July 1st

On July 1, 1962, NASA established the Launch Operations Center — which was later renamed the Kennedy Space Center — on the east coast of Florida.

After President John F. Kennedy famously said that American astronauts would land on the moon by 1970, NASA had to build a launch facility for their gigantic new Saturn V rocket.

The facilities at Cape Canaveral couldn’t support such an enormous vehicle, so NASA started building their new launch center just a few miles away on Merritt Island.

Since the 1960s, this spaceport has supported all crewed spaceflight missions from the U.S., including all of the Apollo moon missions and 135 space shuttle flights.

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html

24th June

On June 25, 1997, a Russian Progress M-34 spacecraft collided with the Russian Mir space station.

The uncrewed cargo spacecraft was doing an experimental test of the docking system when it crashed into the space station’s Spektr module. The collision ended up puncturing Spektr’s hull, causing a slow leak and damaging one of its solar panels. The crew had time to prevent depressurization of the Mir station by installing a hatch cover.

The Mir space station was an icon of human spaceflight. Its first module launched in 1986 and assembly continued through 1996. At the end of its mission life, Mir was intentionally deorbited over the Pacific Ocean in 2001.

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html

June 17

A small space rock crashed into the Red Planet’s surface recently, producing a crater that researchers estimate is 49 feet to 53 feet (15 to 16 meters) wide.

The crater is visible in a newly released image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), a craft that has been imaging the Red Planet up close for more than 13 years. Because MRO can’t look everywhere at once, it’s not clear when the crater formed, the best estimate is somewhere between September 2016 and February 2019.

HiRISE team member and University of Arizona staff scientist Veronica Bay said the colour of this particular crater fascinates her, because she can see the impact wave clearly – a dark zone where dust was shifted off the surface. Beneath is likely basaltic rock, based on what we know of Mars geology and the colours showing in the image. There are also zones that may or may not be exposed ice.

Source: https://www.space.com/mars-fresh-crater-nasa-mro-photo-2019.html

June 10th

The location of an ancient impact crater made by the biggest asteroid ever to hit Britain has been traced to a spot under the sea between mainland Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.

Researchers at Oxford and Aberdeen universities found signs of the violent collision in Scotland on a field trip in 2008, but have only now pinpointed where the asteroid came down.

Tests on rocks near Ullapool in north-west Scotland revealed that an object about a mile wide had crashed into a spot in the Minch, a strait that separates the mainland and northern Inner Hebrides from Lewis and Harris, six miles west of the village of Lochinver.

The 38,000 mph collision, which thumped a 12-mile-wide crater into the ground, happened 1.2bn years ago, when most life on Earth was still in the oceans and plants had yet to take root on land. At the time, what is now Scotland was a semi-arid land that lay close to the equator.

“The impact would have sent huge roiling clouds of dust and gas at several hundred degrees in all directions from the impact site,” said Ken Amor, an Oxford researcher who led the latest study. What is left of the crater is submerged in 200-metre-deep water and covered in sediment.

The first hints of the impact came more than a decade ago when Amor was helping undergraduates on a geology field trip in the Scottish Highlands. On the last day, the scientists stopped in Stoer, a small village, to inspect an unusual rock formation known as the Stac Fada member (SFM).

Previous researchers speculated that the distinctive red sandstone had come from a volcano, but Amor realised that “strange green blobs” in the rock resembled features of an impact crater that underlies the town of Nördlingen near the Danube in western Bavaria. Amor took samples of the SFM back to Oxford and found strong evidence of an asteroid strike: quartz crystals that had been deformed by the shock of an impact.

He also found high levels of platinum and palladium, metals that are enriched in meteorites, the name given to space rocks that survive their fiery passage through the atmosphere to reach Earth’s surface.

Having confirmed that an asteroid had come down near Stoer, Amor’s team set about finding the impact crater. Using three independent techniques that drew on the scatter of dust and rocks thrown up by the impact, and the orientation of tiny magnetic grains blasted into the sky, the researchers traced backwards to the point of impact. Details of the work appear in the Journal of the Geological Society.

