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GordonD

Ups and Downs for September

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1 SEPTEMBER

 

1945 Von Braun arrives in the USA

 

Wernher von Braun and his team of six rocket scientists arrived at Fort Bliss, Texas: the first group of more than a hundred who would eventually settle in the US. This was a very controversial event: the war in Europe had been over for less than four months and many Americans still viewed them as 'the enemy' and considered they were being dealt with too leniently. However only one was ever tried (back in Germany) and he was acquitted. However in 1984 Arthur Rudolph, operations director for V2 missile production, was investigated over the use of slave labour, and renounced his US citizenship and returned to West Germany.

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2 SEPTEMBER

 

1996 Soyuz TM-23 landing

Crew: Yuri Onufriyenko (CDR); Yuri Usachyov (FE); Claudie André-Deshays [France] (RC)

Landing site: 50° 17' N, 70° 50' E (landing 107 km southwest of Akmola)

 

Onifriyenko and Usachyov had been Mir Expedition 21, which began in February, and had been joined by US astronaut Shannon Lucid in March. Lucid would remain aboard for a further three weeks until the next Shuttle visit; however this was not true of French spationaut Claudie André-Deshays, who had arrived aboard Soyuz TM-24 a fortnight earlier with the new resident crew but would be returning aboard TM-23. Following a normal deorbit burn the spacecraft landed safely. The Expedition 21 cosmonauts had been in space for 193d 19h 8m and 3,066 orbits; their French colleague for 15d 18h 24m and 249 orbits.

 

 


2015 Soyuz TMA-18M launch

Crew: Sergei Volkov (CDR); Andreas Mogensen [Denmark], Aydyn Aimbetov [Kazakhstan] (FE)

 

Of the multinational crew only Volkov would be staying aboard the ISS for a prolonged period, as part of Expeditions 45/46. The original crew manifest included the British singer Sarah Brightman (ex-wife of Andrew Lloyd-Webber), who had undergone training as a Spaceflight Participant, but dropped out for unspecified reasons in May. The six-orbit fast-track rendezvous was not followed on this mission because the ISS had carried out a debris avoidance manoeuvre and its altitude was not suitable for a 'same day' arrival. However docking took place normally on 4 September, marking the third occasion that three Soyuz craft were simultaneously linked to the station, with nine people aboard. This situation would last until TMA-16M departed on 11 September, ending the short stay of Mogensen and Aimbetov as well as the longer one of Gennadi Padalka.

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3 SEPTEMBER

 

1978 Soyuz 29 landing

Crew: Valeri Bykovsky (CDR); Sigmund Jähn [East Germany] (RC)

Landing site: 140 km SE of Dzheskasgan

 

Soyuz 29 had been launched in June bringing the Expedition 2 crew to Salyut 6. Now, following the soon-to-be-familiar spacecraft exchange, it was returning to Earth with the cosmonauts who arrived at the station a week earlier in Soyuz 31. The standard recovery procedure was changed with this flight, observers noted. In the past, the recovery of a civilian Salyut crew had been made on the orbit following the one which provided a nominal launch opportunity to Salyut. With this and subsequent flights, the landing occurred during the orbit which provided the nominal launch opportunity. The effect of this change was to have a landing window open some two to three days earlier than otherwise. Flight time had been 7d 20h 49m and 124 orbits.

 

 


1995 Soyuz TM-22 launch

Crew: Yuri Gidzenko (CDR); Sergei Avdeyev, Thomas Reiter [Germany] (FE)

 

Mir Expedition 20, also known as EuroMir 95 because of the inclusion of a German astronaut. Docking was achieved after a two-day solo flight and the cosmonauts worked alongside the Expedition 19 crew until they returned to Earth on 11 September. In November Space Shutle Atlantis arrived, delivering the Russian-built Docking Module as well as a pair of solar arrays: this marked the first time that astronauts from Russia, the USA, Canada and Europe were in orbit on the same complex.

