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GordonD

Ups and Downs for August

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1 AUGUST

 

1990 Soyuz TM-10 launch

Crew: Gennadi Manakov (CDR); Gennadi Strekalov (FE)

 

Mir Expedition 7. In addition to the cosmonauts, two quail were aboard: one laid an egg en route to the station, which was later returned to Earth for analysis. Docking was achieved on 3 August. Only one EVA was carried out, on 29 October, lasting 2h 45m, when the crew attempted to repair the Kvant 2 hatch. This had been damaged during a previous EVA by the TM-9 crew, when the hatch was released before the airlock was fully depressurised: it slammed open and damaged the hinges and would not close properly. (The crew were able to re-enter Mir only by using Kvant 2's central compartment as an emergency airlock, which it had been designed to do.) Unfortunately on this occasion Manakov and Strekalov were unable to repair the damage and the hatch was permanently sealed shut.

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2 AUGUST

 

1971 Apollo 15 lunar liftoff

LM: Falcon
Crew: Dave Scott (CDR); Jim Irwin (LMP)

 

After two days and eighteen hours on the lunar surface, which included one Stand-up EVA and three full Moonwalks, Falcon headed back towards orbit. For the first time the launch was televised, using the LRV camera, but because of the panning problems Mission Control decided not to try to follow the ascent stage as it climbed out of frame so the image was quickly lost. Seconds after liftoff came a blast of the Air Force song "Off we go, into the wild blue yonder", played by Al Worden aboard the CSM (Apollo 15 had an all-Air Force crew). This was supposed to have been done a little later and some at Mission Control were not happy, believing that the music could have drowned out any vital radio calls. But Falcon reached orbit safely and docked with the CSM. Once the crew and samples were transferred across, the ascent stage was jettisoned and eventually crashed on the lunar surface for the benefit of the seismometers. During the lunar exploration phase, Al Worden aboard the CSM had been conducting surveys of his own, using instruments in the Service Module's SIMBAY, a new addition to the J-Series spacecraft. There was one final task before TEI: the jettison of the PFS-1 sub-satellite to continue studies of the plasma, particle, and magnetic field environment of the Moon and to map the lunar gravity field. Data continued to be sent back until January 1973. On the flight home Worden performed an EVA, the first in cislunar space, to retrieve the film cassettes from the SIMBAY. This lasted 34 minutes, during which he was assisted by Irwin in his own SEVA.

 

 

 

1991 STS-43 launch

Crew: John Blaha (CDR); Michael Baker (P); Shannon Lucid, George Low, James Adamson (MS)

 

42nd Shuttle mission; ninth flight of Atlantis

Deployed the TDRS-E comsat, which ultimately reached its operational position in Clarke orbit. Other tasks on the flight included the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet experiment, the third of nine planned missions over an eleven-year solar cycle. The Protein Crystal Growth payload researched towards biomedical benefits such as improved insulin treatments for diabetics, while the Space Station Heat Pipe Advanced Radiator Element (SHARE II) studied coolant techniques for the then-planned Space Station Freedom.

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3 AUGUST

 

2004 Messenger probe launch

 

Messenger was an unmanned Mercury probe: the name not only referred to the mythological Mercury being the messenger of the gods but also stood for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging, presumably concocted by NASA's barrel-scraping department. The Delta II launch vehicle was not powerful enough to send the probe on a direct trajectory, as the Sun's gravity pull would accelerate it too much for orbit insertion to be possible. Thus Messenger had to follow a complex series of planetary flybys that brought it back to Earth a year after liftoff, by Venus on 24 October 2006 and again on 5 June 2007, and ultimately three encounters with Mercury itself on 14 January and 2 October 2008 and once again on 28 September 2009, before orbit insertion was finally achieved on 18 March 2011. The orbit was highly eccentric, ranging from 200 and 15,000km high, chosen to shield the probe from the heat radiated from the surface, The primary mission was completed the following year but the probe's operational life was extended twice and it was finally deorbited and crashed on the surface on 30 April 2015.

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4 AUGUST

 

1969 Mariner 7 Mars fly-by

 

Mariner 7 was the second of two Mars probes launched in the same window in early 1969. Mariner 6 flew past the target planet on 31 July, with its sister probe making its close encounter less than a week later. Contact with Mariner 7 had actually been lost on 29 July though the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed to regain the signal via the backup low-gain antenna and regained use of the high gain antenna again shortly afterwards. Leaking gases from a battery (which later failed) were thought to have caused the anomaly. Based on the observations that Mariner 6 made, Mariner 7 was reprogrammed in flight to take further observations of areas of interest and actually returned more pictures than Mariner 6, despite the battery's failure. Closest approach was 3,430km, less than half the distance of the earlier Mariner 4 probe. By chance, both spacecraft flew over cratered regions and missed both the giant northern volcanoes and the equatorial grand canyon discovered later. Their approach pictures did, however, photograph about 20 percent of the planet's surface, showing the dark features long seen from Earth, but none of the canals mistakenly observed by ground-based astronomers. In total 201 photos were taken and transmitted back to Earth. Both craft also studied the atmosphere of Mars. Mariner 7 was decommissioned on 28 December 1970.