Assuming the crater has not been eroded away, it should be possible to detect with a seismic reflection survey of the kind used by prospecting oil companies, Amor said. Further studies of the rock might enable scientists to trace the meteorite back to a family of asteroids still orbiting the sun.

It is unclear how common such impacts are because craters are wiped from Earth’s surface by erosion, burial and plate tectonics. However, asteroids of the size of the one that hit the Minch are thought to strike between once every 100,000 years and once every 1m years. While the impact would have been dramatic, sending a mushroom cloud and fireball high into the sky, it was minor compared with the spectacular strike in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula 66m years ago, when a space rock estimated at six to 50 miles wide put an end to the reign of the dinosaurs.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jun/10/ancient-asteroid-crater-off-coast-scotland

June 3rd

NASA Astronaut Ed White made history on June 3, 1965, when he floated out of the hatch of his Gemini 4 capsule into the void of space. The first American “spacewalk” – or Extravehicular Activity (EVA) – lasted 23 minutes, not nearly long enough for White. He later said the spacewalk was the most comfortable part of the mission, and said the order to end it was the “saddest moment” of his life.

White was attached to the capsule by a 25 foot umbilical cord. He initially used a gas powered gun held in his hand to maneuver. After the first three minutes the fuel ran out and White moved around by twisting his body and pulling on the cord.

Source: https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_182.html

May 28th

Miss Baker (1957 – November 29, 1984) was a squirrel monkey who in 1959 became, along with rhesus macaque Miss Able, one of the first two animals launched into space by the United States and safely returned.

Previous animal flights

Previous United States efforts at launching monkeys to space had met with the animals’ demise from suffocation or parachute failure, and Soviet Union efforts had fared little better, to the chagrin of animal rights activists. The Soviet Union had recovered two dogs, the first mammals to be recovered from suborbital space flight, from an altitude of 101 kilometers (331,000 ft) on July 22, 1951 and subsequently recovered more dogs. The United States had flown monkeys and mice by Aerobee rocket to heights below the edge of space beginning in 1951.

Pre-flight

The squirrel monkey who was to become known as Miss Baker was purchased along with 25 other squirrel monkeys at a pet shop in Miami, Florida, and brought to the Naval Aviation Medical School in Pensacola. Fourteen of the candidates tolerated confinement for periods up to 24 hours, electrodes all over their bodies, and monitoring at all hours. Miss Baker “stood out from the rest because of her intelligence and loving, docile manner”, relayed Colin Burgess and Chris Dubbs in their 2007 book ‘Animals In Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle.’ For this, and her apparent pleasure at being handled with tender loving care, she earned the nickname TLC.

With experiments imminent, the Army named their monkey “Alpha,” and the Navy followed with “Bravo,” names taken directly from the phonetic alphabet. Before flight, though, the names changed to the first letters of the antiquated Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet.

The flight

Jupiter AM-18 stands ready for its 2:39am launch at Cape Canaveral launch complex 26B.

Miss Baker wore a helmet lined with rubber and chamois leather plus a jacket for launch, in addition to a respiration meter affixed to her nose with model cement, and she was fitted into a snug capsule of shoebox size, 9¾ × 12½ × 6¾ inches (24.8 × 31.8 × 17.1cm) insulated with rubber and fiberglass. Life support was an oxygen bottle with a pressure valve, and lithium hydroxide to absorb exhaled carbon dioxide and moisture.

On May 28, 1959, at 2:39am, a Jupiter rocket lifted Miss Baker and Miss Able to an altitude of 300 miles (480km) through an acceleration of 38 gs for a 16-minute flight which also included 9 minutes of weightlessness. The flight traveled 1,500 miles (2,400km) downrange from the pad at Cape Canaveral launch complex 26B to the Atlantic Ocean near Puerto Rico where the capsule was recovered by USS Kiowa.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Baker

May 20th

Paul William Richards (born May 20, 1964 in Scranton, Pennsylvania) is an American engineer and a former NASA Astronaut. He flew aboard one Space Shuttle mission in 2001.