 

 


2017 Soyuz MS-04 landing

Crew: Fyodor Yurchikhin (CDR); Jack Fischer, Peggy Whitson [both USA] (FE)

Landing site: 47°22'53.1"N, 69°34'09.6"E (147 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

Yurchikhin and Fischer had been ISS Expeditions 51/52 and their flight time was 135d 18h 8m and 2,112 orbits. Peggy Whitson had already been aboard the station when they arrived, as part of Expeditions 50/51, and though she had been due to return to Earth in June aboard Soyuz MS-03 she had agreed to remain in orbit for an extra crew cycle when financial cutbacks meant that MS-04 would be launched with only a two-man crew. By the time she finally landed, Whitson had broken several records: the longest flight by a woman (289d 5h 1m and 4,551 orbits), the cumulative flight duration for an American astronaut and a female (665d 22h 44m and 10,489 orbits over three flights) and the cumulative EVA duration by a woman (60h 21m on ten separate EVAs). The only record she failed to break was the single flight duration by a US astronaut, which remains with Scott Kelly at 340 days.

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4 SEPTEMBER

 

1962 NASA receives LEM proposals

 

Nine aviation companies submitted proposals to NASA for the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module: Boeing, Douglas, General Dynamics, Grumman, Ling-Temco-Vought, Lockheed, Martin-Marietta, Northrop and Republic Aviation. The space agency began initial evaluation the following day and on 13 and 14 September the companies gave their formal presentations at Ellington AFB in Texas. Between 17 and 19 September the evaluation teams visited the company sites. On 7 November NASA announced that the contract had been awarded to the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation.

 

 

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5 SEPTEMBER

 

1977 Voyager 1 launch

 

Voyager 1 was the second of two probes launched to explore the outer Solar System. (Voyager 2, which followed a slower trajectory, was launched first.) The probe overtook Voyager 2 on 19 December and encountered Jupiter on 5 March 1979, passing some 349,000km from the planet's centre. The last images of the Jovian system were sent back in April. The main achievement was the discovery of volcanic activity on Io, the first to be observed on another celestial body. On 12 November 1980 Voyager 1 made its closest approach to Saturn, passing within 124,000km of the planet's cloud tops. A close study was also made of Titan, coming within 6,400km. With that, Voyager 1's planetary observation programme was at an end (unlike its sister probe, it was not intended to encounter Uranus or Neptune) but on 14 February 1990 it took a photograph of the Solar System which included the Earth, a picture which became known as the 'Pale Blue Dot'. On 17 February 1998 Voyager reached a distance of 69AU from the Sun, overtaking Pioneer 10 as the most distant object from Earth. In March 2011 the probe was commanded to rotate by 70 degrees anticlockwise so it could measure the solar wind: the first time it had been instructed to adjust its attitude since 1990. In June 2012 it reported changes in its environment which scientists identified as signs that it was approaching the heliopause, the region where the solar wind is counterbalanced by that from interstellar space. In August it crossed the boundary of the Solar System, travelling at a velocity of 17km/sec. Beginning in 2020 its instruments will be shut down and by 2030 it will no longer have enough power to operate any of them.

 

 


1983 STS-8 landing

Crew: Dick Truly (CDR); Daniel Brandenstein (P); Guion Bluford, Dale Gardner, William Thornton (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

This had been the first night launch of the Shuttle programme; now it became the first night landing. Flight time was 6d 1h 9m and 98 orbits.

 

 


1984 STS-41D landing

Crew: Henry Hartsfield (CDR); Michael Coats (P); Mike Mullane, Steven Hawley, Judy Resnik (MS); Charles Walker (PS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Flight time 6d 0h 56m, 97 orbits

 

 


1989 Soyuz TM-8 launch

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

 

Mir Expedition 5. Viktorenko had to take manual control of the docking when the automatic system failed but this was achieved successfully. The cosmonauts' primary function was to activate the Kvant 2 module, which was due for launch on 16 October, but problems caused this to be delayed so their work schedule had to be heavily revised. The module was eventually launched on 26 November and though one of its solar arrays failed to deploy properly ground controllers managed to roll Kvant 2 so that the panel opened out and could be locked in position. Again a manual docking was necessary but once Kvant was in place it was relocated to the top radial port, giving the station a lopsided L-shape. On 1 February Serebrov carried out the first test of the Sredstvo Peredvizheniy Kosmonavtov or Cosmonaut Manoeuvring Unit, the Soviet equivalent of NASA's MMU. For safety reasons he remained attached to Mir by a 60m tether at all times.