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5 AUGUST

 

1997 Soyuz TM-26 launch

Crew: Anatoli Solovyov (CDR); Pavel Vinogradov (FE)

 

Mir Expedition 24. Docking was achieved two days into the mission and for a week the cosmonauts worked alongside the Expedition 23 crew before they departed for home. Also aboard was astronaut Mike Foale, who switched from the old to new expeditions. In late September Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis docked as STS-86 and Foale was replaced by David Wolf. In January 1998 Endeavour carried out another crew exchange, Andrew Thomas taking over from Wolf. The Shuttle departed on 29 January and on the same day Soyuz TM-27 was launched, carrying the Expedition 25 crew as well as French spationaut Léopold Eyharts. It had been hoped that the Soyuz could dock with Mir while Endeavour was still there, which would have resulted in a record thirteen people aboard at the same time, but the French vetoed this. However as the Shuttle was still in orbit when the Soyuz took off, the record was still set albeit not with everyone in the same place.

 

 

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6 AUGUST

 

1961 Vostok 2 launch

Pilot: Gherman Titov

 

Even after two suborbital Mercury flights the US was lagging behind the Soviets in the Space Race, and with Vostok 2 the bar was set even higher as Titov spent a whole day in orbit. To this day he remains the youngest person ever to go into space: at launch he was just 25 years 329 days old. Because of the length of his flight, Titov became the first person to eat and sleep in orbit: on the downside, he was also the first to experience space sickness. He settled down to sleep during his seventh orbit and due to his illness was allowed to sleep longer than planned: he awoke more than eight hours later but still felt very ill. However after twelve orbits he began to recover and soon felt normal.

 

 

 

1985 STS-51F landing

Crew: Gordon Fullerton (CDR); Roy Bridges (P); Karl Henize, Story Musgrave, Anthony England (MS); Loren Acton, John-David Bartoe (PS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

This had been Spacelab 2, in which a variety of experiments had been carried out. Of these the most publicised was probably of the least scientific benefit: a 'taste test' of Coca Cola and Pepsi using specially adapted cans. This came about when the Coca Cola company developed a can that could be used in space: retaining the fizz but preventing it spewing out, and persuaded NASA to test it. When rivals Pepsi learned this they insisted on being included and developed their own container. As far as the companies were concerned, the experiment was a failure as the astronauts later revealed they preferred the drink mix Tang, which could be prepared with chilled water. In contrast, there was no facility on board to chill the cola cans, which also fizzed excessively in microgravity.

 

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Because of the Abort to Orbit some payload activities had taken longer than anticipated so the mission was extended by one day: the eventual flight time was 7d 22h 45m and 127 orbits.

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7 AUGUST

 

1961 Vostok 2 landing

Pilot: Gherman Titov

Landing site: 70 km SE of Engels

 

When Vostok 2's re-entry capsule separated from the equipment module the connecting umbilical failed to disconnect, as had happened on Gagarin's flight. This prevented the spherical capsule taking up its correct attitude until the cable burned through, but once it was free it rotated to point the heat-shield in the right direction and re-entry went off smoothly, Titov ejecting as planned as the capsule was not designed to hit the ground with a man aboard. Flight time had been 1d 1h 18m and 17 orbits.

 

 


1971 Apollo 15 splashdown

Crew: DaveScott (CDR); Jim Irwin (LMP); Al Worden (CMP)

Splashdown point: 26° 13' N, 158° 13' W (Pacific Ocean, 500km north of Hawaii)

 

The Command Module's final descent caused some tense moments in Mission Control: when the capsule appeared on the monitor screen it was immediately apparent that one of the three main parachutes had failed to open properly. Fortunately this situation had been anticipated and the spacecraft was capable of landing safely on just two 'chutes. The crew were warned to prepare for a hard landing but did not find the splashdown impact excessively uncomfortable. They were picked up by the USS Okinawa and for the first time did not have to go into quarantine: it had been determined that there was no risk of lunar germs causing a world-wide infection. Flight time had been 12d 7h 12m. The astronauts had orbited Earth one and a half times prior to TLI. In addition, Scott and Irwin had completed 37 lunar orbits; Worden, who of course had remained in the CSM during the lunar surface activities, had circled the Moon 74 times.

