A Dramatic Reentry
Soyuz 5 was launched on 15 January 1969, crewed by Volynov, Aleksei Yeliseyev, and Yevgeni Khrunov. On 16 January Yeliseyev and Khrunov transferred to Soyuz 4, crewed by Commander Vladimir Shatalov, following an orbital rendezvous and docking. Soyuz 4 undocked from Soyuz 5 the following day and Volynov prepared for a solo re-entry.
Soyuz 5’s equipment module failed to separate properly following retrofire due to the misfiring of explosive bolts, and consequently blocked the re-entry heat shield on the base of the descent module. As a result of the added mass of the equipment module, Volynov lost control of Soyuz 5 which began to tumble, finally stabilizing itself with the thinnest part of the spacecraft facing forward. As the assembly entered the atmosphere, the stress and heat on the supporting struts between the modules finally made them burn through and part, allowing the equipment module to fall away and burn up on re-entry. Volynov could only wait while the descent module’s automatic orientation system tried to regain control, which fortunately it managed to do with the heat shield facing forward.
Following re-entry, the module’s parachutes deployed only partially, and a failure of the soft-landing retrorockets in the base of the descent module caused a hard landing which almost wrecked the module, and broke some of Volynov’s teeth.
Anniversary of First Spacecraft Docking, 16 January 1969
Soyuz 5 was a Soyuz mission using the Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft launched by the Soviet Union on January 15, 1969, which docked with Soyuz 4 in orbit. It was the first-ever docking of two manned spacecraft of any nation, and the first-ever transfer of crew from one space vehicle to another of any nation, the only time a transfer was accomplished with a space walk – two months before the US Apollo 9 performed the first ever internal crew transfer.
US Space Program’s Birthday, 10 January 1946
Project Diana, named for the Roman moon goddess Diana, was a project of the US Army Signal Corps to bounce radio signals off the moon and receive the reflected signals. Today called EME (Earth-Moon-Earth), this was the first attempt to “touch” another celestial body.
The first successful echo detection came on 10 January 1946 at 11:58am local time by John H. DeWitt and his chief scientist E. King Stodola.
Project Diana marked the birth of the US space program, as well as that of radar astronomy. It was the first demonstration that artificially-created signals could penetrate the ionosphere, opening the possibility of radio communications beyond the earth for space probes and human explorers. It also established the practice of naming space projects after Roman gods, e.g., Mercury and Apollo.
NASA’s Project Gemini Naming Anniversary (3 January 1962)
Project Gemini was the second human spaceflight program of NASA, the civilian space agency of the United States government. Project Gemini was conducted between projects Mercury and Apollo, with ten manned flights occurring in 1965 and 1966.
Its objective was to develop space travel techniques in support of Apollo, which had the goal of landing men on the Moon. Gemini achieved missions long enough for a trip to the Moon and back, perfected extra-vehicular activity (working outside a spacecraft), and orbital maneuvers necessary to achieve rendezvous and docking.
Originally introduced on December 7 as Mercury Mark II, it was re-christened Project Gemini on January 3, 1962, from the fact that the spacecraft would hold two crewmen, seated abreast, as gemini in Latin means “twins” or “side-by-side”.
Happy Birthday Sir Isaac Newton!
Oh, and merry Christmas and stuff.
First Powered Flight Anniversary
The Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912), were two American brothers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who were credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903. In the two years afterward, the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.
Today is the International Space Station’s Birthday! (6 December 1998)
On 20 November 1998, Russia launched Zarya, the first module of the International Space Station (ISS). It provided electrical power, storage, propulsion, and guidance to the ISS.
On 4 December 1998, the United States launched STS-88 carrying Unity, a module with six berthing locations, facilitating connections to other modules.
On 6 December 1998, the two modules were mated, and thus began the ISS and an ongoing partnership of two nations in orbit.
