fuel tank was deliberately built up until it ruptured, giving the engineers valuable data on the vehicle’s design limits.

 

 


1978 Soyuz 30 landing

Crew: Pyotr Klimuk (CDR); Miroslaw Hermaszewski [Poland] (RC)

Landing site: 300 km W of Tselinograd

 

The second Interkosmos mission, which spent a week docked with Salyut 6. Actual flight time was 7d 22h 3m, 125 orbits.

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6 JULY

 

1976 Soyuz 21 launch

Crew: Boris Volynov (CDR); Vitali Zholobov (FE)

 

Salyut 5 Expedition 1. Docking was achieved the day after launch: once again it had to be completed manually after a failure of the Igla automatic system. The station was the Almaz military type, launched two weeks earlier, though straight scientific tasks were carried out as well as the military-based observations. Tests with propellant transfer were conducted, which would become routine when the Progress freighters went into service. Indications were that the mission would last around two months.

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7 JULY

 

1995 STS-71 landing

Crew: "Hoot" Gibson (CDR); Charles Precout (P); Ellen Baker, Greg Harbaugh, Bonnie Dunbar (MS); Vladimir Dezhurov, Gennadi Strekalov [both Russia], Norman Thagard (Mir Expedition 18 crew)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

This had been the first Shuttle-Mir docking and the first time an Orbiter's crew had altered during a mission. As a result, an interesting problem arose. Whereas previous Russian crewmembers of the Shuttle had begun their flights from the Kennedy Space Center, Strekalov and Dezhurov (along with Thagard) had been launched from Baikonur aboard Soyuz TM-21 and were thus entering the USA from outside. And despite their unorthodox method of arrival, some bureaucrat decided that they would need entry visas like every other foreign national! These were hastily arranged in time for the landing, thus avoiding the possibility of them having to remain aboard the Orbiter after touchdown, unable to set foot on American soil! Flight time for Atlantis's original crew was 9d 19h 22m and 153 orbits. For the retiring Mir-18 crew, it was 115d 8h 43m and 1,825 orbits, giving Thagard the US duration record - at least for a while.

 

 


1996 STS-78 landing

Crew: Tom Henricks (CDR); Kevin Kregel (P); Richard Linnehan, Susan Helms, Charles Brady (MS); Jean-Jacques Favier [France]. Robert Thirsk [Canada] (PS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

This flight had been the Spacelab Life and Microgravity Sciences mission (LMS). Flight time was 16d 21h 48m, 271 orbits.

 

 


2016 Soyuz MS-01 launch

Crew: Anatoli Ivanishin (CDR); Takuya Onishi [Japan], Kate Rubins [USA] (FE)

 

ISS Expeditions 48/49. This was the first flight of the newest version of the Soyuz spacecraft, which is still in use today. It was equipped with upgraded attitude thrusters, additional micrometeoroid shielding, redundant electrical motors on the docking probe and more powerful solar arrays. Rendezvous with the station took two days, allowing the crew to carry out various tests of the upgraded systems, but docking was achieved on 9 July. Rubins would conduct two EVAs during the mission, along with Jeffrey Williams who was already aboard the station as part of the TMA-20M crew:

  1. 19 August, 5h 58m: Installation of an International Docking Adapter
  2. 1 September, 6h 48m: Retraction of a thermal radiator, tightening of struts on a solar array joint and installation of a high-definition TV camera.

Total EVA time was 12h 46m.

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8 JULY

 

1994 STS-65 launch

Crew: Robert Cabana (CDR); James Halsell (P); Rick Hieb, Carl Walz, Leroy Chiao, Donald Thomas (MS); Chiaki Mukai [Japan] (PS)

 

63rd Shuttle mission; 17th flight of Columbia

International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-2), carrying experiments from Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the ESA as a whole. As usual on these Spacelab missions, the crew split into two shifts to provide round-the-clock activities. Cabana, Halsell, Hieb and Mukai were the Red Shift; Chiao. Thomas and Walz, the Blue.

 

 


2011 STS-135 launch

Crew: Christopher Ferguson (CDR); Douglas Hurley (P); Sandra Magnus, Rex Walheim (MS)

 

135th and last Shuttle mission; 33rd and last flight of Atlantis

Beginning with STS-114, the first mission after the Columbia accident, NASA prepared a contingency flight which could be launched at relatively short notice if a rescue was needed. This involved preparing the Shuttle for the next planned flight to an advanced degree so it could be launched within a maximum of forty days. The crew of the crippled Orbiter would remain aboard the ISS until the contingency flight arrived. STS-134 was the last planned mission of the Shuttle programme, and what was then designated STS-335 was prepared in case it was required. However many within NASA saw it as wasteful not to fly Atlantis after so much work had been carried out, but this did not become official until 13 February 2011 when it was announced that the additional flight would take place. Since by definition there could be no contingency mission this time, Atlantis flew with a crew of just four, the smallest since STS-6, since any rescue would have to be carried out one at a time by Soyuz capsules. Docking took place on Day Three and the crew began joint activities with the Expedition 28 team. The Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module was carried, packed with supplies, and was berthed to the ISS on Day Four. It was then loaded with surplus equipment and station waste and transferred back to the Orbiter payload bay on Day Eleven.

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9 JULY

 

1992 STS-50 landing

Crew: Dick Richards (CDR); Ken Bowersox (P); Bonnie Dunbar, Ellen Baker, Carl Meade (MS); Lawrence DeLucas, Eugene Trinh (PS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

US Microgravity Laboratory (USML-1). Flight time was 13d 19h 30m, 221 orbits.

 

 

 

1994 Soyuz TM-18 landing

Crew: Viktor Afanasiyev (CDR); Yuri Usachyov (FE)

Landing site: 112 km N of Arkalyk

 

Mir Expedition 15. At launch, the third seat had been occupied by Valeri Polyakov, who remained behind as a member of the Expedition 16 crew on a marathon mission which would not see him back on Earth until March the following year. Flight time for Afanasiyev and Usachyov was 182d 0h 27m, 2,880 orbits.