NASA career

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Richards reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. Having completed two years of training and evaluation, he was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. Richards was initially assigned to the Computer Branch working on software for the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. He next served in the Astronaut Office Shuttle Operations Branch assigned to support Payload and General Support Computers (PGSCs) and the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL). Richards flew on STS-102 and has logged over 307 hours in space, including 6.4 EVA hours. He was assigned as a back-up crew member for ISS Expedition-7. Richards retired from NASA in February 2002 to pursue private interests.

In 2004 Richards returned to NASA GSFC as the Observatory Manager for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R Series). The GOES-R series is the next-generation of advanced weather satellites being developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with NASA.

Spaceflights

STS-102Discovery (March 8–21, 2001) was the eighth Shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station. Mission accomplishments included the delivery of the Expedition-2 crew and the contents of the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, the return to earth of the Expedition-1 crew, as well as the return of Leonardo, the reusable cargo carrier built by the Italian Space Agency. Richards performed an EVA totaling 6 hours and 21 minutes. Mission duration was 307 hours and 49 minutes.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_W._Richards

May 13th

Apollo 10

Mission Objective
The Apollo 10 mission encompassed all aspects of an actual crewed lunar landing, except the landing. It was the first flight of a complete, crewed Apollo spacecraft to operate around the Moon. Objectives included a scheduled eight-hour lunar orbit of the separated lunar module, or LM, and descent to about nine miles off the moon’s surface before ascending for rendezvous and docking with the command and service module, or CSM, in about a 70-mile circular lunar orbit. Pertinent data to be gathered in this landing rehearsal dealt with the lunar potential, or gravitational effect, to refine the Earth-based crewed spaceflight network tracking techniques, and to check out LM programmed trajectories and radar, and lunar flight control systems. Twelve television transmissions to Earth were planned. All mission objectives were achieved.

Mission Highlights
Apollo 10 launched from Cape Kennedy on May 18, 1969, into a nominal 115-mile circular Earth-parking orbit at an inclination of 32.5 degrees. One-and-a-half orbits later, translunar injection occurred. The S-IVB fired to increase velocity from 25,593 to 36,651 feet per second on a free-return trajectory. Twenty-five minutes later, the CSM separated for transposition and docking with the LM, similar to the maneuver performed on Apollo 9. The orbital vehicle was comprised of the S-IVB stage, and its payload of the CSM, the LM and spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, shroud. The Apollo 10 crew members were Commander Thomas Stafford, Command Module Pilot John Young and Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan.

The first live color TV transmissions to Earth began three hours after launch when Apollo 10 was 3,570 miles from Earth and concluded when the spacecraft was 9,428 miles away. The transmission showed the docking process and the interior of the CSM. About four hours after launch, Apollo 10 separated from the S-IVB sage, which was followed by another telecast from 14,625 miles out. A third TV transmission of pictures of Earth was made from 24,183 miles out, and a fourth telecast of the Earth was made from 140,000 miles.

The launch trajectory had been so satisfactory that only one of four midcourse corrections was needed. This was accomplished 26.5 hours into the flight. About 76 hours into the mission, lunar-orbit insertion occurred with the firing of the service propulsion system, or SPS. A second firing of the engine 4.5 hours later circularized the lunar orbit of Apollo 10 at approximately 69 miles, which was followed by the first color TV pictures to Earth of the moon’s surface.

Stafford and Cernan entered the LM and prepared for the undocking maneuver that occurred on the 12th revolution, a little more than 98 hours into the flight. At about 100 hours, on May 22, the vehicles separated and briefly flew a station-keeping lunar orbit of 66.7 by 71.5 miles. To achieve a simulation of the future Apollo 11 landing, the LM descent engine fired for 27.4 seconds, with 10 percent thrust for the first 15 seconds and 40 percent thrust for the rest. This brought the LM to a new orbit of 9.7 by 70.5 miles.

The LM flew over Landing Site 2 in the Sea of Tranquility. During this run, the LM landing radar was tested for altitude functioning, providing both “high gate” and “low gate” data. Following a 7.5-second firing of the LM reaction control system, or RCS, thrusters, the descent engine fired in two bursts for 40.1 seconds – at 10 percent and at full throttle – placing the LM into an orbit of 13.7 by 219 miles. On the 14th revolution, it reached a pericynthion of 12.7 miles and was “staged.” The descent stage jettisoned on a second attempt and an uncontrollable gyration of the ascent stage occurred. It was later attributed to an error in a flight-plan checklist, causing an incorrect switch position.