 

 


1997 STS-85 launch

Crew: Curtis Brown (CDR); Kent Rominger (P); Nancy Davis, Robert Curbeam, Stephen Robinson (MS); Bjarni Tryggvason [Canada] (PS)

 

86th Shuttle mission; 23rd flight of Discovery

The original Pilot for this mission was Jeff Ashby, who withdrew for family reasons in March. The primary payload was the Cryogenic Infrared Spectrometers and Telescopes for the Atmosphere-Shuttle Pallet Satellite (CRISTA-SPAS 2), a joint venture between NASA and the German space agency DARA. This was a retrievable pallet carrying various experiments that had already flown on STS-66. It was deployed on 8 August and operated for around eight days before being retrieved and stowed for landing.

 

 

 

 

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8 AUGUST

 

1977 Salyut 5 re-entry

 

This had been an Almaz military station, concealed under the Salyut banner. It was occupied twice, by the crews of Soyuz 21 and 24; Soyuz 23 had been planned to dock but failed to complete the approach. Salyut 5 was in space for 412 days, 67 of them with cosmonauts aboard, and orbited the Earth 6,666 times, travelling approximately 270,409,616km.

 

 


1989 STS-28 launch

Crew: Brewster Shaw (CDR); Dick Richards (P); James Adamson, David Leestma, Mark Brown (MS)

 

30th Shuttle mission; eighth flight of Columbia

This was a classified DoD mission, with most aspects of the flight classified. It is known that two military satellites were deployed, but further details have not been released. This saw the first flight of a radiation experiment using a real human skull, seated in a plastic matrix representing tissue, and fitted with hundreds of dosimeters to record radiation levels. The skull, a female, would fly again on STS-36 and STS-31.

 

 


2007 STS-118 launch

Crew: Scott Kelly (CDR); Charles Hobaugh (P); Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Dafydd Williams [Canada], Barbara Morgan, Alvin Drew (MS)

 

119th Shuttle mission; 20th flight of Endeavour

This flight delivered the S5 truss segment to the ISS. Among the crew was Barbara Morgan, who twelve years earlier had participated in the Teacher-in-Space program and had been backup to Christa McAuliffe on the ill-fated STS-51L mission. In the intervening time she had been selected as part of NASA's Group 17 and was now a fully qualified astronaut Mission Specialist in her own right. Her presence was signified by a torch of learning on the mission patch. Docking with the ISS was achieved on 10 August: for the first time the new Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System (SSPTS) was used, enabling the Orbiter to draw power from the station's own electrical system to avoid running down its fuel cells and allowing for a longer on-orbit stay.

 

 

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9 AUGUST

 

1972 Shuttle go-ahead

 

Rockwell International were given Authority to Proceed with construction of the Space Shuttle Orbiter.

 

 


1976 Luna 24 launch

 

This was the final flight in the Soviet Union's unmanned lunar probe programme, though future missions are currently being planned. The probe landed successfully in the Sea of Crises, at 12.7145° N, 62.2097° E. A soil sample was gathered and deposited in the return capsule, which then launched back into space and parachuted down in Siberia on 22 August. To date, this is the most recent lunar sample to have been returned, and the probe was the last to make a soft landing on the Moon until the Chinese Chang'e 3 rover in December 2013.

 

 


1990 Soyuz TM-9 landing

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

 Landing site: 50° 51' N, 67° 17' E (72 km northeast of Arkalyk)

 

This had been Mir Expedition 6. Flight time was 179d 1h 18m; 2,833 orbits.

 

 


2005 STS-114 landing

Crew: Eileen Collins (CDR); James Kelly (P); Soichi Noguchi [Japan], Stephen Robinson, Andrew Thomas, Wendy Lawrence, Charles Camarda (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

This was the Return to Flight mission following the Columbia accident, but analysis of the launch footage revealed that portions of foam had again broken free from the External Tank and as a result the Shuttle was grounded again while the problem was examined. The crew were in no danger as none of the pieces had struck the Orbiter. Flight time was 13d 21h 32m; 219 orbits.

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10 AUGUST

 

1945 Death of Robert Goddard

 

Robert Hutchings Goddard (born 5 October 1882) was an American inventor who is credited with building the world's first liquid-fuelled rocket. His importance in the field was so great that he was commemorated on a 1964 postage stamp, which also depicts a Mercury-Atlas launch.

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1992 Soyuz TM-14 landing

Crew: Aleksandr Viktorenko (CDR); Aleksandr Kaleri (FE); Michel Tognini [France] (RC)

Landing site: 47° 25' N, 69° 21' E (136 km east of Dzheskasgan)

 

Viktorenko and Kaleri had formed Mir Expedition 10; their flight time was 145d 14h 11m and 2,303 orbits. Tognini had been launched alongside their replacements in Soyuz TM-15; his own flight time was 13d 18h 56m and 218 orbits.

