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This day in Space History 
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Post This day in Space History
At another forum I frequent, I started a thread about two years ago. Initially, I posted it in their history subforum to report on the distribution of the Space Shuttle orbiters to their museums.

Funny story, I got a little carried away.

Off an on, I have been posting mementos from space exploration, astronomy and rocketry history. The only real rule I had, with little exception, was that it had to have occurred at least 10 years ago.

I decided to spread the joy to my furry friends as well. :3

I've actually been thinking of starting this thread for a while, but I wanted to pick a good launch point. (Pun intended. :P )

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57 years ago today, the Space Age began when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 (official name Простейший Спутник-1, Simple Satellite 1) from Site 1/5, Tyuratam missile range (now Baikonur Cosmodrome), in present-day Kazakhstan.

Its launcher, the R-7 Semyorka ICBM, was designed long before the Soviets figured out how to miniaturize nuclear warheads. Then again, its designer, Sergei Korolev, probably designed it more for space travel than for war.

But more on that, and him, another time.

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The Soviets originally wanted to launch a more sophisticated satellite, but delays led them to launch what is effectively merely a radio transponder. They were still able to get data. Originally launched into a 133x583 mile orbit, they were able to figure out that there was indeed a rarefied atmosphere at that height, as they determined as drag slowly pulled the satellite into a lower orbit. Studying its simple signal allowed scientists to learn about the properties of the ionosphere.

The probe weighed a mere 185 pounds, and was powered by a battery. It would be a long time yet before solar cells were first used. Sputnik was active for just over three weeks, and re-entered the atmosphere three months after launch.

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Sat Oct 04, 2014 2:44 pm
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132 years ago today, American rocketry pioneer Robert Hutchings Goddard was born.

Born at a time when electric power was a novelty, he was interested in science from an early age. A spiritual experience not long after he turned 17, however, turned his focus skyward. While health issues depressed his educational pursuits in his youth, he worked hard to catch up, and rigorously studied Samuel Langley's work in aerodynamics.

(If the name "Langley" rings a bell, that's because his namesake is on one of NASA's research facilities in Virginia.)

He eventually became a salutatorian at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and began writing about theories in space travel. Scientific American thought it was too ahead of our time for one paper to be published.

Goddard created 214 patents. (131 were published after his lifetime.) His first one was actually in communication: he invented a vacuum tube that produced radio waves, an innovation that would propel modern radio.

A set of grants in the 1910s, a total of $8,500 between the Smithsonian Institution and Clark University, propelled Goddard's early work in rocketry. His work began with refining solid fuel rockets, but his imagination turned to the possible use of liquid fuels. In 1919, he published a story about using multi-stage liquid rockets to reach space.

An editor at The New York Times called him a quack, claiming (ultimately wrongly) that Goddard's comprehension of Newton's laws of motion was flawed.

The paper would retract the editorial during Apollo 11.

Anyway, the Smithsonian grant lapsed, and Goddard went on his own. He finally launched his first liquid-fueled rocket on March 16, 1926. It was the first liquid rocket ever successfully launched.

As he continued his tests, Goddard got some serious allies. His experiments captured the imagination of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, and ultimately led to patronage from the Guggenheim family. He would move his experiments to New Mexico, where ultimately he would conduct 26 launches prior to US involvement in World War II.

The US, however, was skeptical of rocket research, and didn't provide the funding made available in Nazi Germany. After a reconnaissance mission in the late 1930s to monitor German aviation technology, Lindbergh told Goddard they were keeping any rocketry research under tight wraps. Goddard was certain they were doing something.

Right at the end of his life, in 1945, Goddard got his hands on captured V2 rockets from Germany, and was certain they had used some of his ideas. But with their funding, they were able to go a lot further than he ever imagined. Indeed, their chief designer, Wernher von Braun, admitted to using Goddard's research, and even asked American media after he turned to our side why they didn't know more about his work.

Goddard suffered tuberculosis for most of his life, but it was throat cancer that ultimately got him. He died in Baltimore on August 10, 1945. It was only fitting that von Braun would take up his mantle from then on; it was around that time that Operation Paperclip was bringing his perfected research home.

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Sun Oct 05, 2014 7:06 am
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24 years ago today, Space Shuttle Discovery was launched on STS-41 from Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center. The prime mission was deployment of Ulysses, a probe designed to be sent into a polar orbit around the Sun via fly-by of Jupiter.

The crew of five featured some important names in later space exploration moments. Pilot Bob Cabana would command two Shuttle missions, including the first International Space Station assembly mission. He's currently KSC's Director. Mission specialist Bill Shepherd would command the first ISS Expedition crew. Mission specialist Tom Akers would be involved in a notable satellite repair on Endeavour's maiden flight in 1992.

(BTW: The orbiter in the foreground was Columbia. It was waiting on Pad 39A for STS-35, but they were having issues.)

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Ulysses is derived from an idea in the late 1970s called the International Solar Polar Mission. The earliest ideas for the mission involved using a backup copy of Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11. Ultimately, the probe for the mission was assembled by the European Space Agency. Its name was pulled from The Odyssey, using its Latin translation for additional reference to The Divine Comedy.

