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Race To Space
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240 B.C.
Halley's Comet passed perihelion in its first known passage, as determined from records by Chinese astronomers.

In 2000 years of observations since 240 BCE, Chinese records have never missed a return of Halley's Comet. From those records, Cowell and Crommelin computed the dates of perihelion passage as:

 1. 15 May 240 BCE
 2. 20 May 163 BCE
 3. 15 August 87 BCE
 4. 8 October 12 BCE
 5. 26 January 66 CE
 6. 25 March 141 CE
 7. 6 April 218 CE
 8. 7 April 295 CE
 9. 13 February 374 CE
10. 3 July 451 CE
11. 15 November 530 CE
12. 26 March 607 CE
13. 26 November 684 CE
14. 10 June 760 CE
15. 25 February 837 CE
16. 17 July 912 CE
17. 2 September 989 CE
18. 25 March 1066 CE
19. 19 April 1145 CE
20. 10 September 1222 CE
21. 22.7 October 1301 CE
22. 8.8 November 1378 CE
23. 8.2 January 1456 CE
24. 25.8 August 1531 CE
25. 26.9 October 1607 CE
26. 14.8 September 1682 CE
27. 12.6 March 1758 CE
28. 15.9 November 1835 CE
29. 19.7 April 1910 CE
30. 9 February 1986 CE

Note that the precision of the dates from passage 21 onward could be computed with increased accuracy because of additional observations. However, at the time of their computation, the 1986 passage was still a future event. (The actual date was found from other sources.)

On 19 April 607, Comet 1P/607 H1 (Halley) approached within 0.0898 AU (13.5 million km, 8.4 million miles) of Earth. On 374-April-1.9, it had approached closer, having come within 0.0884 AU (13.2 million km, 8.2 million miles), and on 837-April-10.5, it became the third closest approach in history prior to 1900, passing within 0.0334 AU (5 million km, 3.1 million miles).

On 16 October 1982, astronomers David Jewitt and G. Edward Danielson using a CCD camera with the 5.1 m Hale telescope at Mt. Palomar Observatory were the first to detect Halley's Comet on its thirtieth recorded return.

See also The past orbit of Halley's Comet (SAO/NASA ADS)

See also Comet Close Approaches prior to 1900 (CNEOS)

See also History of Halley's Comet (Wikipedia)

See also Halley's Comet (CQ Press)

See also Comet 1P/Halley (Halley's Comet) (Smithsonian NASM)
ref: adsabs.harvard.edu

Johannes Kepler confirmed his Third Law of Planetary Motion, which he'd rejected on March 8 after initial calculations: The squares of the sidereal periods of the planets are proportional to the cubes of their semi-major axes (p**2 = a**3).
ref: astronomy.stackexchange.com

Francis Baily observed "Baily's beads" during an annular solar eclipse and wrote a widely disseminated explanation of the phenomenon.
ref: www.alpo-astronomy.org

Born, Williamina Fleming, Scottish/American astronomer, helped develop a common designation system for stars, catalogued thousands of stars and other astronomical phenomena, discovered the Horsehead Nebula (1888)
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, Pierre Curie, French physicist (Nobel 1903 with H. Becquerel, M. Curie "in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel")
ref: www.nobelprize.org

In a field outside Grass Valley, California, Lyman Gilmore reportedly became the first person to fly a powered airplane (a steam-powered glider).
ref: en.wikipedia.org

The US Post Office Department began the first regular airmail service in the world, between New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Aboard a Boeing tri-motor, Ellen Church became the first airline stewardess, on a Boeing Air Transport flight from Oakland, California to Chicago, Illinois via Cheyenne, Wyoming.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

C. Jackson discovered asteroid #1506 Xosa.

The Goddard Series P Section B rocket test series was started using a new gas generator, with eight static tests at the desert launching tower, through 4 August 1939. The average interval between tests was 7 days.
ref: astronautix.com

Born, Anthony Wayne "Tony" England PhD (at Indianapolis, Indiana, USA), NASA mission specialist astronaut (STS 51F; 7d 22.75h in spaceflight)
Astronaut Tony England, PhD, JSC photo S82-38430 (21 Oct 1982)Source: NASA Image and Video Library S82-38430~small.jpg
Astronaut Tony England, PhD, JSC photo S82-38430 (21 Oct 1982)
Source: NASA Image and Video Library
ref: www.nasa.gov