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10 JULY

 

1962 Telstar 1 launch

 

Telstar 1 was not the first communications satellite but remains one of the most famous, even inspiring a classic instrumental hit by the UK group The Tornados. In 1945 Arthur C. Clarke had published an article called Extraterrestrial Relays, which foresaw satellites in geostationary orbit. Telstar was in a much lower orbit, 952 by 5,933km high, inclined at around 45 degrees to the equator. This meant that it could provide transatlantic relays only for twenty minutes out of each two and a half hours, and ground antennas had to track it as it moved across the sky at up to 1.5 degrees a second. The antennas were huge by present day standards, being housed in radomes the size of a 14-storey office building. After a test transmission, the first public broadcast was on 23 July, featuring Walter Cronkite in New York and Richard Dimbleby in Brussels, showing images of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. Remarks by John F. Kennedy were meant to open the broadcast but the link was set up before the President was ready, so engineers filled in time with a baseball game, the Chicago Cubs vs. the Philadelphia Phillies. Batter Tony Taylor was seen hitting a ball pitched by Cal Koonce. Telstar went out of service in November 1962: the day before it was launched, the US had detonated a nuclear bomb at high altitude, which had energised the Van Allen Belt and eventually overwhelmed the satellite's transistors. It was brought back on line in January, but failed completely on 21 February 1963. The inert satellite remains in orbit to this day.

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11 JULY

 

1979 Skylab OWS re-entry

 

When the last Skylab crew departed from the Workshop in February 1974, they left a bag containing food and unexposed film in the Multiple Docking Adapter. Clearly, the intent was that it should be retrieved by an early Space Shuttle mission, to allow scientists to analyse the long-term effects of the space environment on the Workshop’s systems and consumables—it would not be possible to live in it and any visit would have to be a fleeting one. Skylab was expected to remain in orbit for about twelve years, but towards the end of the ‘70s it was found that its orbital lifetime had been greatly overestimated and it would re-enter only six years after launch. Plans were drawn up for the third Space Shuttle mission to take aloft an unmanned vehicle called the Teleoperator Retrieval System, or TRS, to dock with Skylab and boost it into a higher orbit. But technical problems delayed the Shuttle’s maiden flight by two years and it became obvious that the Workshop was doomed. The TRS plan was officially cancelled in December 1978, and over the next six months or so media interest in the situation started to build up, much being made of the fact that nobody could predict where or when Skylab would come down. One man in the United States painted concentric rings on the roof of his house and labelled it ‘Skylab Target’, reasoning that this made his home the one place on Earth guaranteed not to be hit! But while many saw the funny side, NASA was conscious of how much damage could be done if the space station landed in an inhabited area. The agency quoted odds of 152 to 1 against anyone being injured by debris, but at the same time they were taking steps to reduce the danger still further. By controlling Skylab’s attitude they could extend or reduce its life by up to three orbits, vital if it appeared that it was likely to descend on a populated region. The situation came to a head in the summer of 1979, as increased solar activity caused the upper atmosphere to expand, and drag consequently increased. The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, which had been monitoring satellite orbits since Sputnik 1 went up in 1957, issued regularly-updated estimates of the Workshop’s descent date, and in the first week of July these assessments were gradually brought forward. Finally by July 10th it was clear that Skylab was going to re-enter the following day. Twelve hours before the estimated descent, NORAD predicted that regions of Canada and northern Maine were in danger, and NASA took evasive action, setting up a tumbling motion to reduce drag and extend Skylab’s life by about half an hour, moving the impact point around the world to the Indian Ocean. At about 17:30 GMT on July 11th, Skylab re-entered: it was then on its 34,981st orbit. The Workshop broke up into several large pieces, most of which burned up in the atmosphere, though many sizeable chunks reached the surface, scattering across the Indian Ocean and parts of Western Australia, though luckily no-one was injured. The largest piece to be recovered was a cylinder some 2m long and 1m in diameter, picked up near Rawlina around 800km east of Perth.

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12 JULY

 

2001 STS-104 launch

Crew: Steven Lindsey (CDR); Charles Hobaugh (P); Michael Gernhardt, Janet Kavandi, James Reilly (MS)

 

105th Shuttle mission; 24th flight of Atlantis

Delivered the Quest Joint Airlock to the ISS - this was so called because it could accommodate both US and Russian space-suits. Docking took place on 14 July and the crew began work with the Expedition 2 team. Three EVAs were conducted, all by Gernhardt and Reilly:

  1. 14 July (5h 59m): Installation of the Quest airlock and attachment of two high-pressure oxygen tanks
  2. 18 July (6h 26m): Installation of further oxygen and nitrogen tanks
  3. 20 July (4h 1m): Installation of one oxygen and one nitrogen tank, This was the first EVA to use the Quest airlock itself; the previous two had used the Orbiter's own airlock

Total EVA time for each astronaut was 16h 26m.

 

 

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13 JULY

 

1995 STS-70 launch

Crew: Thomas Henricks (CDR); Kevin Kregel (P); Donald Thomas, Nancy Currie, Mary Ellen Weber (MS)

 

70th Shuttle mission; 21st flight of Discovery

Deployed the communications satellite TDRS-G; also carried out scientific research in numerous fields: Physiological and Anatomical Rodent Experiment/National Institutes of Health--Rodents; Bioreactor Demonstration System; Commercial Protein Crystal Growth; Space Tissue Loss/National Institutes of Health-Cells; Biological Research in Canisters; Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment-II (SAREX-II); Visual Function Tester-4; Hand-held, Earth oriented, Real-time, Cooperative, User-Friendly, Location-targeting and Environmental System (HERCULES); Microcapsules in Space-B (MIS-B); Windows Experiment (WINDEX); Radiation Monitoring Equipment-III (RME-III); and the Military Applications of Ship Tracks (MAST).

 

The six-day gap between the landing of the previous mission (STS-71) and the launching of this one was the shortest in the entire Shuttle programme, the kind of schedule that was anticipated early in the planning stages when it was believed that flights could take place every two weeks or so. Unfortunately the Orbiter processing time between flights turned out to be far longer than expected, so this goal was not remotely achievable.

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14 JULY

 

1965 Mariner 4 Mars flyby

 

This was the first successful flyby of Mars, sending back the first close-up images of another planet. Its sister probe, Mariner 3, had been written off shortly after launch when the payload shroud failed to separate and, unable to deploy its solar panels, ran out of battery power within eight hours. However Mariner 4 returned 22 photos of a cratered, dead world: these and the discovery that the planet had a thinner atmosphere than expected effectively ended any hopes of Mars supporting intelligent life. Some still disputed this, claiming that photographs of Earth taken at a similar resolution would not show any signs of life either. In addition to the cameras, Mariner carried a helium magnetometer, Geiger counter, cosmic ray telescope, solar plasma probe and cosmic dust detector. Study of the target planet began on 14 July though photography began at 00:18 UTC on the fifteenth, with closest approach at one a.m.