Launch Anniversary of the First International Space Station Module (20 November 1988)
Zarya (literally Russian for “dawn”), also known as the Functional Cargo Block or FGB, was the first module of the International Space Station to be launched. The FGB provided electrical power, storage, propulsion, and guidance to the ISS during the initial stage of assembly. With the launch and assembly in orbit of other modules with more specialized functionality, Zarya is now primarily used for storage, both inside the pressurized section and in the externally mounted fuel tanks. The Zarya is a descendant of the TKS spacecraft designed for the Russian Salyut program. The name Zarya was given to the FGB because it signified the dawn of a new era of international cooperation in space. Although it was built by a Russian company, it is owned by the United States.
Happy birthday to the most beautiful person to ever live, Carl Sagan.
The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.
Carl Sagan, Cosmos (via sciencesoup)
Happy birthday Carl!!!
Happy Birthday Edmond Halley!
Edmond Halley (8 November 1656 – 14 January 1742) was an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist who is best known for computing the orbit of the eponymous Halley’s Comet. He was the second Astronomer Royal in Britain, following in the footsteps of John Flamsteed.
STEREO Launch Anniversary (26 October 2006)
STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is a solar observation mission. Two nearly identical spacecraft were launched into orbits around the sun that cause them to respectively pull farther ahead of and fall gradually behind the Earth. This will enable stereoscopic imaging of the Sun and solar phenomena, such as coronal mass ejections.
Neptune’s Moon Triton Discovery Anniversary (10 October 1846)
Triton is the largest moon of the planet Neptune, discovered on October 10, 1846, by English astronomer William Lassell. It is the only large moon in the Solar System with a retrograde orbit, which is an orbit in the opposite direction to its planet’s rotation. At 2,700 km in diameter, it is the seventh-largest moon in the Solar System. Because of its retrograde orbit and composition similar to Pluto’s, Triton is thought to have been captured from the Kuiper belt. Triton has a surface of mostly frozen nitrogen, a mostly water ice crust, an icy mantle and a substantial core of rock and metal. The core makes up two-thirds of its total mass. Triton has a mean density of 2.061 grams per cubic centimetre (0.0745 lb/cu in) and is composed of approximately 15–35% water ice.
Triton is one of the few moons in the Solar System known to be geologically active. As a consequence, its surface is relatively young, with a complex geological history revealed in intricate and mysterious cryovolcanic and tectonic terrains. Part of its crust is dotted with geysers thought to erupt nitrogen. Triton has a tenuous nitrogen atmosphere less than 1/70,000 the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level.
Kepler’s Supernova Observation Anniversary (9 October 1604)
Supernova 1604, also known as Kepler’s Supernova, Kepler’s Nova or Kepler’s Star, was a supernova that occurred in the Milky Way, in the constellation Ophiuchus. It is the most recent supernova to have been unquestionably observed by the naked eye in our own galaxy, occurring no farther than 6 kiloparsecs or about 20,000 light-years from Earth. Visible to the naked eye, Kepler’s Star was brighter at its peak than any other star in the night sky, and all the planets (other than Venus), with apparent magnitude -2.5. It was visible during the day for over three weeks.
The supernova was first observed in northern Italy on October 9, 1604.
Water Discovered on Moon Anniversary (9 October 2009)
The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) was a robotic spacecraft operated by NASA. The mission was conceived as alow-cost means of determining the nature of hydrogen detected at the polar regions of the moon. The main LCROSS mission objective was to explore the presence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater near a lunar polar region. It was successful in discovering water inthe southern lunar crater Cabeus.
LCROSS was designed to collect and relay data from the impact and debris plume resulting from the launch vehicle’s spent Centaur upper stage (and data collecting Shepherding Spacecraft) striking the crater Cabeus near the south pole of the Moon.
Centaur impacted successfully on October 9, 2009, at 11:31 UTC. The impact created by the LCROSS Centaur upper stage rocket created a two-part plume of material from the bottom of the crater. The first part was a high angle plume of vapor and fine dust and the second a lower angle ejecta curtain of heavier material. This material has not seen sunlight in billions of years.