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6 SEPTEMBER

 

1996 Galileo probe

 

The Galileo probe, in Jupiter orbit, encountered the planet's largest moon Ganymede for the second time. The gravity assist on the first encounter, in June, had reduced the probe's orbital period from 210 to 72 Earth days, which allowed more orbits and close encounters each year. This time Ganymede's gravity put Galileo into the same orbital plane as the planet's major satellites, permitting subsequent encounters with them. A radio-science experiment analysed Ganymede's gravitational field and internal structure, which revealed that Ganymede had an interior that was probably differentiated into a core and a mantle. The plasma wave experiment and magnetometer data gave evidence of an internally generated magnetic field.

 

The probe had been deployed from STS-34 in October 1989, several years late due to the delay following the Challenger disaster. As a result of its time spent in storage, the lubricant on the high gain antenna had deteriorated and it failed to open properly, like a lopsided umbrella, and Galileo had to rely on its backup antenna, which could transmit at only a fraction of the bitrate. 

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7 SEPTEMBER

 

1988 Soyuz TM-5 landing

Crew: Vladimir Lyakhov (CDR); Abdulahad Mohmand (Afghanistan)

Landing site: 160 km SE of Dzheskaskan

 

The return of Soyuz TM-5 came closer to going catastrophically wrong than any Soviet flight since Soyuz 11. Lyakhov and Mohmand had been launched aboard Soyuz TM-6 along with Valeri Polyakhov, who had remained aboard Mir for a lengthy stay. As a result there was a vacant seat aboard the spacecraft: had there been a full crew of three then what was to follow would have been even more unpleasant. The spacecraft undocked from Mir as planned, and following a relatively new procedure the Orbital Module was jettisoned prior to retrofire, to reduce the amount of propellant needed. However when the main engine fired, the computer incorrectly determined that they were out of alignment and shut down the engine. Lyakhov found that an infra-red sensor had been confused by solar glare and fed wrong information to the computer. Two orbits later retrofire was attempted a second time but once more the engine shut down after only a few seconds. As they pondered the problem the cosmonauts realised that the re-entry timer was still running, and the computer was preparing to jettison the Equipment Module. Had this happened, the cosmonauts would have died as they would be left stranded in orbit with no engines to bring them down. The timer was stopped and Mission Control began to determine what had gone wrong. By now the landing window had closed and the crew would have to remain in orbit for an additional day. The Orbital Module had been jettisoned, taking with it the sanitary facilities, so the cosmonauts were restricted to the cramped environment of the Re-entry Module. Nor could they return to Mir, as the docking mechanism had also departed with the OM. The problem was eventually traced to an incorrect computer program: at the time of the second retrofire attempt, it had instead tried to execute the rendezvous burn to reach Mir. Once the computer had been reprogrammed, the third attempt at retrofire went smoothly and the capsule touched down on target. Though the Soviet authorities tried to play down the situation, footage of Mission Control at the moment of landing showed the obvious relief of everyone concerned. The flight time had been 8d 20h 26m and 141 orbits, both obviously longer than planned. One immediate effect of the near-disaster was a change in procedure: in future the Orbital Module would be retained until after retrofire.

 

 


1995 STS-69 launch

Crew: David Walker (CDR); Kenneth Cockrell (P); James Voss, James Newman, Michael Gernhardt (MS)

 

71st Shuttle mission; ninth flight of Endeavour. The crew deployed and retrieved two scientific payloads: the Wake Shield Facility, a 3.6m-diameter stainless steel disk which would generate an ultra-vacuum environment behind it which could be used to grow thin semiconductor films for electronic uses, and the SPARTAN-201 experiment pallet on its third flight.

 

 


2016 Soyuz TMA-20M landing

Crew: Aleksei Ovchinin (CDR); Oleg Skripochka, Jeffrey Williams [USA] (FE)

Landing site: 47°18'09.96"N, 69°38'41.52"E (155 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

This had been ISS Expeditions 47/48. Flight time was 172d 3h 47m and 2,679 orbits.