In addition to the two stages of the solid-fueled Inertial Upper Stage, it was also deployed by a Thiokol Star-48 Payload Assist Module. It flew over the north pole of Jupiter on February 8, 1992, in what was effectively a massive change of inclination; the largest-scale change yet made of its kind. This maneuver placed Ulysses in an orbit with a perihelion slightly over 1 AU, and an aphelion slightly over 5 AU, at an inclination of 80.2°. Each orbit would take about six years.

The probe would study the dynamics of the Sun's polar regions first in 1995, then in 2000. It would pass through the cometary tails of at least four recognized comets, including most recently the Great Comet of 2006, Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1). It would also make long-distance observations of Jupiter in 2004.

The mission officially ended on July 1, 2008, after four mission extensions, as the final X-band comm link failed. Contact ceased not long after when the final S-band comm link failed.

The mission was originally planned for May 1986 on STS-61-F, and would've been the first probe deployed from a Shuttle orbiter with the LH2/LO2-fueled Centaur-G upper stage. This was delayed by the Challenger disaster, and moved to a different upper stage. Ironically, Challenger was originally supposed to deploy Ulysses.

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Last edited by Kitch on Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:10 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Oct 06, 2014 6:18 am
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Post Re: This day in Space History
You have me at a loss with most of your extensive knowledge of space travel, Kitch. Its very informative and I wish I could contribute more to the discussion. I know some about the early days of the Soviet space program.

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Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:21 am
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Post Re: This day in Space History
I have an entire book on the Soviet manned space program.

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It's the holy grail of my library. It goes from Sputnik through to the last lapse in the manning of Mir in 1989.

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Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:42 am
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56 years ago today, Project Mercury was started by NASA.

The objective of the program was actually quite simple: launch a man into space, and see how his body reacted to prolonged periods of microgravity.

While the criteria for astronaut selection was originally very wide, with NASA officials originally having no issue selecting from any man or woman who was willing to accept the risk, President Eisenhower insisted they use experienced military pilots—with an emphasis on test pilots—first. Ultimately, the criteria would be narrowed to an age range of 25-40. In addition, they required a college degree in a scientific field (which, unfortunately, eliminated supersonic pioneer Chuck Yeager). Spacecraft design would additionally limit pilot size to a height of 5' 11".

The project picked up the slack from the Air Force's "Man In Space Soonest" program, which was briefly considered earlier in 1958, but canceled that August.

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Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:07 am
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Post Re: This day in Space History
I'll have to track that book down. I do some basic facts about the Russian/Soviet space program:

First artificial satellite: Sputnik 1
First living creature in space: Laika
First pictures of the dark side of the moon


and of course the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin. Its sad that a man who was the first person to leave this planet died in plane crash.

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Last edited by Radio Blue Heart on Tue Oct 07, 2014 7:28 pm, edited 3 times in total.



Tue Oct 07, 2014 5:49 pm
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Post Re: This day in Space History
Who was the man in question that died?

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Tue Oct 07, 2014 7:19 pm
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Post Re: This day in Space History
Amazee, If you're referring to 10/5, that was just the first man to launch a liquid-fueled rocket.

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Wed Oct 08, 2014 11:13 am
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Post Re: This day in Space History
37 years ago today, Soyuz 25 was launched from Site 1/5, Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Intended to be the first mission to the Salyut 6 space station, which was launched 10 days before, a failure of the docking latch on the spacecraft resulted in the mission being aborted. Cosmonauts Vladimir Kovalyonok and Valeri Ryumin would land 185 km NW of Astana, Kazakhstan, two days after launch.

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Salyut 6 was the Soviet Union's first step toward their mastery of long-duration spaceflight. On the outside, it looked similar to previous civilian-class space stations. But on the rear end of the station, instead of a large engine block, there was a second docking port. This allowed for two Soyuz spacecraft to dock with the station at the same time. As a result, long-term expeditions were frequently joined by short-term crews.

In addition, a new class of spacecraft, the Progress cargo ferry, was designed to resupply the station on-orbit. It could bring fuel, water, backup oxygen, food, and new experiments.


Attachments:
Soyuz 25.jpg
Soyuz 25.jpg [ 96.36 KiB | Viewed 769 times ]

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Thu Oct 09, 2014 6:46 am
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Post Re: This day in Space History
Radio Blue Heart wrote:
First pictures of the dark side of the moon
hmm... If you wait half a month, the dark side of the moon is the bright side and vice versa. ;)

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Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:01 am
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Post Re: This day in Space History
Render wrote:
Radio Blue Heart wrote:
First pictures of the dark side of the moon
hmm... If you wait half a month, the dark side of the moon is the bright side and vice versa. ;)

Oh, ha ha.

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43 years ago today, the Soviet Union intentionally de-orbited their first space station, Salyut 1.

Salyut 1 had been launched on a Proton-K rocket that April, but neither mission to it went well. The first mission, Soyuz 10, was unable to dock. The second mission, Soyuz 11... well, I'll get to that later.