The first powered flight of the USSR BI-1 rocketplane reached a maximum speed of 400 kph, a maximum altitude of 840 meters, and had a flight time of 189 seconds.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1947 21:08:00 GMT
The US Naval Research Lab V-2 Solar mission, carrying cosmic and solar radiation, temperature, ionosphere, and photo experiments, reached an altitude of 135.5 km, and landed east of the impact zone, on the outskirts of Alamagordo, New Mexico.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, Frank Lee Culbertson Jr. (at Charleston, South Carolina, USA), Captain USN, NASA astronaut (STS 38, STS 51, ISS 3; nearly 143d 15h total time in spaceflight)
Astronaut Frank Culbertson Jr., ISS 3 Commander, NASA photo JSC2001-01342 (21 February 2001)Source: Wikipedia (spaceflight.nasa.gov killed 25 Feb 2021) 384px-Frank_Culbertson_Jr.jpg
Astronaut Frank Culbertson Jr., ISS 3 Commander, NASA photo JSC2001-01342 (21 February 2001)
Source: Wikipedia (spaceflight.nasa.gov killed 25 Feb 2021)
ref: en.wikipedia.org

NACA X-1E Flight 15, piloted by Joe Walker, reached Mach 2.0 at 22,265 meters (73,047 ft) altitude. The plane was severely damaged upon landing.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1958 07:12:00 GMT
USSR launched Sputnik 3 into Earth orbit with instrument payload of over 1 metric ton, a space laboratory for study of Earth's magnetic field and radiation belt to characterize the geo- and space physics environment. It remained in orbit nearly two years.
USSR Sputnik 3 Source: Tsiolkovsky State Museum via NSSDCA Master Catalog sputnik_3.jpg
USSR Sputnik 3
Source: Tsiolkovsky State Museum via NSSDCA Master Catalog

Sputnik 3, launched on 5 May 1958, was an automatic scientific laboratory spacecraft, conically shaped, 3.57 m long with a base diameter of 1.73 m. It was by far the largest satellite flown to that point, with a 1327 kg mass that was more than twice as much as the five previously flown satellites combined. The twelve scientific instruments provided data on pressure and composition of the upper atmosphere, concentration of charged particles, photons in cosmic rays, heavy nuclei in cosmic rays, magnetic and electrostatic fields, and meteoric particles. The Earth's outer radiation belts were detected during the flight. Due to its failed tape recorder, the spacecraft could only send data back to Earth in real time, so the only areas it could study where those in range of Soviet tracking stations, i.e. over Soviet territory. Communications were lost on 3 June 1958. The spacecraft remained in orbit until 6 April 1960.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1960 00:00:05 GMT
USSR launched Sputnik 4 (Korabl-Sputnik 1) to place a space cabin into orbit, test life support systems, and recover the cabin from orbit. (Recovery 4 days later failed due to an equipment malfunction).

Sputnik 4, launched 15 May 1960, was a USSR satellite, the first of a series of spacecraft used to investigate the means for manned space flight. It was a flight test of a Vostok 1KP prototype manned spacecraft (without a heat shield and therefore not recoverable) that would be used for the first human spaceflight. It was put into a nearly circular orbit, and contained scientific instruments, a television system, and a self-sustaining biological cabin with a dummy of a man. The spacecraft was designed to study the operation of the life support system and the stresses of flight. The spacecraft radioed both extensive telemetry and prerecorded voice communications. After four days of flight, on 19 May 1960, the reentry cabin was separated from its service module and retrorockets were fired, but because of an incorrect attitude, the spacecraft did not reenter the atmosphere for 844 days; it re-entered the atmosphere on 5 September 1962. A piece was found in the middle of a major street in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1962 19:36:00 GMT
The US Air Force launched KH-5 9034A from Vandenburg Air Force Base, California, the first successful KH-5 (military surveillance) mission; the film capsule was recovered 4.1 days later.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1963 13:04:13 GMT
With the launch of Mercury Atlas 9 (the final Mercury mission, "Faith 7"), Gordon Cooper became the fourth American to orbit Earth.
Mercury Atlas 9 (Faith 7) lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA photo Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog mercury_atlas_9.jpg
Mercury Atlas 9 (Faith 7) lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA photo
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog

Mercury Atlas 9 (MA-9, designated also Faith 7) was the fourth and final manned orbital flight of the Mercury program, launched 15 May 1963, and piloted by L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. The objectives of MA-9 were to: (1) evaluate the effects on the astronaut of approximately one day in orbital flight; (2) verify that man can function for an extended period in space as a primary operating system of the spacecraft; and, (3) evaluate in a manned one-day mission the combined performance of the astronaut and a Mercury spacecraft specifically modified for the mission.