 

 

 

 

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8 SEPTEMBER

 

1944 V-2 attack

 

In the evening of 8 September a V-2 ballistic missile struck Staveley Road in Chiswick, west London, killing 63-year-old Mrs. Ada Harrison, 3-year-old Rosemary Clarke and Sapper Bernard Browning, who was on leave from the Royal Engineers. Soon after, a second V-2 struck Epping, though there were no casualties. These were the first missiles to be fired at London, though earlier that day one had been aimed at Paris and caused minor damage near the Porte d'Italie. (Two other rockets had been fired towards Paris the previous day but had crashed shortly after launch.) Initially the Government tried to conceal the cause of the explosions by blaming them on defective gas mains, but the public were not fooled and began referring to the V-2s as "flying gas pipes". Not until the Germans themselves announced the V-2 on 8 November dud Churchill inform Parliament that London had been under rocket attack for the last few weeks.

 

 


2000 STS-106 launch

Crew: Terry Wilcutt (CDR); Scott Altman (P); Edward Lu, Rick Mastracchio, Daniel Burbank, Yuri Malenchenko, Boris Morukov [both Russia] (MS)

 

99th Shuttle mission; 22nd flight of Atlantis

This was one of the last missions to dock with the ISS prior to the arrival of its first occupants. At this point the station consisted of the Zarya base-block and the Zvezda module, plus a docked Progress freighter: the assembly was some 43.6 metres long and weighed 67 tonnes, with a habitable volume of 226.5 cubic metres. Docking was achieved on 10 September and various supplies and equipment delivered, including the toilet. One EVA was carried out, on 11 September, by Lu and Malenchenko, lasting 6h 14m, during which a 1.8-metre magnetometer and boom was attached to the exterior of Zvezda, and electrical and other cables connected between the two modules.

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9 SEPTEMBER

 

1994 STS-64 launch

Crew: Dick Richards (CDR); Lloyd Hammond (P); Jerry Lininger, Susan Helms, Carl Meade, Mark Lee (MS)

 

64th Shuttle mission; 19th flight of Discovery

Carried the LIDAR In-Space Technology Experiment (LITE) - an acronym within an acronym. LIDAR was short for Light Detection and Ranging, equivalent to RADAR but using laser pulses instead of radio waves. This was mounted on a pallet within the payload bay and the Orbiter flew with this pointed towards the Earth to study cloud structures, storm systems, dust clouds, pollutants, forest burning and surface reflectance. The crew also deployed and retrieved the SPARTAN-201 pallet. One EVA was carried out, on 16 September, when Meade and Lee spent 6h 51m evaluating various tools including the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER), a scaled-down version of the Manned Manoeuvring Unit for use in an emergency, should an astronaut become detached from the spacecraft.

 

 


2006 STS-115 launch

Crew: Brent Jett (CDR); Christopher Ferguson (P); Joseph Tanner, Daniel Burbank, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Steven MacLean [Canada] (MS)

 

116th Shuttle mission; 27th flight of Atlantis

Delivered the P3/P4 truss to the ISS. Docking was achieved on 11 September and three EVAs were carried out, all devoted to the connection and activation of the new truss segment: 12 September (6h 26m), Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper; 13 September (7h 11m), Burbank and MacLean; and 15 September (6h 42m), Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper again.

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10 SEPTEMBER

 

1960 J-2 contract signed

 

A NASA contract for approximately $44 million was signed by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation for the development of the J-2 engine, which would go on to be used in the S-II and S-IVB stages.

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11 SEPTEMBER

 

1995 Soyuz TM-21 landing

Crew: Anatoli Solovyov (CDR); Nikolai Budarin (FE)

Landing site: 50° 41' N, 68° 15' E

 

The crew had been Mir Expedition 19 and had actually been launched aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-71, which had taken home the three-man crew (including US astronaut Norm Thagard) who had flown to the station aboard the Soyuz. Their flight had lasted 75d 11h 20m and 1,194 orbits.

 

 


2013 Soyuz TMA-08M landing

Crew: Pavel Vinogradov (CDR); Aleksandr Misurkin, Chris Cassidy [USA] (FE)

Landing site: 47°23'16.994" N, 69°38'50.585" E (152 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

ISS Expeditions 35/36. Flight time was 166d 6h 15m; 2,581 orbits.