 

 


2015 New Horizons Pluto flyby

 

Launched on 19 January 2006, New Horizons passed within 12,500km of Pluto more than nine years later, during which time its target had been redesignated a 'dwarf planet'. The probe's relative velocity was 13.78km/sec. New Horizons also passed within 28,800km of Pluto's moon, Charon, but photos were taken of both bodies to a resolution of 40km. Because of the probe's very low power capability, transmission of data was at a slow bitrate and continued until 25 October. New Horizons was then redirected to Ultima Thule, another dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt. This body was discovered in 2014, making it the first object to be targeted for a flyby that was discovered after the spacecraft was launched. The encounter took place on 1 January 2019 with a closest approach of just 3,500km, at a distance from the Sun of 43.4 AU. Transmission of data from this flyby is expected to continue until September 2020.

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15 JULY

 

1975 Soyuz 19 launch

Crew: Aleksei Leonov (CDR); Valeri Kubasov (FE)
         Apollo launch

Crew: Tom Stafford (CDR); Deke Slayton (DMP); Vance Brand (CMP)

 

What eventually became the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project began in 1971 as a suggested Apollo-Salyut link-up, but the Soviets decided that this was not technically or economically feasible and the flight plan was changed to a relatively simple docking between the two spacecraft. A formal agreement was signed in May 1972 by Richard Nixon and Alexei Kosygin. Because of the differing atmospheric composition and pressure in the two spacecraft, an intermediate Docking Module was required: this also overcame the problem of linking up two craft with totally incompatible docking apparatus, which also overcame the subtle point in a probe-and-drogue system the craft with the probe would be seen as the dominant partner: this was to be a mission of equals. To reduce the time delay in transferring from one spacecraft to the other, the Soviets agreed to modify the Soyuz to lower its air pressure and increase the oxygen content. As part of the Apollo crew, NASA named Deke Slayton, one of the original Mercury Seven, thirteen years after he was taken off flight status because of a perceived heart condition: with no more US manned flights scheduled until the Space Shuttle, it was Slayton’s last chance to get into orbit. After more than three years of preparation, the mission began with the launch of Soyuz 19 from Baikonur. So anxious were the Soviet authorities to make sure that nothing went wrong that they had prepared a second spacecraft, which was ready on the pad and could have been launched if the first had developed problems. In the end it was not needed: Soyuz 19 went into orbit nine minutes after lift-off, the event being covered live on TV for the first time. Apollo (unnumbered, though often erroneously referred to as 'Apollo 18') followed seven and a half hours later. The new Docking Module was extracted from the adapter section after orbit insertion, just as with the LM on the Moon flights. Though the docking itself was perfect, the crew later had problems in removing the probe from the tunnel: coincidentally, it was the same device that had caused all the trouble on Apollo 14. With both spacecraft safely in orbit, the rendezvous manoeuvres began, Apollo with its greater propellant load doing all the work.

 

 


2009 STS-127 launch

Crew: Mark Polansky (CDR); Douglas Hurley (P); David Wolf, Chris Cassidy, Julie Payette [Canada], Tom Marshburn, Tim Kopra (MS)

 

127th Shuttle mission; 23rd flight of Endeavour

Delivered the Exposed Facility section of the Japanese Kibo Module to the ISS. Docking with the ISS was achieved on Day Three. A partial crew exchange was planned, with Tim Kopra joining Expedition 20 and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata riding home. Five EVAs were carried out:

  1. 18 July, Wolf and Kopra (5h 32m): Preparation of the connecting mechanisms for attachment of the Kibo Exposed Facility
  2. 20 July, Wolf and Marshburn (6h 53m): Transportation of various spare parts, including an antenna and pump module, from the payload bay to a stowage area on the ISS truss
  3. 22 July, Wolf and Cassidy (5h 59m): Preparation of the Exposed Facility for installation of experiments. This EVA was curtailed as a precaution when CO2 levels in Cassidy's suit began to rise, though not to a dangerous level
  4. 24 July, Marshburn and Cassidy (7h 12m): Replacement of batteries on the ISS truss. This task had been started on the previous EVA but had to be abandoned when it was cut short.
  5. 27 July, Marshburn and Cassidy (4h 54m): Reconfiguration of cables and installation of a new video camera

Total EVA time for each astronaut: Wolf, 18h 24m; Marshburn, 18h 59m; Cassidy, 18h 5m; Kopra, 5h 32m.

 

 


2012 Soyuz TMA-05M launch

Crew: Yuri Malenchenko (CDR); Sunita Williams [USA], Akihiko Hoshide [Japan] (FE)

 

ISS Expeditions 32/33. Docking was achieved on 17 July. Williams and Hoshide performed three EVAs during their stay aboard:

  1. 30 August (8h 17m): Replacement of a faulty power routing unit on the truss and installation of cables for a Russian laboratory module
  2. 5 September (6h 28m) Installation of a spare power unit on the truss
  3. 1 November (6h 38m): Repair of an ammonia leak on one of the port radiators

Total EVA time for each astronaut was 21h 23m.

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16 JULY

 

1969 Apollo 11 launch

Crew: Neil Armstrong (CDR); Buzz Aldrin (LMP); Michael Collins (CMP)

 

First lunar landing

CSM: Columbia; LM: Eagle

The highest-profile mission in spaceflight history was launched precisely on schedule, at 0932 local time ("Thirty-two minutes past the hour," as PAO Jack King announced). Though Saturn V launches were a familiar sight by now, this one was of course something special: the first men to land on the Moon were actually on their way. An estimated one million people gathered around Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch, which was of course televised around the world. The spacecraft and third stage entered parking orbit twelve minutes later and the crew began a thorough systems checkout. After one and a half orbits the astronauts were advised, "You are GO for TLI!" and the S-IVB engine fired again to send them on course for the Moon, and history.

 

 

 

1986 Soyuz T-15 landing

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

Landing site: 55 km NE of Arkalyk

 

This mission had been not only the first flight to visit Mir, but also the last to visit Salyut 7. After 51 days aboard the new station, the crew undocked and began a rendezvous with the inoperative Salyut, docking there the following day. They had spent fifty days aboard before reversing the manoeuvre and returning to Mir for a further three weeks before landing back on Earth. Their total flight time was 125d 0h 1m, 1,980 orbits.