 

 


2001 STS-105 launch

Crew: Scott Horowitz (CDR); Rick Sturckow (P); Patrick Forrester, Daniel Barry, Frank Culbertson, Vladimir Dezhurov, Mikhail Tyurin [both Russia] (MS)

 

106th Shuttle mission; 30th flight of Discovery

Delivered supplies and equipment to the ISS but also carried out a crew rotation: Culbertson, Dezhurov and Tyurin became Expedition 3, while the Expedition 2 team of James Voss, Susan Helms and Yuri Usachyov would return aboard the Orbiter. Docking was achieved on Day Three of the flight, and on Day Four the crew carried out the switch of the custom-fitted seat liners aboard the Soyuz lifeboat. As the liner of a replaced crewmember was removed from the Soyuz, that individual officially transferred to the Shuttle manifest, and the installation of a new liner signified the astronaut's switch to the ISS crew. Despite this, the formal start of Expedition 3 was marked by the final closure of the hatches prior to undocking.

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11 AUGUST

 

1962 Vostok 3 launch

Pilot: Andriyan Nikolayev

 

Since the last Vostok flight, the US had finally succeeded in launching two orbital missions, though each had lasted only three orbits, far short of Titov's day-long flight. However it was already clear that with each mission of their own, the Soviets were pushing the bar ever higher, so when Nikolayev was launched aboard Vostok 3 Western observers waited with interest to see what would happen. Initially it seemed to be a repeat of the previous mission but everyone was sure that something else was in the pipeline.

 

 


1991 STS-43 landing

Crew: John Blaha (CDR); Michael Baker (P); Shannon Lucid, George Low, James Adamson (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Main flight objective had been the deployment of the TDRS-5 satellite. Flight time was 8d 21h 21m; 142 orbits.

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12 AUGUST

 

1962 Vostok 4 launch

Pilot: Pavel Popovich

 

The Vostok 3 flight had been proceeding without major incident when the authorities sprang their big surprise with the announcement of a second launch: for the first time two men were in orbit simultaneously. The twin flight was hailed as “the first space rendezvous” but in fact was nothing of the kind: like the US Mercury, the Vostok spacecraft did not have the capability of in-flight manoeuvring: only its attitude could be adjusted. The launch vehicle delivered Vostok 4 into a pre-calculated orbit as its sister capsule passed overhead, but Popovich was unable to do anything to reduce the distance between the two. This made little difference to the Western media, however, and it was seen as a major leap forward. NIK AND POP MEET IN SPACE, one headline ran, ignoring the fact that the two craft had never come within six and a half kilometres of each other. What the joint mission did prove was the Soviets’ ability to prepare and launch two spacecraft within twenty-four hours (it was later revealed that both vehicles had used the same pad) as well as controlling two flights simultaneously, but many Western observers saw the entire operation as little more than a propaganda stunt. Some real scientific work was carried out, however: Nikolayev took many pictures of the Earth’s surface while Popovich photographed the horizon and terminator. Nikolayev had made the first live TV broadcast from orbit, allowing viewers to see him moving around the cabin. Popovich’s own broadcast showed what weightless conditions were like, with a pencil and notebook floating around freely: something that would become familiar to viewers in later years but seen for the first time here. The cosmonauts also enjoyed proper food: bite-size chunks of cutlets and pies, no doubt much more palatable than the puréed meals stored in tubes which had been supplied to Titov.

 

 

 

1977 Shuttle Orbiter ALT-1

Crew: Fred Haise (CDR); Gordon Fullerton (P)

 