 

 


2014 Soyuz TMA-12M landing

Crew: Aleksandr Skvortsov (CDR); Oleg Artemyev, Steven Swanson [USA] (FE)

Landing site: 47°18'40,122"N 69°33'20,67"E (149 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

ISS Expeditions 39/40. Flight time 169d 5h 6m; 2,626 orbits.

 

 

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12 SEPTEMBER

 

1959 Lunik 2 launch

 

This was actually the Soviet Union's sixth lunar probe, though four had been complete failures and were not given the 'Lunik' name. In flight, the probe released a sodium gas cloud so that it could be optically tracked.

 

 


1962 JFK speech at Rice University

 

President Kennedy delivered one of the most iconic speeches of the century at Rice University, Texas. After illustrating how recent technological developments had been achieved by condensing the fifty thousand years of recorded history into a half-century period, he went on to say: "We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theatre of war... But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? WE CHOOSE TO GO TO THE MOON! We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

 

 

 

1966 Gemini XI launch

Crew: Pete Conrad (CDR); Dick Gordon (P)

 

The prime objective was to carry out a direct-ascent rendezvous and docking with the Agena target. simulating an emergency lift-off from the lunar surface. This was successfully achieved, with docking taking place just 94 minutes into the flight. The following day Gordon carried out an EVA during which he attached a 30-metre tether stored on the Agena to the nose of the Gemini. However he became overheated and Conrad ordered him back into the spacecraft after just 38 minutes of the planned 107. Once he was safely aboard the Agena engine was fired to boost the combination to a record altitude of 1,360km. On 14 September Gordon carried out a Stand-up EVA lasting over two hours, taking pictures of Houston and Florida. During the pass over the Atlantic there were no targets to photograph and both men fell asleep! When the Gemini passed into the night side Gordon took more pictures of astronomical targets before the EVA was brought to an end. With the craft back in a low orbit Gemini undocked and pulled back to the maximum length of the tether. The combines craft were then started rotating around their common centre of mass, creating the first artificial gravity in space. This could be measured but was not strong enough for the crew to feel it.

 

 


1991 STS-48 launch

Crew: John Creighton (CDR); Kenneth Reightler (P); Charles Gemar, James Buchli. Mark Brown (MS)

 

43rd Shuttle mission; thirteenth flight of Discovery

Deployed the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which would carry out an 18-month study of the troposphere. In the event the satellite's mission was extended several times and was finally terminated in June 2005 after nearly fourteen years. Meanwhile the Orbiter performed a Collision Avoidance Manoeuvre (COLA) to ensure if passed a safe distance from the derelict Kosmos 955 satellite, launched in 1977.

 

 


1992 STS-47 launch

Crew: "Hoot" Gibson (CDR); Curtis Brown (P); Mark Lee, Jay Apt, Jan Davis, Mae Jemison (MS); Mamoru Mohri [Japan] (PS)

 

Fiftieth Shuttle mission; second flight of Endeavour

Spacelab-J, sponsored by the Japanese space agency NASDA. Mohri became the first Japanese astronaut to fly on the Shuttle, while Jemison was the first black woman in space. In addition Mark Lee and Jan Davis were the first married couple in space, which led to much speculation as to what might have happened in orbit, though NASA firmly denied that that experiment had been conducted.

 

 


1993 STS-51 launch

Crew: Frank Culbertson (CDR); William Readdy (P); James Newman; Daniel Bursch; Carl Walz (MS)

 

57th Shuttle mission; 17th flight of Discovery

On 12 August a launch attempt was called off at just T-3 seconds, with the Orbiter engines already running, due to faulty fuel flow sensors in one of them. However this time everything went according to plan and Discovery was able to deploy its primary payload, the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite, which was successfully boosted to geostationary orbit. Also deployed was the free-flying ORFEUS-SPAS pallet, on its fourth flight. It was released on 13 September and retrieved six days later. On 16 September Walz and Newman carried out an EVA lasting 7h 5m, evaluating tools, tethers and foot restraints.

 

 


2009 STS-128 landing

Crew: Rick Sturckow (CDR); Kevin Ford (P); Patrick Forrester, José Hernábdez, Daniel Olivas, Christer Fuglesang [Sweden], Tim Kopra (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Kopra had been replaced by Nicole Stott as a member of the ISS Expedition 20 team. His flight time was 58d 2h 50m and 920 orbits. The remaining crew had completed 219 orbits in 13d 20h 54m.