It was only designed to last three months on-orbit. They raised its orbit in hopes of waiting out a third mission, but they ran out of other supplies in the interim. They decided to force it into a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean to ensure no debris struck a populated land mass (especially not in the United States).

The Soviet Union would follow the same for all their space stations except for Salyut 7, which they lost contact with before they could de-orbit.

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Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:01 am
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Post Re: This day in Space History
Today, you get a double feature!

Some days aren't that busy. Others are chocked full of historic moments.

Also, on this one I am going to make a unique historical reference. During the period of 1964 through 1973, Cape Canaveral was known as Cape Kennedy. I will go into detail on that later.

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46 years ago today, NASA launched the first manned mission of the Apollo program, Apollo 7, on a Saturn IB rocket from Pad 34, Cape Kennedy.

It was the only manned flight from Pad 34, and thus far the last manned flight out of Cape Canaveral (until Dragon V2 ramps up). It would be the only manned flight with the Saturn IB in the Apollo lunar program.

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The crew for the mission was CM pilot Donn Eisele, commander Wally Schirra and LM pilot Walter Cunningham. The third astronaut in Apollo was always termed LM pilot even if there was no lunar module.

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Immediately after achieving orbit, the crew detached their CSM from their S-IVB upper stage. Its panels did not detach from the stage, resulting in a four-jawed "angry alligator". It did not interfere with their rendezvous test.

It was going to be an interesting 11-day mission.

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45 years ago today, having lost the race to the Moon, the Soviet Union pressed on anyway with the launch of Soyuz 6 from Site 31/6, Baikonur Cosmodrome, with commander Georgi Shonin and flight engineer Valeri Kubasov on-board.

It was the first of three missions that would orbit simultaneously. The prime objective of Soyuz 6 in particular was orbital manufacturing experiments. In the orbital module was the Vulkan vacuum welder, which could use three different welding methods.

It was also supposed to film Soyuz 7 and Soyuz 8 docking together. We'll get to that.

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Sat Oct 11, 2014 7:31 am
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Got another double feature today.

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50 years ago today, the Soviet Union launched Voskhod 1 from Site 1/5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, with commander Vladimir Komarov, engineer Konstantin Feoktistov and medical specialist Dr. Boris Yegorov on-board. It was the first space mission with more than one crew member.

The Voskhod spacecraft was the exact same as the previous Vostok spacecraft which, while a lot roomier than Mercury, was still originally designed for only one cosmonaut. It's fairly amazing that they were able to cram three cosmonauts into the Vostok capsule. But it also meant there was no provision for escape in case of a launch incident. In addition, a solid-fuel rocket was placed on the parachute line to allow for a softer landing that humans could escape injury from. This is similar in concept to the landing system used by the Curiosity rover which NASA launched to Mars in 2012, though far more rudimentary.

The mission lasted a day, and was primarily dedicated to biomedical research. It landed the next day, about 100 miles NW of Astana, Kazakhstan.

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45 years ago today, the Soviet Union launched Soyuz 7 from Site 1/5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, with commander Anatoly Filipchenko, and flight engineers Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Gorbatko.

The objective of the flight was to fly in tandem with Soyuz 6, and ultimately dock with Soyuz 8. Again, we'll get to that...

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Sun Oct 12, 2014 11:04 am
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45 years ago today, the Soviet Union launched Soyuz 8 from Site 31/6, Baikonur Cosmodrome, with commander Vladimir Shatalov, and flight engineer Aleksei Yeliseyev on-board. It was the first tandem flight for three separate spacecraft, with seven setting the record for number of humans in space at the same time.

Soyuz 8 was supposed to dock with Soyuz 7. However, something went wrong with the actual docking maneuver. They had issues with their Igla docking system, whose electronics were housed in a chamber pressurized with helium. They didn't realize it at the time, but helium actually degrades semiconductors. It would be another four years before they figured that out.

If they had succeeded, then Yeliseyev would've transferred to Soyuz 7, while Volkov and Gorbatko would've transferred to Soyuz 8.

Each of the three missions would last five days, returning in order on consecutive days without incident. All three missions landed roughly between present-day Astana and Karagandy.

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Mon Oct 13, 2014 5:52 am
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17 years ago today, NASA launched Cassini on a Titan IV 401B rocket from Pad 40, Cape Canaveral, on its way to Saturn.

Cassini was one of the most elaborate missions yet undertaken to orbit any planet other than our own. In addition to myriad experiments, it carried the Huygens lander which would land on Titan, allowing our first visuals of the surface of the only natural satellite with a dense atmosphere.

Even with the Titan IV rocket and the Centaur high-energy upper stage, it still required a series of gravity assists to make it to Saturn. Its first fly-by of Venus, on April 26, 1998, boosted its velocity by 7 km/s, in an orbit that took it out past Mars. It then flew by Venus again on June 24, 1999, beginning its terminal outbound trek, flying by Earth on August 18.

It flew by Jupiter on December 30, 2000. Galileo was in orbit around Jupiter at the time. It would finally reach Saturn on July 1, 2004, nearly 7 years after launch. It has been in orbit around Saturn ever since, examining the planet through slowly changing seasons, as well as its many moons, including over 100 close fly-bys of Titan. Its mission is currently planned to end in 2018.