An estimated 60,000 people congregated on Edwards Air Force Base to witness the historic first free flight of the Space Shuttle Orbiter: many camped out overnight to be sure of a good vantage point. Just after six in the morning local time, Haise and Fullerton strapped in to the Orbiter’s flight deck and began the long checkout process. Slight problems were found in the No. 3 computer, but the unit was replaced and the process continued. Half an hour before scheduled take-off time the assembly taxied out onto the runway and at precisely eight o’clock the brakes were released and the 747 began to roll. High atmospheric temperatures meant that the climb to the desired altitude took three minutes longer than anticipated: during this time the carrier aircraft was executing a slow turn to port to put it on the elongated “racetrack” course which had been followed during the earlier captive flight tests. Four minutes after take-off the Orbiter’s cabin pressure was reduced to two-thirds sea-level and the third APU was powered up. Forty-seven minutes into the flight the assembly had reached a height of 8,539m and everything was ready. The carrier aircraft now pitched down at an angle of 9° as Haise and Fullerton prepared for their big moment. At a speed of 280 knots and an altitude of 7,346m, the explosive bolts were triggered and Enterprise lifted cleanly away, 48m 28s after take-off. At the moment of separation the Orbiter’s No. 2 computer failed, but as it was one of five this was of no great concern. Haise immediately rolled the Orbiter to the right, while the carrier aircraft banked left, to ensure a quick increase in relative distance. Enterprise then levelled out again, her nose pitched down at an angle of 9° on a course of 350°. The flight plan now called for two left turns to put the Orbiter in line with the runway: before executing the first, Haise performed a practice flare manoeuvre and a short series of shallow banks to test the vehicle’s control surfaces. These would be carried out during descent from orbit to reduce the craft’s airspeed before landing: Enterprise’s velocity was cut from 250 to around 185 knots. With speed back up to 250 knots, Fullerton took control and made the first 90° turn: both pilots found the real Orbiter responded more crisply than the modified Gulfstream aircraft used for training. Haise made the second turn, putting the vehicle onto the final approach trajectory with the speed brakes open to the 30% position, 27°. As he acquired visual contact with the runway Haise noted that the Orbiter was too high and airspeed was increasing faster than anticipated: he therefore opened the speed brake to 40% but this had little effect. At a velocity of 270 knots he increased the brake setting to 50%, the planned limit for the first flight: Enterprise peaked at 285 knots, fifteen higher than predicted, and at an altitude of 270m Haise performed the landing flare, closing the speed brakes and lifting the nose. He held the Orbiter off the ground for some 600m beyond the planned touchdown point before settling the main wheels down at a speed slightly over 190 knots. The speed brake was opened up again to 100%, the rudder halves at a relative angle of 90°, and the nose slowly dropped. Touchdown had come 53m 51s after take-off and the Orbiter had been in free flight for a little short of five and a half minutes. After the spacecraft had come to a stop, the 747 carrier aircraft and the five T‑38 chase planes flew overhead in formation, a salute to the success of the flight.

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13 AUGUST

 

1989 STS-28 landing

Crew: Brewster Shaw (CDR); Dick Richards (P); James Adamson, David Leestma, Mark Brown (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

This had been a classified DoD mission, with few details of on-orbit activities released to the public. Flight time was 5d 1h, 81 orbits.

 

 


1998 Soyuz TM-28 launch

Crew: Gennadi Padalka (CDR); Sergei Avdeyev (FE); Yuri Baturin (RC)

 

Padalka and Avdeyev were to form Mir Expedition 26; Baturin would return to Earth with the retiring Expedition 25 crew. To free up the docking port, the Progress M-39 freighter had to undock; it remained in close orbit until the end of the month when it redocked with the station. On 15 August Padalka had to perform a manual docking when yet again the automatic system gave problems. After the departure of Soyuz TM-27 the crew settled down to the usual experimental programme: the only break from routine came on 17 November when the annual Leonid meteor shower was at its height: the cosmonauts had already installed a French-built detector to the exterior of the station in an attempt to capture meteor fragments, but now they were advised to take refuge aboard the Soyuz in case of damage to the station.

 

This was Gennadi Padalka's first space flight: by the time he retired in 2017 he would have flown five times, adding four full terms aboard the ISS to this Mir residency, spending a record 878 days in space and orbiting the Earth 13,791 times.

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14 AUGUST

 

1997 Soyuz TM-25 landing

Crew: Vasili Tsibliyev (CDR); Aleksandr Lazutkin (FE)

Landing site: 46° 46' N, 69° 42' E (168 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

Mir Expedition 23. German astronaut Reinhold Ewald had been launched alongside the crew in February but had remained aboard the station for a little under three weeks before returning home alongside the Expedition 22 crew. Flight time was 184d 22h 8m; 2,926 orbits. However the crew experienced a rough landing because the cushioning retro-rockets failed to fire.

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15 AUGUST

 

1962 Vostok 3 landing

Pilot: Andriyan Nikolayev

Landing site: 48° 02' N, 75° 45' E (200 km southeast of Karaganda)
1963 Vostok 4 landing

Pilot: Pavel Popovich

Landing site: 48° 10' N, 71° 51' E (193 km southwest of Karaganda)

 

After a joint flight lasting just under three days, during which the cosmonauts communicated by short-wave radio, Vostok 3 returned to Earth, touching down safely. Nikolayev's flight time was 3d 22h 22m and 64 orbits. He was closely followed by Popovich in Vostok 4, who touched down just six minutes later and some 200km away. However, Popovich was less fortunate in his landing: after ejecting from the capsule as planned, he came down in very strong winds and only narrowly avoided injury. When the recovery plane arrived he tried to signal to it to prevent the medical team, who were not trained parachutists, from jumping. They did so anyway and the cosmonaut had to help them catch and fold their chutes to avoid them being dragged by the wind. Popovich's flight time was 2d 22h 57m and 48 orbits: only later did it emerge that his flight should have lasted four days, as had Nikolayev's, but was cut short due to an unfortunate misunderstanding. Mindful of Titov's space sickness on Vostok 2, the authorities had instructed Nikolayev and Popovich to use the code word groza (thunderstorms) if they experienced the same symptoms, thus alerting the medics on the ground without anyone else knowing what was going on. However Popovich observed actual thunderstorms in the Gulf of Mexico and when he reported this it was mistakenly assumed that he was ill. Though he tried to explain the truth of the matter, the decision was taken to bring him down early.