 

 


2015 Soyuz TMA-16M landing

Crew: Gennadi Padalka (CDR); Andreas Mogensen [Denmark], Aydyn Aimbetov [Kazakhstan] (FE)

Landing site: 47°21'46"N, 69°38'36"E (153 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

Only Padalka had been aboard TMA-16M at launch: his colleagues, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korniyenko, were midway through their "Year in Space" mission when it was time for him to return. He was accompanied by a Dane and a Kazakh, who had been launched aboard TMA-18M a little over a week earlier. Their flight time was 9d 20h 14m and 156 orbits. Padalka's, as a member of Expeditions 43/44, was somewhat longer, at 168d 5h 9m and 2,619 orbits. This had been Padalka's fifth mission: one six-month stint aboard Mir and four aboard the ISS had given him a record-breaking total duration of 878 days 11 hours 31 minutes and no fewer than 13,791 orbits.

 

 


2017 Soyuz MS-06 launch

Crew: Aleksandr Misurkin (CDR); Mark Vande Hei, Joseph Acaba [both USA] (FE)

 

ISS Expeditions 53/54. The approach to the station followed the 'fast track' course with docking being achieved just six hours into the mission.

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13 SEPTEMBER

 

1959 Lunik 2 lunar impact

Crash site: 29.1°N 0°E (east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus).

 

Launched the previous day, Lunik 2 became the first man-made object to make contact with another celestial body. The probe carried instruments to search for radiation belts and a lunar magnetic field but found neither.

 

 


1961 MA-4

 

Two astronauts had now flown the Mercury capsule, but the spacecraft had still to reach orbit. The previous attempt had ended in disaster after the launch vehicle’s inertial guidance system failed. But confidence was high after two successful manned flights (the loss of Grissom’s capsule after splashdown notwithstanding) and MA-4 showed that this was not misplaced. Utilising the capsule that had survived the MA-3 fiasco, the flight got under way on time despite the threat of hurricanes in the recovery area. The booster engines shut down slightly early but the Atlas control system managed to compensate and the spacecraft was placed into its planned orbit. After separation from the Atlas, the capsule was rotated to flight attitude, heat-shield forward, the manoeuvre taking slightly longer than expected. The Mercury tracking network now went into action for the first time, picking up flight data and relaying it back to the Cape. Telemetry from the capsule indicated that the cabin conditions were normal, with the Simulated Man placing the same loads on the system as an astronaut would have done. Everything appeared to be running smoothly, apart from two small attitude thrusters that failed early in the mission. But that was a minor problem, and after one orbit the retro-rockets were fired to bring the spacecraft down. The last major test was of the heat-shield, subjected now to severe heating for more than seven times as long as on a sub-orbital flight. But everything went well, the capsule landing safely, and the stage was set for the final test: an orbital mission carrying a chimpanzee.

 

 

 

1977 Shuttle Orbiter ALT-2

Crew: Joe Engle (CDR); Dick Truly (P)

 

Post-flight analysis following the first Air-Launched Test had revealed that the Orbiter was much more lift-efficient than anticipated, which had resulted in Enterprise’s speed and altitude being rather greater than expected as it made the final approach. The flight plan for the second test included a series of complex manoeuvres at both high and low speeds to evaluate the vehicle’s flying characteristics. Originally scheduled for 30th August, the flight was brought forward by four days because the first test had proved so successful; however bad weather intervened for the first time in the programme: heavy rain flooded the normally dry lakebed and it was mid-September before conditions were once again suitable. At 8:00 am local time the combination left the ground and climbed to separation altitude, which it reached some forty-eight minutes later. After release, Orbiter and carrier banked in opposite directions to ensure they separated quickly. Engle now made several movements with the control stick to evaluate Enterprise’s response before the first 90° turn to the left. This manoeuvre placed a 1.8g load on the Orbiter’s structure, the heaviest stress to which the vehicle had been subjected. Further stick movements were made while the speed brake was opened to 50% for a few seconds, before the Orbiter landed. As on the previous test, the dry lakebed runway was used in preference to a concrete strip. Free flight time had been 5m 28s.