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17 JULY

 

1975 Apollo-Soyuz docking

Soyuz crew: Alexei Leonov (CDR); Valeri Kubasov (FE)

Apollo crew: Tom Stafford (CDR); Deke Slayton (DMP); Vance Brand (CMP)

 

Two days into the joint mission, docking of the two spacecraft took place over the Atlantic, six minutes ahead of schedule, as Apollo was beginning its 29th orbit. Leonov reported: “Soyuz and Apollo are shaking hands now!” Stafford and Slayton then moved into the Docking Module and closed the hatch behind them; the atmosphere was then gradually changed to match that of Soyuz and three hours after the link-up the Soyuz hatch was opened and Leonov reached through for an actual handshake before the two Americans moved through to the Soviet spacecraft. This was only the first of four crew exchanges that took place over the next two days, with each crew-member entering the other craft at least once. The in-flight activities were largely ceremonial and symbolic: the halves of a medallion, launched separately, were linked together, while documents were signed and TV broadcasts made. Over the two-day docked period, Stafford spent a total of 7hrs 10min aboard the Soyuz; Brand, 6hrs 30min; and Slayton, 1hr 35min. Leonov was in Apollo for 5hrs 43min and Kubasov for 4hrs 57min. Following the last crew transfer, with everybody back where they belonged, the two spacecraft separated and Apollo manoeuvred to create an artificial solar eclipse for the Soyuz cosmonauts to observe. Next, a second link-up was carried out, this time with the Soyuz docking ring in the active position, though due to its greater propellant load Apollo still carried out the manoeuvres. A second and final undocking came three hours later and the two spacecraft went their separate ways.

 

 


1984 Soyuz T-12 launch

Crew: Vladimir Dzhanibekov (CDR); Svetlana Savitskaya (FE); Igor Volk (RC)

 

This was a Visiting Flight to Salyut 7, where no spacecraft exchange was planned, but there was more to the make-up of the crew than might have been apparent. Igor Volk was a test pilot and was intended to be Commander of the first flight of the Soviet Space Shuttle. However, rules introduced in the wake of Soyuz 25's failure meant that at least one crew member on all missions should have previous spaceflight experience, and Volk's place on T-12 would ensure that regulation was met. Svetlana Savitskaya's inclusion owed more to the one-upmanship that still prevailed in the Soviet programme: the Americans were preparing STS-41G, which would make Sally Ride the first woman to fly in space twice and Kathy Sullivan the first to perform an EVA. Savitskaya was slotted in to the Soyuz T-12 crew to snatch both records for the Soviets. The EVA took place on 25 July, with Dzhanibekov accompanying her, and lasted 3h 33m, during which a multipurpose cutting, welding and soldering tool was tested. Some engineers voiced reservations about this as it generated a great deal of heat, and many remembered the failed welding experiment on Soyuz 6 when the tool ran amok and nearly cut the experiment table in half. However the test went off without a hitch: though at one point the Sun glared directly in Savitskaya's face, making it difficult to see what she was doing, her results were later judged satisfactory.

 

 


1997 STS-94 landing

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

Landing site: Kennedy Space Centre

 

This had been the reflight of the Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1R), which was originally cut short due to a fuel cell problem but which was then quickly recycled and flown at the earliest opportunity with the same crew. Everything went to plan this time, the mission running its full planned duration of 15d 16h 45m and 251 orbits. As both flights had featured exactly the same crew, it was quipped that STS-83 and 94 had been a single mission with the crew taking shore-leave part of the way through!

 

 


2006 STS-121 landing

Crew: Steven Lindsey (CDR); Mark Kelly (P); Michael Fossum, Lisa Marie Nowak, Stephanie Wilson, Piers Sellers (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

This was only the second post-Columbia flight but the opportunity had been taken to restore the ISS crew to its full complement of three: Thomas Reiter had remained aboard the station when Discovery returned to Earth. Flight time for the other crew was 12d 18h 37m; 203 orbits.

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18 JULY

 

1966 Gemini X launch

Crew: John Young (CDR); Mike Collins (P)

 

This was the flight where the US finally achieved a successful docking. Gemini VI had lost its target vehicle; Gemini VIII had managed to dock but the mission was then curtailed due to a thruster malfunction, and Gemini IX had lost its original target then found that the payload shroud on the replacement had failed to separate. But this time everything went right. Young and Collins were named as prime crew in early 1966, with the launch date given as 18 July. Throughout the whole period of training and flight preparations, there was not one significant delay and the Agena was launched on schedule while the astronauts waited in the spacecraft. The target vehicle reached orbit successfully and Gemini X followed ninety minutes later. The rendezvous manoeuvre took three orbits, and though propellant consumption was higher than anticipated it was completed as planned. The docking took place soon afterwards but due to the excessive propellant use Mission Control decided to cancel the planned programme of events: several separations and redockings, with each astronaut taking it in turn to perform the manoeuvre, plus a short fly-around of the Agena, measuring its ion wake. The crew were instructed instead to proceed to Agena ignition and following the systems checkout the powerful main engine was fired to push the docked spacecraft up to a higher orbit—a manoeuvre planned for Gemini VIII but never carried out due to the emergency that terminated that flight. The Agena burn lasted thirteen seconds, the thrust of 7,250kg pushing Gemini to a record altitude of 755km, nearly twice the previous best. Young described the ride: “just unbelievable…sparks and fire and smoke and lights.” From their vantage point, the crew could see the curvature of the Earth more clearly than any of their predecessors: the divisions between land and ocean were distinctly marked. Young and Collins now started a nine-hour rest period, well-earned since they had achieved much in the first day in space. Though Young was able to catch several hours’ sleep, Collins managed a mere two hours or so because of an aching knee that he later put down to a minor attack of the “bends”. The following day, they prepared the Agena for a retrograde burn to reduce their apogee to a height of around 400km, ready for the rendezvous with the old Agena target left behind by Gemini VIII. A third burn circularised the spacecraft’s orbit at the 400km-mark, after which Collins made a stand-up EVA, opening the hatch and poking his head through to take ultraviolet photograph of the Milky Way. This EVA had to be cut short after forty minutes due to a fault in the suit’s oxygen supply that caused both men’s eyes to water uncontrollably. After a second sleep period, Gemini undocked from the Agena and began the manoeuvres to rendezvous with the older target. They were forced to rely on instructions from Mission Control, since the Agena’s batteries were long dead and its transponder inoperative, but once visual contact had been made rendezvous was easy enough. Collins now made a second EVA, crossing over to the Agena and retrieving a micro-meteorite detection experiment that had remained in orbit somewhat longer than its designers had anticipated. Unfortunately while performing this manoeuvre Collins lost hold of his camera, which drifted away out of reach. Young’s own camera turned out to be faulty, so no pictures of the EVA were obtained. Young found he was using too much propellant trying to keep Gemini stabilised, and the EVA was brought to an end after only 39 minutes, far short of the 1½ hours planned.