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Wed Oct 15, 2014 6:29 am
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39 years ago today, the first modern weather satellite, GOES 1, was launched on a Delta 2914 rocket from Pad 17B, Cape Canaveral.

It was placed into geosynchronous orbit, and put together all the research of the previous 15 years in one package, providing the modern infrared imagery that is taken for granted today in meteorology.

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GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. The first one was originally "SMS-3", for the previous experimental "Synchronous Meteorological Satellite" program, before the operational program was created.

GOES 1 was used over the Indian Ocean after in-orbit checkout. It would replace SMS-2 over the Pacific Ocean in 1978, before being decommissioned in 1985.

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Thu Oct 16, 2014 9:32 am
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51 years ago today, the selection of Astronaut Group 3 was announced by NASA.

The image above is alphabetical L-to-R, seated first. Seated are Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Bill Anders, Charlie Bassett, Alan Bean, Gene Cernan and Roger Chaffee. Standing are Michael Collins, Walter Cunningham, Donn Eisele, Theodore Freeman, Dick Gordon, Rusty Schweickart, Dave Scott and Clifton Williams.

These astronauts would make up the meat of the Apollo program, with some (Aldrin, Bean, Cernan, Collins, Gordon, Scott) getting later Gemini flights. However, only four of them (Aldrin, Bean, Cernan, Scott) would actually walk on the Moon. Only Cernan and Scott would command lunar missions.

Roger Chaffee died in the Apollo 1 fire before he got to fly. Bassett, Freeman and Williams would die in training accidents, all killed by accidents in T-38 Talon training jets. Bassett was killed while training for the Gemini 9 mission.

None were involved in the Space Shuttle program. Alan Bean commanded Skylab 3, while Rusty Schweickart was backup commander of Skylab 2.

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Fri Oct 17, 2014 5:57 am
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25 years ago today, Atlantis was launched on STS-34 from Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.

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The primary task of the mission was to deploy Galileo on its journey to Jupiter. It was deployed on the two-stage solid-fuel Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), a common upper stage for larger payloads deployed by the Space Shuttle.

The mission had been delayed for a long time due to various issues. When the Shuttle was planned to start in 1979, it was scheduled for launch on STS-23 in 1982. Delays in Shuttle development bought Galileo more development time. The final probe was ready in 1984, but other delays in payloads led to it finally being slotted in for STS-61-G on Atlantis on May 20, 1986. It would've been launched five days following Ulysses; I'm unsure how far apart their respective arrivals at Jupiter would've been spaced.

Following the Challenger disaster, it was delayed to this mission. The original four-man crew ended up flying STS-30.

As another interesting note, for the original 1982 slot, it was set to use the IUS. However, in the interim, they approved the use of a Centaur upper stage, allowing a direct path to Jupiter. After Challenger, they scrapped that idea and went back to IUS. Using the weaker upper stage led to a roundabout path, using a series of gravity assists with Venus and Earth to get to Jupiter.

On its first path around the Sun, it swung by Venus and Earth, leading to an orbit that skimmed the Asteroid Belt. It would visit the asteroid 951 Gaspra along the way. A second fly-by of Earth would send it to Jupiter, with a pass by asteroid 243 Ida along the way.

Of course, there was a huge issue that was a direct result of its delays. Two years into the mission, NASA discovered the primary high-gain antenna on Galileo was broken. In waiting 6 years to launch, and another 2 years in space to deploy, the lubricant got depleted.

This is how it was supposed to look:

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This is how it is believed it ended up, based on data from the deployment failures:

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They would be forced to get by on the low-gain antenna, which only allowed a raw bandwidth of 160 bps at best at the extreme distance of Jupiter. Later they implemented data compression, allowing it to achieve 1 kbps. If the high-gain antenna worked, they predicted a bandwidth of 134 kbps.

They were still able to get 70% of their possible data thanks to their digital tape recorders. Galileo would end up spending most of its orbits around Jupiter sending data to Earth.

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Last edited by Kitch on Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:12 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Oct 18, 2014 9:01 pm
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44 years ago today, the Soviet Union launched Zond 8 for a cislunar flight around the Moon. It took black-and-white and color photos of the Moon and of Earth.

Zond was a cut-down version of the Soyuz spacecraft that lacked the orbital module. It was intended to be part of their lunar landing program, as the orbital module in the program would actually be part of the lunar lander.

The original plan was for two different spacecraft to be launched. The lunar lander would be launched by the enormous N1 rocket. But that debacle is for an entirely different day.

Anyway, Zond 8 would take an exotic return path, putting it over the north pole to an eventual splashdown in the Indian Ocean. Unlike many of the previous attempts, it succeeded in executing an aerodynamic skip-return re-entry. Most of the previous successful flights ended up doing ballistic re-entries that would've harmed on-board cosmonauts were they manned.

It would be the final launch of the Zond program. Two remaining planned flights were canceled. All the attempts were unmanned. The alleged reason was that they did not trust the Proton rocket to lift men. It's a reasonable issue, considering only 1/3 of the Zond spacecraft launched ever made it to the Moon. The Proton-K rocket was still not very reliable at the time, though all the rocket failures did result in successful launch escape system tests.