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14 SEPTEMBER

 

1968 Zond 5 launch

 

Zond 5 was the first probe to circle the Moon and return safely to Earth. It was initially planned as a manned mission but two consecutive failures (an in-flight abort and a launch pad explosion which killed three technicians) had led to caution and the probe carried only two tortoises, fruit fly eggs and plant life. On 18 September the probe looped around the Moon, some 1,950km above the surface, and headed back towards Earth.

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15 SEPTEMBER

 

1966 Gemini XI splashdown

Crew: Pete Conrad (CDR); Dick Gordon (P)

Splashdown site: 24° 15,4' N, 70° 0' W (1,330 km southeast of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean)

 

After a successful mission in which a record altitude was achieved, Gemini XI carried out the first fully automatic re-entry and splashed down just 4.5km from the recovery ship, the USS Guam. Flight time was 2d 23h 17m and 44 orbits.

 

 


1976 Soyuz 22 launch

Crew: Valeri Bykovsky (CDR); Vladimir Aksyonov (FE)

 

The Soyuz 22 spacecraft was the back-up for the Apollo-Soyuz mission, which would have been launched had anything gone wrong with the primary capsule. As this was not suitable for use as a Salyut ferry, the androgynous docking mechanism was removed and replaced with an East German-built multi-spectral camera system, equipped with six lenses (four visible light and two infrared) which could image a 165km-wide strip of the Earth's surface and cover an area of over 500,000 square kilometres in just ten minutes. The spacecraft was placed in an orbit inclined at 64.75° to the Equator, which allowed it to monitor a NATO exercise taking place in Norway - too far north for Salyut. However the camera system was far more sophisticated than would be needed for simple military reconnaissance so if this was part of the mission objective it was only a small one.

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16 SEPTEMBER

 

1996 STS-79 launch

Crew: Bill Readdy (CDR); Terry Wilcutt (P); Jay Apt, Tom Akers, Carl Walz, John Blaha (MS)

 

79th Shuttle mission; 17th flight of Atlantis

This was the fourth Shuttle/Mir docking, though the first to do so when the station was complete: Priroda, the last of the add-on modules, had arrived in April. John Blaha would join the Expedition 22 crew while Shannon Lucid was set to return to Earth aboard Atlantis.

 

 


2011 Soyuz TMA-21 landing

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

Landing site: 47°19'11,6" N, 69°30'06,8" E (144 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)

 

ISS Expeditions 27/28. Flight time was 164d 5h 41m and 2,576 orbits.

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17 SEPTEMBER

 

1857 Birth of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

 

Tsiolkovsky was born (on 5 September under the Julian Calendar) in Izhevskoye, now in the Spassky District, Ryazan Oblast in the Russian Empire. At the age of ten he became hard of hearing after contracting scarlet fever and was not allowed to attend school, so was self-taught and became interested in mathematics and physics. As a teenager he began to contemplate the possibility of space travel, and is now considered one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry and astronautics, along with Robert Goddard, Robert Esnault-Pelterie and Hermann Oberth. He published around ninety pieces on space travel and related subjects, including designs for rockets with steering thrusters, multistage boosters, space stations, airlocks and closed-cycle biosystems for space colonies. His works influenced later rocket scientists throughout Europe: Russian search teams at Peenemunde found a German translation of one of his books, with almost every page annotated by Wernher von Braun. 

 

 


1985 Soyuz T-14 launch

Crew: Vladimir Vasyutin (CDR); Georgi Grechko (FE); Aleksandr Volkov (RC)

 

Vasyutin and Volkov were Salyut 7 Expedition 5, while Grechko was along to inspect the repairs to the station carried out by Dzhanibekov and Savinykh. He and Dzhanibekov would return in a week's time, with Savinykh remaining aboard.

 

 


2012 Soyuz TMA-04M landing

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

Landing site: 50°59'11,6"N, 67°15'22,2"E (85 km NE of Arkalyk)

 

ISS Expeditions 31/32. Flight time was 124d 23h 52m and 1,946 orbits.