The ascent engine fired for 15 seconds, lowering the LM apocythion to 53.8 miles, 230 miles behind and below the CSM. The RCS thrusters fired for 27.3 seconds when the LM was 16.9 miles below the CSM and 170.4 miles behind, yielding an orbit of 54.5 by 48.1 miles. To prepare for the terminal phase of rendezvous, the RCS fired again, resulting in an orbit of 17.2 by 81.7 miles.

Stafford sighted the CSM’s running lights at about 48 miles. The 15-second terminal phase initiation firing reduced velocity as the LM entered an intercept trajectory and the two vehicles achieved station-keeping of the 16th lunar revolution. With Young in the CSM taking on an active rendezvous role, the vehicles were re-docked on May 23, slightly more than 106 hours into the mission. The LM ascent stage jettisoned and its engine fired to depletion.

The rest of the time in lunar orbit was spent on landmark tracking and photography. On the 31st orbit, the SPS restarted. Apollo 10 was on the back side of the moon when it was injected into a trans-Earth trajectory.

After a midcourse correction, and command and service module separation, Apollo 10 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere May 26. The module splashed down 165 degrees west, and 5 degrees, 8 minutes south in the Pacific Ocean. It’s landing was within television range of its primary recovery ship, the USS Princeton. Apollo 10 completed a flight of 192 hours, three minutes, 23 seconds – one minute, 24 seconds longer than planned. The Apollo 10 S-IVB third stage and LM ascent stage went into solar orbits. The LM descent stage went into a selenocentric orbit.

Crew
Thomas Stafford, Commander
Eugene Cernan, Lunar Module Pilot
John Young, Command Module Pilot

Backup Crew
L. Gordon Cooper Jr., Commander
Edgar D. Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot
Donn F. Eisele, Command Module Pilot

Payload
Charlie Brown (SM-106)
Snoopy (LM-4)

Prelaunch Milestones
12/10/68 – S-II stage ondock at Kennedy
11/27/68 – S-IC stage ondock at Kennedy
12/3/68 – S-IVB ondock at Kennedy
12/15/68 – S-IU ondock at Kennedy

Launch
May 18, 1969; 12:49 p.m. EDT
Launch Pad 39B
Saturn-V AS-505
High Bay 2
Mobile Launcher Platform-3
Firing Room 3

Orbit
Altitude: 118.83 miles
Inclination: 32.546 degrees
Orbits: 31 revolutions
Duration: eight days, 23 minutes, 23 seconds
Distance: 829,437.5 miles

Landing
May 26, 1969; 12:52:23 p.m. EDT
Pacific Ocean
Recovery Ship: USS Princeton

Source: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo10.html

6th May 2019

On May 6, 1968, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong almost met his fate while simulating a lunar landing. This was a little over a year before he would become the first person to walk on the moon. 

Armstrong was flying in a machine called the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston when some leaking propellant caused a total failure of the flight controls. After tumbling around in the air for a few seconds, it started to fall out of the sky. 

Armstrong had to eject himself from the simulator when it was just 30 feet above the ground, and he safely parachuted down while his aircraft crashed and burned. If he had waited even just one second longer to hit the eject button, he would have been killed by the fiery explosion. 

But Armstrong kept his cool the whole time, and he went right back to work in his office after the accident.

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html

April 15th 2019

On April 15, 2005, NASA launched a spacecraft on a mission to rendezvous with a small communications satellite. The launch went according to plan, but the mission ended abruptly when the spacecraft collided with the satellite. 

The mission was known as DART, which is short for Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology. Its objective was to demonstrate that a fully automated and uncrewed spacecraft could rendezvous with another spacecraft in orbit. But the two spacecraft were not supposed to make contact. 

When DART approached its target, it ran out of fuel and inadvertently bumped into it. Investigators determined that DART’s thrusters had been firing excessively because of a problem with its navigation system. It was a soft collision, and neither of the spacecraft were noticeably damaged.  

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html