 

 

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19 JULY

 

1963 X-15 flight #90

Pilot: Joe Walker

B-52 carrier took off from Edwards AFB; dropped over Smith Ranch Dry Lake, Nevada

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

The ninetieth flight of the X-15 was the first to exceed an altitude of 100km and thus qualify as a space flight under FAI regulations. (The US Air Force defines the boundary as fifty miles.) The B-52 carrier took off from Edwards AFB at 17:19 UTC and the X-15 was dropped fifty-nine minutes later. Engine burn lasted 85 seconds and the peak altitude reached was 106.01km. Maximum velocity was 5,969km/hr (Mach 5.5). Landing back at Edwards was at 18:31 UTC for a free flight time of 11 minutes 24 seconds.

 

 


1974 Soyuz 14 landing

Crew: Pavel Popovich (CDR); Yuri Artyukhin (FE)

Landing site: 140km SE of Dzheskasgan

 

Salyut 3 Expedition 1. This was the Soviet Union's first successful space station mission, lasting 15d 17h 30m and completing 252 orbits. Though of course not acknowledged at the time this was a primarily military flight, using the Almaz station but disguised under the Salyut banner.

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20 JULY

 

1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing
LM: Eagle
Crew: Neil Armstrong (CDR); Buzz Aldrin (LMP)
Landing site: 0° 40' 26.69" N 23° 28' 22.69" E (Sea of Tranquillity)

 

Undocking of the CSM and LM took place behind the Moon, so when the two spacecraft regained contact with Mission Control, Armstrong reported, "The Eagle has wings!" He then carried out a slow pirouette manoeuvre so that Collins, aboard the CSM, could inspect it to make sure all was in order, and in particular that the landing legs had deployed properly and were locked in place. Eagle then performed the Descent Orbit Insertion burn, resulting in a 60 by 9 nautical mile orbit. This was what had been carried out on Apollo 10, but whereas Snoopy had not proceeded beyond the perilune or low point, Eagle would be going all the way. At the appropriate moment they were given the GO for Powered Descent Initiation and the engine fired again: if all went well, when it shut down again Eagle would be sitting on the surface of the Moon. The descent was, to say the least, not without drama. The first heart-stopping moment came when the computer displayed a 1202 alarm (pronounced as 'twelve-oh-two') indicating that it was overloaded. Many flight controllers thought they would have to abort but the man responsible for this, 26-year-old Steve Bales, consulted with his support team and determined that the problem was not critical. He then wrote himself into the history books by advising Flight Director Gene Kranz that the descent could continue. The warning was to recur before touchdown, as well as the similar 1201, but everybody knew it could be ignored. Then as Eagle neared the surface Armstrong saw that they were coming down in an area with large boulders, which could be hazardous, so he took manual control and flew the LM beyond them, seeking a flatter region. This of course used up additional propellant and Houston watched anxiously as both the altitude and remaining burn time readouts dropped towards the zero mark. CAPCOM Charlie Duke kept the crew informed on how much time they had left: first sixty seconds and then thirty. He was about to give the fifteen-second warning when Aldrin reported, "Contact light - okay, engine stop!" Then followed a string of technical jargon to which Duke responded, "We copy you down, Eagle." Armstrong then made the call which has gone down as one of the most significant quotes of the twentieth century: "Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed." Duke was momentarily tongue-tied in the excitement of the moment and replied, "Roger, Twan - Tranquillity. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue! We're breathing again. Thanks a lot!" Eagle was down but now it had to be determined whether it could stay there. Kranz therefore took a quick poll of the controllers (to avoid any confusion the normal GO/NO GO option was changed to STAY/NO STAY) and it was unanimously agreed that nothing crucial had broken on the way down. A little later Duke advised the crew, "Be advised there're lots of smiling faces in this room, and all over the world." Armstrong responded, "Well, there are two of them up here!" and Collins added, "And don't forget one in the Command Module!" Unfortunately for Collins, he was listening to the conversation after it had been relayed to Earth so there was a delay of several seconds, and by the time he added his own smiling face to the list Duke had already told Armstrong and Aldrin that they had done a beautiful job, so it sounded as if he was asking to be congratulated too! The flight plan now called for the LM crew to have a rest break before beginning the preparations for the EVA, but at the Commander's discretion (and if approved by Houston) the Moonwalk could be brought forward. Given that the astronauts would probably have found it difficult to sleep with adrenaline pumping through their bodies, they decided to do this and Mission Control agreed. Nevertheless, it would not be until after midnight UTC that the historic step would be taken.

 

 

 

1976 Viking 1 lands on Mars

Landing site: 22.27°N 312.05°E (Chryse Planitia)

 

Viking 1 was not the first probe to soft-land on Mars: that honour fell to the Soviet Mars 3 in December 1971, but that had stopped transmitting after less than fifteen seconds on the surface. Viking was the first to successfully perform its mission, broadcasting data back to Earth for more than six years (2,245 Martian sols) and contact was only lost when a transmission from Earth, intended to improve the battery recharging, accidentally overwrote the software that aimed the antenna. Landing had been planned for 4 July, America's bicentenary, but imaging of the planned landing site showed it to be too rough and a new site had to be found. One of Viking's primary tasks was to search for signs of life: one of the experiments did appear to show positive results but this was dismissed as merely an inorganic chemical reaction. However recently some views are changing as a result of the discovery of near-surface ice.