 

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18 SEPTEMBER

 

1964 A-102/SA-7 launch

 

The flight plan for the seventh Saturn I flight was in most respects a repeat of the sixth. This time around there was no repetition of the premature engine shutdown that had affected SA-6: all eight first-stage motors performed flawlessly. The second stage and its boilerplate CSM payload was injected into orbit as planned: again, no attempt was made to separate spacecraft from launch vehicle and the combination burned up after four days. At the end of the mission NASA announced that all objectives of the Saturn I development programme had been met, three flights earlier than expected.

 

 


1980 Soyuz 38 launch

Crew: Yuri Romanenko (CDR); Arnaldo Tamayo Meéndez [Cuba] (RC)

 

Seventh flight of the Interkosmos programme, with the first Cuban cosmonaut, who also became the first black man in space. Docking with Salyut 6 was uneventful, on the second day, and the crew joined forces with the Expedition 4 team for the usual round of scientific experiments and Earth-resources studies concentrating on the guest cosmonaut's homeland.

 

 


1991 STS-48 landing

Crew: John Creighton (CDR); Kenneth Reightler (P); Charles Gemar, James Buchli. Mark Brown (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

The mission had deployed the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite. Flight time was 5d 8h 28m and 81 orbits.

 

 


1995 STS-69 landing

Crew: David Walker (CDR); Kenneth Cockrell (P); James Voss, James Newman, Michael Gernhardt (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Scientific mission had deployed and retrieved two free-flying probes. Flight time was 10d 20h 29m, 171 orbits.

 

 


2006 Soyuz TMA-9 launch

Mikhail Tyurin (CDR); Michael Lopez-Alegria [USA] (FE); Anousheh Ansari [USA] (SP)

 

Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria would form ISS Expedition 14. Iranian-born Ansari was a fare-paying passenger, who along with her brother-in-law had established the $10 million X-Prize for the first private spaceflight (won by Burt Rutan's SpaceShip One two years earlier). She was actually backup on this mission but the primary choice, Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto, was medically grounded a month before launch.

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19 SEPTEMBER

 

1935 Death of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

 

Two days after his 78th birthday spaceflight pioneer Tsiolkovsky died in Kaluga, some 200km southwest of Moscow, following an operation for stomach cancer. His contribution to the exploration of space was huge: though he never built any rockets his designs were practical and in 1903, in a paper called Exploration of Outer Space by Means of Rocket Devices he calculated the speed required for an object to remain in stable orbit. The Russian State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics, located in Kaluga, bears his name, as does the most prominent crater on the far side of the Moon. In addition, the log cabin where he lived out his final years is also a museum, and the Monument to the Conquerors of Space, a 107m-tall obelisk in Moscow, is fronted by his statue.

 

 

 

1961 Houston selected as location of MSC

 

NASA Administrator Webb announced that the new Manned Spacecraft Center would be in Houston, Texas, the conclusion of an intensive nationwide study by a site selection team. Not only the Mission Control Center itself but also training and research facilities would be located here, leading to an influx of astronauts and their families during the 1960s. 

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20 SEPTEMBER

 

1992 STS-47 landing

Crew: "Hoot" Gibson (CDR); Curtis Brown (P); Mark Lee, Jay Apt, Jan Davis, Mae Jemison (MS); Mamoru Mohri [Japan] (PS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

Spacelab-J, financed by the Japanese space agency NASDA. Flight time was 7d 22h 30m, 126 orbits. This was a day longer than planned to allow completion of some of the experiments.

 

 


1994 STS-64 landing

Crew: Dick Richards (CDR); Lloyd Hammond (P); Jerry Lininger, Susan Helms, Carl Meade, Mark Lee (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB

 

Carried the LIDAR, an optical equivalent of radar using laser pulses for Earth-resources surveys. The return was delayed by a day due to bad weather in Florida; however conditions had not improved twenty-four hours later so the landing was switched to Edwards. Eventual flight time was 10d 22h 50m; 176 orbits.

 

 


2000 STS-106 landing

Crew: Terry Wilcutt (CDR); Scott Altman (P); Edward Lu, Rick Mastracchio, Daniel Burbank, Yuri Malenchenko, Boris Morukov [both Russia] (MS)

Landing site: Kennedy Space Center

 

ISS assembly flight 2A.2b, according to NASA's somewhat confusing numbering system. There would be one more before the station was ready for occupation. Flight time was 11d 19h 11m; 185 orbits.

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