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Mon Oct 20, 2014 8:07 am
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What makes the International Space Station tick?

Progress, of course.

Progress is the name of the Russian spacecraft that has been servicing their space stations for the past 36 years. It's really a very simple system. Using Russian expertise on automated spaceflight, they send a spacecraft modeled on Soyuz to dock with the space station, providing more fuel, auxillary oxygen and water, and various supplies and equipment.

The original Progress 7K-TG spacecraft (Progress 1 through 42, along with the last one, Kosmos 1669; 1978-1985) was modeled on the Soyuz 7K-T, and was entirely battery-powered. It was launched by the workhorse Soyuz U rocket.

The next version, Progress 7K-TGM (known as Progress-M, 67 of which were launched; 2000-2009), was designed in tandem with the Soyuz TM specifically for Mir. It added solar panels.

An updated Progress-M1 was used briefly around the beginning of the ISS, but it only brought more fuel at the expense of other supplies. When the Columbia disaster jeopardized the supply stream, Progress M1 was quietly put away.

The most recent updates to the Progress-M are based on the Soyuz TMA-M spacecraft, and add digital computer systems. They are now launched by the Soyuz-2 rocket. A new version, the Progress-MS, is currently in the works, and will begin service in 2015.

There have been only two incidents involving Progress spacecraft. Progress M-34 in 1997 accidentally collided with Mir during a docking test that didn't use the Kurs docking system, wrecking the Spektr module.

In 2011, Progress M-12M was lost when the Blok I third stage failed, cutting off its engines and falling back to Earth over Altai, Russia. The launch failure came at a fortuitous time, as the ISS had just permanently received the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module from the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135, with over a year of extra supplies.

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Thu Oct 23, 2014 7:10 am
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Post Re: This day in Space History
54 years ago today, a disaster struck the Soviet space and rocketry program.

In the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolev was hardly the only game in town. He had several rivals, all vying for money from--and glory for--the Party. One of those rivals was Mikhail Yangel, the head of OKB-586 (today known as Yuzhmash) and the designer of the R-16 ICBM.

On October 24, 1960, the first test launch of the R-16 was scheduled to occur at Pad 41/3, Baikonur Cosmodrome. An electrical fault halted the countdown, and the commanding officer of the Strategic Rocketry Forces, Marshal Mitrofan Ivanovich Nedelin, commanded the engineers of OKB-586 to work the problem immediately while it was still fueled. Nedelin even set up a lawn chair to oversee the work personally.

The R-16 was the Soviet Union's first ICBM to use hypergolic fuels. It used UDMH for fuel and fuming nitric acid (instead of nitrogen tetroxide) for oxidizer.

Into the work, Yangel snuck into a bunker to smoke a cigarette. While he was away, the second stage's ignition was accidentally triggered, and the rocket exploded.

74 people died instantly, included Marshal Nedelin. 48 would die later due to burns and/or poisoning. Yangel escaped unharmed.

The Soviet Union would keep the incident classified until 1989, when they finally admitted to the disaster as part of glasnost. Before then, they said Marshal Nedelin died in an airplane crash. The incident is still a crux for some of the many "lost cosmonaut" conspiracy theories which claim several cosmonauts have died above and beyond those killed in Soyuz 1 (1967) and Soyuz 11 (1971).

As for Yangel, he was not found at fault for the incident. He went on to design the R-36 ICBM, which was the basis of the Tsyklon and Dnepr rocket families. Dnepr today is the official rocket used for space launches by Ukraine. As part of the settlement at the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had to give up its nuclear warheads to Russia, but was allowed to keep the rockets they were on.

To this day, Russia does not do any work at Baikonur Cosmodrome on October 24.

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Fri Oct 24, 2014 11:08 am
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If it seems like I post a lot of Soviet and Russian space history, that's because there is a lot of Soviet and Russian space history.

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46 years ago today, the Soviet Union returned to manned spaceflight following the Soyuz 1 disaster with the launch of Soyuz 3, with Georgi Beregovoi on-board.

Soyuz 2 was launched unmanned a day before as a possible docking target. Beregovoi was able to make multiple rendezvous, but use of manual control resulted in poor angles to attempt docking. He would land four days later near Karagandy, present-day Kazakhstan, with extra cushioning following a blizzard.

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Sun Oct 26, 2014 4:53 pm
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53 years ago yesterday, the first Saturn I rocket, SA-1, was launched from Pad 34, Cape Canaveral.

It was only a Saturn I first stage on a structural launch test. It passed with flying colors, lifting to 136.2 km height and impacting the Atlantic about 330 km downrange.

It cut off about 2 seconds earlier than anticipated, but that was routed to the fact that they only loaded it 83% full of propellant, and they calculated the intermix slightly wrong, with 400 kg too much LO2, and 410 kg too little RP-1.

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Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:28 pm
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Launch tonight. Orbital Sciences is launching its third Cygnus cargo carrier on an Antares 130 rocket from Pad 0A, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, on Wallops Island, Virginia.