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16 AUGUST

 

1962 S-IV first static firing

 

At Sacramento, California, the S-IV stage was test-fired for the first time. This had six RL-10 engines and would form the second stage of the Saturn I launch vehicle. Though this rocket was launched ten times, the S-IV was inert in the first four; however it achieved a 100% success record in its six live flights. It was later replaced by the more powerful S-IVB and the vehicle redesignated the Saturn IB.

 

 


1973 Space Shuttle contracts awarded

 

NASA awarded contracts to Martin Marietta for the construction of the Shuttle's External Tank, using the Boeing facilities at Michoud, Louisiana where the S-IC stage had been built, and to Morton Thiokol in Utah for the Solid Rocket Boosters.

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17 AUGUST

 

1996 Soyuz TM-24 launch

Crew: Valeri Korzun (CDR); Aleksandr Kaleri (FE); Claudie André-Deshays [France] (RC)

 

Korzun and Kaleri were to form Mir Expedition 22; André-Deshays, the first French woman in space, would return to Earth in Soyuz TM-23. Docking was successfully achieved two days later and the crew joined the Expedition 21 team, which included US astronaut Shannon Lucid. She would be replaced by John Blaha in September, with the arrival of STS-79. Blaha had himself been replaced by Jerry Lininger when a major problem arose in February: an oxygen cartridge caught fire and the crew had to put on gas masks. This was during the handover to the Expedition 23 team and Mir was occupied by six people; however the Russians played down the seriousness of the incident, though Lininger was not convinced and spoke out at length following his return to Earth.

 

Later, André-Deshays married fellow spationaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré, having been his backup for two separate missions. In July 1999 she would become the first woman to qualify as a Soyuz Return Commander, meaning she was able to command a Soyuz capsule during an emergency return from space.

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18 AUGUST

 

1961 Mercury sub-orbital programme cancelled

 

The original Mercury project plan envisioned all of the astronauts making an initial suborbital hop atop a Redstone booster before making an orbital flight aboard an Atlas. However delays in the programme resulted in the Redstone flights coming much closer to the Atlas flights than planned. By the time of the first suborbital Mercury flight, the Russians had already orbited Yuri Gagarin. After Grissom's flight, it was still planned to send John Glenn on a suborbital flight to prove the capsule. But Gherman Titov was launched on a full-day orbital flight in August 1961, making NASA's suborbital hops look pathetic. Glenn was moved to the first orbital Atlas flight, and further suborbital Mercury flights were cancelled.

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19 AUGUST

 

1979 Soyuz 34 landing

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

Landing site: 170 km SE of Dzheskasgan

 

The cosmonauts had been Expedition 3 to Salyut 6. They had been launched aboard Soyuz 32 in February, and had expected to return to Earth in Soyuz 33, but that spacecraft had suffered a propulsion failure and was unable to complete the rendezvous. As it was felt unsafe for Soyuz 32 to remain in orbit for the entire duration of the Salyut mission, Soyuz 34 had been launched unmanned while Soyuz 32 likewise landed empty. Lyakhov and Ryumin's flight time was 175d 0h 36m and 2,755 orbits.

 

 


1982 Soyuz T-7 launch

Crew: Leonid Popov (CDR); Aleksandr Serebrov (FE); Svetlana Savitskaya (RC)

 

This was the first Taxi Flight to Salyut 7, notable because its crew included Svetlana Savitskaya, only the second woman to fly into space. Her selection was no doubt prompted by NASA's plans to fly a female astronaut of their own. Docking was achieved on the second day of the flight and the day after that the custom-fitted seat liners were switched between the two spacecraft, which would allow the visiting cosmonauts to land on Earth aboard the older Soyuz T-5, leaving their own fresher capsule for the future return of the resident crew.

 

 


1997 STS-85 landing

Crew: Curtis Brown (CDR); Kent Rominger (P); Nancy Davis, Robert Curbeam, Stephen Robinson (MS); Bjarni Tryggvason [Canada] (PS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Other than the deployment and retrieval of the CRISTA-SPAS 2 pallet, the mission's primary function had been Earth resources studies, though experiments related to space station assembly techniques were also carried out. Because of predicted fog at the Kennedy Space Center, the mission was extended by one day. The eventual flight time was 11d 20h 27m and 189 orbits.