 

 


1999 Liberty Bell 7 recovery

 

One day before the thirty-eighth anniversary of its loss, Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule was recovered from the ocean bed by an expedition led by salvage engineer Curt Newport. The capsule had actually been located several weeks earlier: Newport had a list of numerous possible objects on the bottom, detected by sonar, but the only way to find out which (if any) was the lost capsule was to examine each one close-up with a remotely-piloted vehicle. This could potentially have taken months, but against all odds the very first target inspected on the very first dive proved to be Liberty Bell. Now Newport was back aboard the recovery vessel Ocean Project. Lines were attached to the capsule and it was gingerly lifted from its resting place of nearly four decades. It was a hazardous operation because the capsule was fitted with a device called a SOFAR bomb, intended to detonate if the capsule sank, to provide a signal that would enable it to be located. For some reason this had not gone off, and so was potentially live when the capsule was raised. Had it gone off when salvage engineers were working on the capsule, severe injury or death could have resulted. For this reason, once the capsule was secure aboard the recovery ship, the deck was evacuated while experts disarmed the bomb. Liberty Bell was then placed in a container of seawater to prevent deterioration until it could be returned to land where restoration work could begin. The capsule is now on permanent display in the Cosmosphere, Hutchison, Kansas.

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21 JULY

 

1961 Mercury MR-4 (Liberty Bell 7)

Pilot: Gus Grissom

Splashdown site:  27° 32' N, 75° 44' W (Atlantic Ocean)

 

Three weeks after Shepard’s sub-orbital flight, described by Nikita Khrushchev as a “flea-hop”, President John F. Kennedy had committed the United States to a manned lunar landing by the end of the decade. It was an incredibly ambitious plan, as American manned space experience was barely fifteen minutes and the Mercury capsule had yet to reach orbit. Early plans had called for all seven astronauts to make sub-orbital flights, though this was later cut to just three. But pressure on NASA was increasing after the success of Shepard’s mission: the US public wanted a man in orbit. Thus the decision was taken to go for a full orbital mission with the third manned flight, as long as nothing went wrong on the second one. Once more the weather forced a postponement, but on 21 July America’s second astronaut climbed into his capsule. NASA had learned from Shepard’s discomfort during the long hours in Freedom 7 and Grissom had been supplied with a urine catheter. This proved a wise move, as once more several holds were called, both to allow the weather to improve and because of a faulty hatch bolt. At seven-twenty, Cape Time, the Redstone lifted off to begin the second manned Mercury mission. Shepard’s flight had been uncharted territory all the way, but Grissom had the advantage of knowing what to expect. During the ascent, he reported that everything was going as planned, the G-forces building up but not excessively so. When the Redstone burned out Grissom was subjected to 6.3G, well within the safe limits. Moments later, he was weightless as first the escape tower was jettisoned and then the capsule itself pushed gently away from the launch vehicle. Turning around to face backwards, looking the way he had come, Grissom was for a short time tempted to ignore his instruments and simply take in the view. Liberty Bell 7 was fitted with a large square window not available to Shepard, and the sight of the Earth was simply stunning. From a peak altitude of 190.4km, Grissom manually fired the retros, at which point his heart rate touched 175/min. Seven minutes and forty-six seconds had elapsed by the time re-entry braking began and just under two minutes later the drogue parachute popped out. Then the big main chute opened up, but through the window Grissom was concerned to see two small rips in the fabric. They did not seem to be getting larger as he watched and he relaxed a little. The spacecraft splashed down 486km downrange of the Cape to end the 16-minute flight, but the drama was far from over. Grissom was relaxing in his contour couch, awaiting the arrival of the recovery crews, when without warning the capsule hatch suddenly blew off. Water began flooding into the spacecraft and an astounded Grissom was forced to abandon ship and scramble out into the ocean. The recovery helicopter was now on the scene and they managed to secure a line to the capsule in an attempt to stop it sinking. For a few moments it seemed that the spacecraft had been saved but the chopper pilot was faced with a warning of an engine overheat—which later turned out to be erroneous—and was forced to cut loose the capsule, which promptly sank in 5km of water. Grissom, meanwhile, was in danger of drowning because the water was filling his space-suit. Eventually the second helicopter crew realised he was in distress and hauled him to safety: he would spend the rest of his life denying that he had been responsible for blowing the hatch. But the story of Liberty Bell 7 was still not over: in 1999 a salvage team located and retrieved the spacecraft from the ocean bed. As fate would have it, the capsule arrived back at Cape Canaveral on the 38th anniversary of the flight itself, to begin a long program of restoration.

 

 

 

1966 Gemini X splashdown

Crew: John Young (CDR); Mike Collins (P)

Splashdown site: 26° 44,7' N, 71° 57' W (850 km east of Florida)

 

After several frustrating failures, Gemini X had finally achieved the docking that would be crucial on the lunar missions. Flight time was 2d 22h 47m, 43 orbits.

 

 


1969 Apollo 11 Moonwalk and lunar liftoff

LM: Eagle
Crew: Neil Armstrong (CDR); Buzz Aldrin (LMP)

 

The Moonwalk had been brought forward and took place in the late evening of 20 July in US time zones. By Universal Time is was shortly before 3am; with UK clocks an hour ahead it was almost four in the morning there by the time Armstrong began descending the ladder. Cautious as ever, he paused at the foot, still standing on the LM footpad, describing what he saw. On the way down he had pulled a ring to open the MESA, a panel on the side of the descent stage that exposed the TV camera. Thus viewers around the world were treated to a fuzzy white blob (initially upside-down until the correct switch was thrown) that was unmistakably the figure of a man. Finally Armstrong declared, "I'm gonna step off the LM now..." and planted his left boot onto the lunar surface. The first words spoken by a human being standing on the surface of another world were, "THAT'S ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN; ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND!" And so began years of discussion over what that meant: it transpired that Armstrong had meant to say "One small step for a man..." (i.e. himself), contrasting that to the achievement for humanity as a whole. Some twenty minutes later Aldrin joined him on the surface and the pair exposed the plaque fixed to the front landing leg: it displayed the two hemispheres of the Earth and the message HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON, JULY 1969 AD, WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND. It also bore the signatures of the three crewmen and, incongruously, that of Richard Nixon. The President would get in on the act again when he telephoned the astronauts during the Moonwalk, using up time that everyone would no doubt have preferred was given over to sample collection and other experiments. On this first landing the EVA was restricted to just 2h 32m for Armstrong (Aldrin a little less since he remained inside the depressurised LM for about twenty minutes) and all too soon it was time to return to Eagle. With the hatch sealed behind them the astronauts could finally enjoy the rest and meal break that they had postponed after landing. During the preparations for lift-off it was discovered that a circuit-breaker switch had been accidentally broken off, presumably when the crew were putting on their life-support backpacks prior to the EVA. This had to be pushed in to enable the engine to fire, but the solution was simple: Aldrin used a ballpoint pen to activate the switch. At the appointed time the ascent engine fired and Eagle was heading back to orbit. There was no external footage of the launch (that would have to wait for the J-Series missions that carried a lunar rover) but filming from inside the cabin showed that the engine blast had flattened the US flag that had been ceremonially planted. Eagle reached orbit and completed rendezvous with Collins aboard Columbia, docking taking place at 21:35 UTC. Man had walked on the Moon: all that remained was to fulfil the second part of Kennedy's committment, by "returning him safely to the Earth."