It was supposed to launch yesterday, but the launch was interrupted when a boat strayed into the restricted zone downrange. They couldn't remove it before the launch window closed.

Launch is scheduled for 6:22pm EDT, and should be visible along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast, and as far inland as Pittsburgh, weather permitting.

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Cygnus is one of the two spacecraft used by NASA as part of the Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) to insource NASA cargo capability for the International Space Station back to the United States. Cygnus, designed and launched by Orbital Sciences, can carry 2 metric tons of cargo to the ISS, and dispose of 1.2 metric tons of trash through destructive re-entry. Like Progress, it is not designed to return to Earth.

The Antares rocket is a small-cargo rocket. Its first stage is powered by two Aerojet AJ-26 engines with a total thrust of 734,000 lbs., fueled by RP-1 (kerosene) with liquid oxygen as its oxidizer. This particular launch will be conducted with the new Antares 130 variant, with an uprated Castor 30XL solid-fuel upper stage. If successful, the next launch will be an enhanced Cygnus that will carry 50% more cargo.

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The other CRS spacecraft is Dragon, designed and launched by SpaceX. It is launched by the Falcon 9 rocket from Pad 40, Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida.

Dragon is designed with a pressurized capsule, and an unpressurized trunk which can carry cubesats, or equipment that can be removed by ISS's remote manipulators and stowed on the outside of the station. Unlike Cygnus, Dragon is designed to be able to return equipment to Earth. Its return capsule uses an aerodynamic re-entry, with splashdown off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. It can deliver 3.3 metric tons of supplies and equipment in any combination of pressurized and unpressurized. It can remove 3.3 metric tons from the ISS, with up to 2.5 metric tons able to return to Earth, and the remainder being disposed of in its unpressurized trunk.

SpaceX is currently designing a manned version of Dragon, Dragon V2, as part of another NASA program to insource crew transportation for the ISS back to the U.S. as well.

The Falcon 9 rocket is certified under the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, placing it in the same class as the Boeing Delta IV and the Lockheed Martin Atlas V. Its first stage is powered by nine SpaceX Merlin 1D engines, with a total thrust of 1.3 million pounds at launch and an engine-out capability (It can survive an engine failure during launch). Its second stage is powered by a single Merlin Vacuum 1D engine, for 180,000 lbs of thrust. Both stages are powered by RP-1 and liquid oxygen.

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Tue Oct 28, 2014 6:55 am
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I could tell something was wrong the moment it lifted off. I am familiar with how an Antares rocket typically lifts off, and this one was sluggish. It reminded me somewhat of the beginning of that spectacular Proton-M failure last year.

This one, however, didn't even last that long. The engines burst six seconds after liftoff, and the rocket fell to the pad. It exploded on impact.

The support structure is still standing, but the pad is likely heavily damaged. This will probably greatly delay, if not jeopardize outright, the Cygnus program.

Funny that I mention Russia in this. There is a connection.

The Aerojet AJ-26 engines I mentioned yesterday are actually imported Russian engines. The NK-33 engine, specifically. They were the engines used in their failed N1 lunar rocket program. Aerojet imports and refurbishes them for the Antares rocket.

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Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:25 pm
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Good thing it was unmanned.

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Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:15 pm
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16 years ago today, Discovery was launched on STS-95 from Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.

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Among the seven-person crew was John Glenn, on his second flight 36 years after his first. At age 77 at the time, he remains the oldest person ever to fly in space.

The mission was a SpaceHab mission with biomedical experiments, many of which were aimed at geriatrics.

The launch was the only Space Shuttle launch attended in person by a sitting president, as Bill and Hillary Clinton watched from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. It was also the only launch in the history of American manned spaceflight to receive a 100% weather favorability forecast from the Air Force 45th Space Wing.

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Wed Oct 29, 2014 11:57 am
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12 years ago today, Russia launched Soyuz TMA-1 to the International Space Station on a Soyuz-FG rocket from Pad 1/5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

In addition to being the first manned launch on the updated Soyuz-FG, it was the first of a new variety of Soyuz. TMA was a minor update over the Soyuz-TM, which largely updated the seating to allow for the transport of larger American astronauts.

It was initially a taxi flight. Russia agreed to swap their Soyuz spacecraft every six months as an emergency vehicle while the Space Shuttle transported actual crews. This enabled the inclusion of visitors to the ISS.

On-board this mission were commander Sergei Zalyotin, flight engineer Yury Lonchakov, and Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne of the European Space Agency. Originally, N*SYNC singer Lance Bass was supposed to board this flight as a space tourist, but he never finished training. Lonchakov took his spot instead. They would land in Soyuz TM-34 eight days later.

After the Columbia disaster on February 1, 2003, crew exchange shifted to Soyuz. Soyuz TMA-2 launched in April 2003 with the next crew, while the Expedition 6 crew of Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin, and American astronauts Ken Bowersox and Don Pettit, returned on Soyuz TMA-1 on May 4, 2003. A navigational computer malfunction resulted in a ballistic re-entry, and they landed 300 miles short of their targeted landing zone.

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Thu Oct 30, 2014 7:11 am
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I'm going to go ahead and leave this here tonight, since I'll be occupied all weekend.