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20 AUGUST

 

1977 Voyager 2 launch

 

Voyager 2 was the first of two probes (Voyager 1 was launched 16 days later) dispatched to explore the outer planets of the Solar System. Though its primary mission was to study Jupiter and Saturn, its trajectory would enable it to visit Uranus and Neptune, thanks to a rare alignment of the planets that would allow it to use gravity assist to direct it towards its next target. In 1978 Voyager's primary receiver failed: though the probe's backup receiver was still operating, a failed capacitor meant it could only receive transmissions sent at a precise frequency which would be affected by the Doppler effect caused by the Earth's rotation! This resulted in engineers having to calculate a very specific frequency each time it was necessary to contact the probe. The Jupiter flyby took place on 9 July 1979 when Voyager passed within 570,000 km of the planet's cloud tops. The planet and several of its moons were studied before Voyager headed on to Saturn. This encounter occurred on 26 August 1981, but shortly afterwards the camera platform locked up, putting plans for the extended mission in jeopardy. Fortunately the engineers were able to overcome the problem and the flight continued, Voyager reaching Uranus on 24 January 1986. It discovered eleven previously unknown moons; though there was pressure from some quarters to name them for the astronauts who died in the then-recent Challenger accident, in the end International Astronomical Union policy was followed and the moons were named after characters from Shakespeare. Voyager's final port of call (to date) came on 25 August 1989 with a flyby of Neptune and its moon Triton. Voyager discovered not only six new satellites but also the planet's previously-unknown rings. The probe continued onward and on 5 November 2018 it was announced that Voyager had crossed the boundary into interstellar space. The probe is still active and it is estimated that in around 40,000 years it will pass within 1.7 light years of the star Ross 248, 10.3 light years from Earth. If the probe, this website and I are still around at that time I will post an update then.

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7 hours ago, GordonD said:

The probe is still active and it is estimated that in around 40,000 years it will pass within 1.7 light years of the star Ross 248, 10.3 light years from Earth. If the probe, this website and I are still around at that time I will post an update then.

In such a case I will be there to read it, and enjoy it just as much as I am today 👍

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On 8/20/2019 at 11:11 AM, GordonD said:

The probe is still active and it is estimated that in around 40,000 years it will pass within 1.7 light years of the star Ross 248, 10.3 light years from Earth. If the probe, this website and I are still around at that time I will post an update then.

Obviously I didn't seriously expect the three things to still be around in 40,000 years. However I did think that the site would manage to struggle along for at least one more day!

 

Good thing Mike wasn't involved in building Voyager 2!  😛

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21 AUGUST

 

1959 Little Joe 1

 

With confidence now high that the Mercury escape system would operate when the launch vehicle was still on the pad, attention switched to an in-flight abort scenario. To this end, Langley engineers had clustered together four Sergeant solid-fuel rockets in a design which acquired the name “Little Joe” after the crap-game dice throw of a pair of twos. The final version would use modified Sergeants, known as either Castor or Pollux depending on configuration. Later four smaller Recruit rockets were added to the design but the name stuck. The first test planned to have the escape system triggered at the point where the vehicle was experiencing Maximum Dynamic Pressure, known as Max-Q, and had been planned for July, but delays in the production of the capsule meant the flight was a month behind schedule. To get the programme back on track as soon as possible, NASA encouraged the engineers to work long hours in preparing the vehicle to fly. When the countdown finally began, the launch cradle was lowered to its lift-off position, ten degrees off vertical. Then at around thirty minutes before launch time the LES suddenly fired of its own accord, causing the engineers to dive for cover, no doubt under the impression that the whole vehicle was lifting off. The Mercury capsule was carried to a peak altitude of 640m and crashed into the ocean 800m downrange, twenty seconds later. The main parachute did not deploy and the spacecraft was destroyed on impact. Post-flight analysis traced the problem to an error in a wiring diagram which had led to the Little Joe’s self-destruct system being connected directly to the spacecraft’s “rapid abort” sequencer, which would go into action if the launch vehicle had developed a genuine malfunction that required the Range Safety Officer to cut short the flight. The capsule’s batteries had been shipped from the manufacturer in an uncharged state, but as launch time approached and the charge increased, they reached the point where sufficient power was held to trigger the escape rocket. The tower separated as planned but there was insufficient battery power to jettison the antenna canister and deploy the main parachute. During the assembly phase, the tired engineers had actually queried the routing of the wiring but it was found to be in accordance with the manufacturer’s diagrams. Despite this, the official investigation report stated that they should have foreseen the potential consequences of such an error when they raised the question!