 

 


1975 Soyuz 19 landing

Crew: Aleksei Leonov (CDR); Valeri Kubasov (FE)

Landing site: 50° 40' N, 67° 1' E (87 km northeast of Arkalyk)

 

This had been the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the largely symbolic link-up between the two leading nations in the Space Race. For the first time the Soyuz landing was covered live, doubtless leading to anxious moments among viewers when the retro-rockets fired one second before touchdown to cushion the impact: unprepared for the cloud of dust that this produced, many no doubt believed that Soyuz had crashed. But it was a perfectly normal landing, just 6km from the aim point, after a flight that had lasted 5d 22h 31m and 97 orbits.

 

 


2011 STS-135 landing

Crew: Christopher Ferguson (CDR); Douglas Hurley (P); Sandra Magnus, Rex Walheim (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

The very last Shuttle mission had a reduced crew of four to simplify matters if the Orbiter was unable to return to Earth and the astronauts had to be retrieved one at a time by Soyuz capsules. As it undocked from the ISS, Ron Garan rang the station's bell, located in the Harmony module, and declared, "Atlantis, departing the International Space Station for the last time." On the last full day in space, one final satellite was deployed, to research into solar cells. Crew member Rex Walheim marked the occasion with a poem he had written himself:

 

One more satellite takes its place in the sky,

The last of many that the shuttle let fly.

Magellan, Galileo, Hubble, and more,

Have sailed beyond her payload bay doors.

There've filled science books, and still more to come,

The shuttle's legacy will live on when her flying is done.

We wish PicoSat success in space where it roams,

It can stay up here, but we're going home.

Yes soon for the last time we'll gently touch down,

Then celebrate the shuttle with our friends on the ground.

 

And so Atlantis came home for the last time. Touchdown at Kennedy was also marked with ceremony: as the nose wheel touched down, PAO Rob Navias announced, "Having fired the imagination of a generation, a ship like no other, its place in history secured, the Shuttle pulls into port for the last time. Its voyage, at an end." Chris Ferguson added, "Mission complete, Houston, After serving the world for over 30 years, the Shuttle has earned its place in history, and it has come to a final stop." And CAPCOM Barry Wilmore replied, "We congratulate you, Atlantis, as well as the thousands of passionate individuals across this great space faring nation who truly empowered this incredible spacecraft which for three decades has inspired millions around the globe. Job well done America!" Ferguson replied "The Space Shuttle changed the way we viewed the world. It's changed the way we view our universe. There's a lot of emotion today, but one thing is indisputable: America's not gonna stop exploring. Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour and our ship Atlantis. Thank you for protecting us and bringing this program to such a fitting end. God bless the United States of America." Flight time on the last mission was 12d 18h 28m, 200 orbits.

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22 JULY

 

1959 Mercury Beach Abort 3

 

Previous launch escape tests had used an off-the-shelf Recruit solid rocket but for the first time a production LES with a motor manufactured by Grand Central Rocket was used.  The capsule reached a peak altitude of 609m and tumbled once following separation of the escape tower. It continued to tumble until the drogue parachute was deployed and only stabilised completely after the main chute opened; however splashdown was normal.

 

 


1987 Soyuz TM-3 launch

Crew: Aleksandr Viktorenko (CDR); Aleksandr Aleksandrov (FE); Muhammed Faris [Syria] (RC)

 

This was a Taxi Flight though a partial crew exchange would also take place: Aleksandrov would be replaced by Aleksandr Leveykin when they returned aboard Soyuz TM-2. Docking with Mir was automatic but the cosmonauts had difficulty opening the hatch and had to resort to a lever to break the seal. They joined the Expedition 2 team and as usual for these Interkosmos missions much of the work carried out by the guest cosmonaut focused on his homeland, with visual and photographic observations and a spectrometric survey which would help define the country's agricultural resources.

 

 


1993 Soyuz TM-16 landing

Crew: Gennadi Manakov (CDR); Aleksandr Poleshchuk (FE)

Landing site: 47° 23' N, 69° 22' E (140 km east of Dzheskasgan)

 

Mir Expedition 13. Flight time was 179d 0h 44m, 2,833 orbits.

 

 


1995 STS-70 landing

Crew: Thomas Henricks (CDR); Kevin Kregel (P); Donald Thomas, Nancy Currie, Mary Ellen Weber (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

This flight had deployed a TDRS communications satellite as well as carrying out extensive scientific work. Flight time was 8d 22h 20m, 142 orbits.

 

 


2015 Soyuz TMA-17M launch

Crew: Oleg Kononenko (CDR); Kimiya Yui [Japan], Kjell Lindgren [USA] (FE)

 

ISS Expeditions 44/45. The spacecraft followed the 'fast-track' approach and docked with the station just six hours after launch. One of the solar panels failed to deploy on command but was successfully unfolded later on. Of special note was the mission patch, which was a homage to that of Apollo 17: a portrait of Sergei Korolev, the Soviet rocket pioneer, replaced that of the Greek god Apollo on the original, and a Soyuz spacecraft appeared where a stylised eagle had been. However the colours and the grey frame with mission and crew names were in the same style.

 

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23 JULY

 

1980 Soyuz 37 launch

Crew: Viktor Gorbatko (CDR); Pham Tuan [Vietnam] (RC)

 

Sixth Interkosmos mission and a Salyut 6 Taxi Flight. Docking was achieved the day after launch and the cosmonauts began joint work with the Expedition 4 team. When the crew was announced, it was claimed that Pham had been a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War and had shot down a B-52 bomber. However, the US Government denied this and said that no B-52s were lost in air-to-air combat during the war and that the bomber was downed by a surface-to-air missile.