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14 years ago today, the continuing occupation of the International Space Station began with the launch of Soyuz TM-31 on a Soyuz-U rocket from Pad 1/5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

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On-board (L to R) were flight engineers Sergei Krikalev (someone who will be mentioned frequently) and Bill Shepherd, and mission commander Yury Gidzenko.

They docked initially at the aft port of Zvezda, upon which they became Expedition 1, and Bill Shepherd assumed the role of Expedition Commander. In February 2001, it would move to Zarya nadir to accommodate Discovery on STS-102. STS-102 would take Shepherd, Krikalev and Gidzenko home, replacing them with the Expedition 2 crew.

Soyuz TM-31 would move back to Zvezda aft that April, then be replaced by Soyuz TM-32 in May. It would return home with the Soyuz TM-32 launch crew—including the first space tourist, Dennis Tito—on May 6, 2001, landing 90 km NE of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan.

There's actually an 'i' in Gidzenko's first name, but the censor catches it if I spell it right.

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Thu Oct 30, 2014 9:47 pm
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50 years ago today, Mariner 3 was launched on an Atlas-Agena rocket from Pad 13, Cape Kennedy.

Although it was successfully injected into its transfer orbit to Mars, there was just one little problem: the payload fairing never detached. It died within a few days when it drained its batteries.

Fortunately, NASA had a second attempt ready that month.

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Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:13 am
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48 years ago today, Lunar Orbiter 2 was launched on an Atlas-Agena rocket from Pad 13, Cape Kennedy.

The first Lunar Orbiter mission was wrought with difficulties due to quirks in the Moon's gravity field. Lunar Orbiter 2 utilized the lessons learned in the mission before, and proved more fruitful.

Lunar Orbiter 2 took 208 of the planned 211 photographs, then developed and transmitted them. All but five were successfully relayed to Earth; a transmitter failure occurred toward the end. NASA was able to get high-res photos of 12 of the 13 potential lunar landing sites they were targetting, including what would eventually be Tranquility Base, the landing site of Apollo 11.

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The spacecraft remained in orbit for 11 months to better study the gravimetrics of the Moon. It was de-orbited on October 11, 1967, impacting on the far side of the Moon, about 25 miles SW of King crater.

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Thu Nov 06, 2014 7:39 am
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51 years ago today, NASA conducted Apollo Pad Abort Test 1, the first test of the Apollo launch escape tower, at Pad 36, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

By all accounts, unlike the early issues with the Mercury escape tower, this first test went without a hitch. The Apollo boilerplate, BP-6, was lifted up and away, though I don't have data on how far it travelled.

The only issue was that the exhaust singed the exterior of the capsule.

Orion's pad abort test was conducted in 2010, also at White Sanda. SpaceX is currently preparing to conduct the pad abort test for Dragon V2 at Cape Canaveral.

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Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:00 am
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47 years ago today, NASA launched the first Saturn V rocket from Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center, carrying the Apollo 4 CSM.

Although the pad was a full 3 miles away from the Vehicle Assembly Building, the shock waves of 7.5 million pounds of thrust were still incredible, nearly shaking down the CBS press trailer with Walter Cronkite inside. That would result in NASA springing to put water-based sound suppression systems at both pads, pumping water straight from the Atlantic to deaden the shock waves at launch.

The CSM was placed in an initial 183x188km parking orbit, then used the S-IVB engines to lift its apogee to over 17,000 km. From there, they used the service module engine to accelerate the command module to simulate a lunar return. It splashed down 300 miles NNW of Midway Island, only 16 km off-target, 9 hours after launch.

During its coast, it took over 750 images of Earth. Its trajectory, however, resulted in all the images being of a crescent Earth.

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Sun Nov 09, 2014 10:08 am
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32 years ago today, NASA launched Columbia on the first operational Space Shuttle mission from Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center.

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On-board was the first four-man crew: commander Vance Brand (center left), pilot Robert Overmyer (center right), and mission specialists Joe Allen (furthest left) and William Lenoir (furthest right). Brand, a 1966 ("Original 19") selection, was the only veteran on the flight. Overmyer came from the 1969 USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory transfer. Allen and Lenoir were selected in 1967 ("The XS-11"), with Lenoir being on a backup crew for Skylab.

They would be the first American crew to launch and land without pressure suits.

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The mission was very simple: deploy two satellites. Those were Anik C-1 and SBS-3, both of which were to ride Thiokol Star-48 PAM-D kickmotors to geostationary transfer orbits (GTO's).

A spacewalk was also planned, but issues with their brand new Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuits led them to cancel. The mission lasted five days.

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Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:50 pm
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45 years ago today, Apollo 12 was launched to the Moon from Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center. On-board were commander Pete Conrad, CM pilot Richard Gordon and LM pilot Alan Bean.

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Yes, that scene from the episode "That's All There Is" in From the Earth to the Moon was accurate. They really did end up with matching Corvettes.

The crew knew the landing (and all subsequent, not knowing Apollo 13 would later happen) was likely going to be overshadowed by Apollo 11 for all eternity, so they made every effort to stand out. It was a good thing this particular crew had the follow-up task.