 

 


1965 Gemini V launch

Crew: Gordon Cooper (CDR); P. Conrad (P)

 

The primary mission objective for Gemini V was to extend the space duration record to the eight days required for a flight to the Moon and back. Cooper and Conrad designed a mission patch—the first US crew to do so—depicting a covered wagon from the old West bearing the slogan “Eight Days or Bust”, bringing to mind the “California or Bust” motto of the Western pioneers. NASA officials were unhappy, however, thinking that this could be seen as tempting fate and embarrassing for the agency if the mission was to be cut short for any reason. The astronauts were forced to compromise, covering the slogan with scraps of parachute silk during the flight itself. Gemini V was the first spacecraft to be equipped with fuel cells rather than storage batteries, and minor problems with these combined with a thunderstorm at Cape Kennedy to delay the launch  by forty-eight hours, but at the scheduled time on 21 August the third manned Gemini flight got under way. The ascent to orbit was less smooth than on previous missions, the Titan II launch vehicle generating a longitudinal vibration known as “pogo”. While this was not unexpected and did not last long, it was a disconcerting experience and the astronauts were relieved when it dampened itself out. The spacecraft went into orbit five and a half minutes into the flight: meanwhile a twelve metre long section of the first stage was landing more or less intact in the Atlantic. But problems had already arisen aboard Gemini V, as pressure began to fall in the oxygen tank supplying the fuel cells, though at first it was not seen as serious enough to cause the termination of the flight. During the second orbit, Cooper deployed from the spacecraft’s Equipment Module a Radar Evaluation Pod fitted with a transponder similar to those that would be carried by the Agena docking target vehicles on future missions. The astronauts had barely begun evaluating Gemini’s radar system when they were advised that the oxygen pressure had dropped even further. Flight Director Chris Kraft instructed them to power down the spacecraft ready for a re-entry at the end of the sixth orbit: it seemed that the motto on the mission patch had after all tempted fate. Then on the fourth orbit the pressure finally stabilised and even started to climb slightly. The astronauts were given the go-ahead to continue with the mission, and though the radar pod had by now drifted too far away to be of use they were able to make a rendezvous with a “phantom” target, making four orbital manoeuvres during two circuits of the Earth to finish up just 1km from their objective. At the end of the seventy-fifth orbit, Kraft told the astronauts that they had just exceeded the flight duration of Vostok 5, to which Cooper’s reaction was a low-key, “At last, huh?” Though there was some consideration given to ending the flight after seven days, it was finally decided to let it go the distance, something that had seemed extremely unlikely during its first hours.

 

 


2007 STS-118 landing

Crew: Scott Kelly (CDR); Charles Hobaugh (P); Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Dafydd Williams [Canada], Barbara Morgan, Alvin Drew (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

The mission had delivered the S5 Truss to the ISS. Flight time was 12d 17h 56m and 201 orbits. The Orbiter was brought down slightly early due to bad weather: not at the Cape but in Houston, where Hurricane Dean was threatening the region.

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22 AUGUST

 

1963 X-15 flight #91

Pilot: Joe Walker

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

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

The ninety-first flight of the X-15, a month after the previous one, reached a peak altitude of 107.96km, the highest manned flight by a winged vehicle until the Space Shuttle went into service. In doing so pilot Joe Walker exceeded the 100km mark for the second time and became the first man to fly in space twice. The engine burn lasted 85.8 seconds and the maximum velocity reached was 6,106km/h (Mach 5.58). The spaceplane landed back at Edwards 11 minutes 8.6 seconds after separation from the carrier.

 

 

 

2001 STS-105 landing

Crew: Scott Horowitz (CDR); Rick Sturckow (P); Patrick Forrester, Daniel Barry, James Voss, Susan Helms, Yuri Usachyov [Russia] (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Voss, Helms and Usachyov were the retiring ISS Expedition 2 crew, having been launched aboard STS-102 back in March. Their flight time was 128d 20h 45m and 2,028 orbits. Discovery's remaining crew had been in space for 11d 21h 13m and 186 orbits. Due to rain showers in Florida the return was delayed by one orbit.

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23 AUGUST

 

1961 Ranger 1

 

Ranger 1 was a prototype of the unmanned probe that NASA would later send to the Moon. It was intended to go into parking orbit and then move into a 60,000 by 1,100,000km orbit to test the functionality of the hardware. Though it carried various scientific instruments there was no camera or midcourse correction engine. Launch was delayed several times: on 29 July there was an electrical power failure and the following day a leak was discovered in the attitude control system. On 31 July a valve malfunctioned in the Atlas launcher's LOX tank and the day after that when power was applied to the scientific instruments to calibrate them, the probe became fully activated: the explosive bolts attaching it to the launch vehicle were triggered and the solar panels tried to extend themselves within the payload shroud. Ranger had to be returned to the hangar for repairs. At long last on 23 August the probe was launched and entered its initial parking orbit, but when the Agena engine was restarted it shut down after only a few seconds. Instead of the planned high orbit, Ranger was left in one of just 170 by 500km. This meant that the probe was on the night side of Earth for 90 minutes of each orbit and in a vain attempt to lock onto the Sun the attitude control system ran out of propellant after only a day. The probe reverted to battery power and transmitted until they ran down four days later. Ranger 1 re-entered the atmosphere and burned up on 30 August.

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