 

 


1994 STS-65 landing

Crew: Robert Cabana (CDR); James Halsell (P); Rick Hieb, Carl Walz, Leroy Chiao, Donald Thomas (MS); Chiaki Mukai [Japan] (PS)

Landing site: Cape Canaveral

 

The second International Microgravity Laboratory mission (IML-2). Flight time was 14d 17h 55m; 235 orbits.

 

 


1999 STS-93 launch

Crew: Eileen Collins (CDR); Jeff Ashby (P); Catherine Coleman, Steve Hawley, Michel Tognini [France] (MS)

 

95th Shuttle mission; 26th flight of Columbia.

This was the first Shuttle flight with a female Commander. Launch was not without incident: during the main engine ignition sequence, a gold pin used to plug an oxidiser post in the Space Shuttle's third (right) engine came loose and was violently ejected, striking the engine nozzle's inner surface and tearing open three cooling tubes containing hydrogen. These ruptures resulted in a leak downstream of the main combustion chamber. This anomalous event and the automatic response to the leak by the right engine's controller did not violate any launch commit criteria and liftoff proceeded normally. However, approximately 5 seconds after liftoff, an electrical short disabled the centre engine's primary digital control unit, DCU-A, and the right engine's backup unit, DCU-B. The centre and right engines continued to operate on their remaining DCUs for the rest of powered flight to orbit. The redundant set of DCUs in each engine controller saved Columbia and her crew from potential catastrophe, as shutdown of two engines at that point in the flight would have resulted in the very risky RTLS abort with no guarantee of success. The electrical short was later discovered to have been caused by poorly routed wiring, which had rubbed on an exposed screw head. This wiring issue led to a programme-wide inspection of the wiring in all Orbiters. Because of the leak, the engine's controller saw an increase in use rate of hydrogen. The controller assumed the extra hydrogen was being burned in the engine (rather than being leaked overboard as it actually was) and increased the oxidiser flow to maintain the presumptive mixture ratio, resulting in a premature engine shutdown near the end of the projected burn due to low liquid oxygen level. Because of the premature shutdown, Columbia reached a slightly lower orbit than planned but was still able to carry out its mission. This was the deployment of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, whose IUS booster took it to its operational orbit of 14,308 by 134,528km.

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24 JULY

 

1969 Apollo 11 splashdown

Crew: Neil Armstrong (CDR); Buzz Aldrin (LMP); Mike Collins (CMP)

Splashdown site: 13° 19' N, 169° 9' W (Pacific Ocean, 1,600km southwest of Honolulu)

 

First lunar landing. 

Apollo 11's splashdown area had to be shifted after top-secret spy satellite images revealed that a major storm front was heading for the original zone. A public announcement was not possible as this would have revealed the existence of the satellite, but USAF Captain Hank Brandli alerted Navy Captain Willard Houston, commander of the Fleet Weather Center at Pearl Harbor, who had the required security clearance. Risking their careers, they jointly notified Rear Admiral Donald Davis, commander of the Manned Spaceflight Recovery Forces, who advised NASA to shift the recovery area 400km north-east. This required a change to the spacecraft's flight plan, following a re-entry path never before attempted to ensure it came down in the new target zone. However, this went off without a hitch and the Command Module splashed down in its new recovery area. The procedures following the splashdown were unlike any previous ones: there was no triumphant ceremonial welcome on the deck of the carrier: instead, as a precaution against the infinitesimal risk that they were contaminated with 'Moon germs', the recovery divers passed Biological Insulation Garments into the Command Module which the crew put on before they emerged to be winched up to the Sea King helicopter. Back aboard the USS Hornet, the helicopter was lowered to the below-deck hangar and the astronauts emerged and quickly made their way to the Mobile Quarantine Facility, a converted caravan where they would remain until the ship reached port. Only once they had showered and changed were they greeted by Richard Nixon, who had flown out to the carrier to welcome them home. The astronauts had been supplied with badges reading HORNET +3, indicating their addition to the crew roster. After Nixon had gone, the Command Module was lifted aboard the ship and placed next to the MQF, linked to it by a flexible tunnel, so that the lunar samples, film and other items could be removed. The Hornet sailed back to Pearl Harbor, where the MQF was loaded aboard a C-141 Starlifter and flown back to Houston, where the crew and their support team spent the remainder of their quarantine period in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. This ended on 10 August and three days later the astronauts received tickertape parades in New York and Chicago, with an estimated six million people turning out to see them. A 38-day world tour followed during which they visited 22 different countries. The actual flight time had been a mere 8d 3h 19m and 1.5 Earth orbits; Armstrong and Aldrin had also completed 18 orbits of the Moon, and Collins, 30.

 

At Mission Control, when the Command Module hit the water, the main plotter screen lit up with President Kennedy's original challenge: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." And the adjacent TV screen carried the Apollo 11 patch and the statement "Task accomplished, July 1969".

 

 


1975 Apollo splashdown

Crew: Tom Stafford (CDR); Deke Slayton (DMP); Vance Brand (CMP)

Splashdown site: 21° 52' N, 162° 45' W (Pacific Ocean)

 

This had been the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. After the Soviet craft's departure, Apollo remained in orbit for a further three days before returning. However the landing almost went disastrously wrong: due to high noise levels in the cabin, Brand did not hear Stafford call out an item on the re-entry checklist and failed to activate the Earth Landing System, which among other activities deploys the parachutes! When they realised that the drogue chutes had not deployed this was done manually, but crucially the capsule's attitude control system was not shut down. As a result, when the Command Module began swinging to and fro under the main parachutes, the thrusters started firing in an attempt to stabilise it. Unfortunately one of these thrusters was located next to a cabin vent: when this opened to draw in outside air, toxic hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide fumes were also sucked in. Brand passed out but Stafford was able to retrieve emergency oxygen masks. As a precaution, the astronauts were hospitalised for two weeks in Honolulu but suffered no lasting ill-effects, though a lesion was discovered on Slayton's lung. This was unconnected with the re-entry mishap and proved to be benign, but ironically had it been discovered before the flight Slayton would likely have been grounded for medical reasons, again! Flight time had been 9d 1h 28m, 138 orbits.

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25 JULY

 

2001 STS-104 landing

Crew: Steven Lindsey (CDR); Charles Hobaugh (P); Michael Gernhardt, Janet Kavandi, James Reilly (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

ISS assembly flight; delivered the Quest Joint Airlock. Flight time was 12d 18h 35m, 200 orbits.

 

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