Of course, Mother Nature would help. The mission was launched in a driving rainstorm, and the rocket was struck twice by lightning, putting the CSM computer bus on the fritz. The ground offered the command "SCE to Aux", something that was obscure, but which Bean had learned about during training. This fixed the computers, and the rest was fixed when first-stage separation went normally.

(NASA never did learn its lesson. Skylab was launched in poor weather, and there are several early Shuttle flights that were launched in poor weather as well.)

The ground was concerned the strike could've fried the parachute system. They ignored it, and didn't tell the crew; if it was fried, they'd be dead whether they completed the mission or not.

TLI went normally, and the circus was on its way.

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Fri Nov 14, 2014 7:10 am
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26 years ago today, the Soviet Union made the only launch of their space shuttle analogue, Buran, strapped to an Energia rocket from Pad 110/37, Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Buran was essentially a ripoff of our Space Shuttle orbiter, but it did have some key differences. For starters, the orbiter itself did not have on-board main engines. The Energia rocket did all the heavy lifting. Another difference is that Buran, like all Soviet spacecraft, was automated, so its first flight could be done without cosmonauts on-board.

The Energia rocket used a large cylindrical LH2/LO2 core stage, and four RP-1/LO2 strap-on boosters. The boosters were essentially Zenit rockets. The full stack produced 7.8 million pounds of thrust at launch.

Buran would land after two orbits at Baikonur Cosmodrome, despite 38mph crosswinds. It lost five thermal protection tiles, but otherwise maneuvered well in orbit and on re-entry.

The program fell victim to the fall of the Soviet Union, and Buran itself was destroyed in 2002 when the hanger it was being stored in collapsed over it during maintenance. Even so, Russia considered reviving their Space Shuttle program and finishing assembly of their next shuttle, Ptitchka, when the Columbia disaster occurred. Ptitchka is now owned by Kazakhstan, and is kept at Baikonur Cosmodrome. It was about 95% done when the program was canceled.

The launch was also the last for the Energia rocket. Even though the rocket itself had two flawless launches , they didn't see a purpose for it beyond their Space Shuttle that couldn't be done with the Proton rocket.

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Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:17 am
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45 years ago today, the Apollo 12 Lunar Module, Intrepid, landed at Oceanus Procellarum in the subregion now known as Mare Cognitum, with commander Pete Conrad and LM pilot Alan Bean. While not officially named like Tranquility Base, the crew nicknamed the landing area "Pete's Parking Lot".

The idea of a "precision landing" should be given a couple qualifiers. It was actually about 600 feet short of its intended target, as the actual target looked a bit rough. However, where they landed put them closer to Surveyor 3 than their original target, landing a mere 600 feet away from it. It was the first time a manned spacecraft had intentionally encountered an unmanned spacecraft after that amount of time.

The first EVA began at 6:44am EST.

Video of the first step here. The jumpdown occured at 0:51 on the video, with the actual step-off 15 seconds later. The smugness in Conrad's voice sells it. He actually made a $500 bet with a reporter that he would say that exact line. Allegedly, he was never able to collect on it, likely on the technicality that his line came not when he stepped onto the Moon's surface itself, but when he jumped down from the bottom of the egress ladder to the LM's footpad.

Also notice that the TV camera was color. Not long after, Bean would try to plant the camera elsewhere so they could televise the first EVA. He accidentally pointed it at the Sun, blowing out the SEC tube. There would be no further live video from the surface of the Moon, though they would still have their slow-scan cameras.

The first EVA was largely dedicated to the deployment of ALSEP, the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package. Each mission's ALSEP would have a slightly different set of experiments, all powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG; essentially a "nuclear battery") for long-term science.

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Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:47 am
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45 years ago today, the second EVA of Apollo 12 occurred. Pete Conrad and Alan Bean made the journey over to Surveyor 3.

The astronauts took several parts from the lander, including its camera. They also observed the way dust was thrown onto the lander by Intrepid's landing.

This EVA lasted 4 hours. Intrepid lifted off and docked with CSM Yankee Clipper later that day. Intrepid was then undocked and de-orbited so the ALSEP's seismometer could pick up the crash.

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Thu Nov 20, 2014 9:03 am
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54 years ago, NASA attempted to launch Mercury-Redstone 1, the first launch of a Mercury spacecraft on an actual suborbital flight profile with the Redstone rocket, from Pad 5, Cape Canaveral.

It ignited briefly, then stopped. The rocket went a full four inches off the ground. It didn't even go high enough to crash and explode when it fell back onto the pad.

The computers, however, worked just fine. The escape tower jettisoned nominally and launched off the Mercury capsule, which remained on the rocket. The escape tower went up 4,000 feet (about 12,000 times higher than the rocket did), and landed 400 yards away. The parachutes then deployed, left hanging helplessly down the side of the rocket.

Fortunately, the wind remained calm, allowing the rocket to remain free-standing. They safed the rocket the next day once the capsule's batteries ran down and the liquid oxygen in the rocket boiled off completely.

The capsule would be put on a different Redstone rocket, and launched four weeks later.

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Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:49 am
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