Because MA-9 would orbit over nearly every part of the world from 32.5 degrees north to 32.5 degrees south, a total of 28 ships, 171 aircraft, and 18,000 servicemen were assigned to support the mission.

Originally scheduled for launch in April, the mission was delayed twice. The first delay (February) was due to a decision to rewire the Mercury-Atlas flight control system. The second (14 May) occurred on the scheduled day of launch when a problem developed with the fuel pump in the diesel engine used to retract the gantry from the launch vehicle. This resulted in a delay of roughly 129 minutes after countdown had already reached T-60 minutes. Subsequent to the repairs on the gantry engine, however, a separate problem, the failure of a computer converter at the Bermuda tracking station, forced the cancellation of the launch at T-13 minutes. The launch was rescheduled for the following day (15 May). The countdown then proceeded without a hitch until T-11 minutes and 30 seconds when a problem developed in the guidance equipment and a brief hold was called until it was resolved. Another hold was called at the T-19 second mark to ascertain whether the systems had gone into automatic sequencing as planned. The liftoff ended up being excellent, with flight sequencing (booster engine cut-off, escape tower jettison, sustainer engine cut-off) operating perfectly and the spacecraft being inserted into orbit at a velocity described as being "almost unbelievably correct."

A number of alterations were made to the MA-9 spacecraft, most of them due to the extended duration of the flight. Among these were the increased capacity of several life support system components (additional oxygen and water, increased urine and condensate capacity, etc.), a larger capacity fuel tank, and larger capacity batteries (two 3,000 W-hour vs. two 1,500 W-hour). Deleted from the flight, due to weight considerations, were several backup or other components deemed unnecessary. These included the periscope, the backup UHF voice transmitter, the rate control system, and the backup telemetry transmitter. Also installed was a slow-scan television unit for in-flight evaluation in monitoring the astronaut and instruments.

A number of improvements were also made to the pressure suit worn by Cooper. These included a mechanical seal for the helmet, new gloves with an improved inner liner and link netting between the inner and outer fabrics at the wrist, and a torso section redesigned for increased mobility. The boots were also now integrated with the suit to provide increased comfort for the longer mission, to reduce weight, and to decrease the time required to don the suit. Another change moved the life vest from the center of the chest to a pocket on the lower left leg, thus reducing the bulkiness from the suit and, again, providing more comfort during the flight.

A number of in-flight experiments were planned for and carried out during the MA-9 flight. They included two visual acquisition and perception studies, several photographic studies, two radiation packages, a tethered balloon experiment, a study of the behavior of fluids in zero gravity, and a micrometeorite study.

A flashing beacon, a six inch (152 mm) diameter sphere equipped with xenon strobe lights, was deployed on the third orbit and Cooper first reported that he was able to see it on the night side of the fourth orbit.

on the sixth orbit, Cooper set up cameras, adjusted the spacecraft attitude and set switches to deploy a tethered balloon from the nose of the spacecraft. It was a 30 inch (762 mm) Mylar balloon painted fluorescent orange, to be inflated with nitrogen and attached to a 100 ft (30 m) nylon line from the antenna canister. A strain gauge in the antenna canister would measure differences in atmospheric drag between the 100 mile (160 km) perigee and the 160 mile (260 km) apogee of MA-9's orbit. Cooper tried several times to release the balloon, but it failed to eject from its cannister.

Cooper passed Schirra's orbital record on the seventh orbit while he was engaged in radiation experiments. At T+10 hours, Zanzibar told Cooper the flight was go for (at least) 17 orbits. Cooper was orbiting the Earth every 88 minutes 45 seconds at an inclination of 32.55 degrees to the equator.

When he entered night on the sixteenth orbit, Cooper pitched the spacecraft to slowly follow the plane of the ecliptic. Through the spacecraft window he viewed the zodiacal light and night airglow layer. He took pictures of these two "dim light" phenomena from Zanzibar, across the Earth's nightside, to Canton Island. The pictures were later found to have been overexposed, but they still contained valuable data.

At the start of the 17th orbit while crossing Cape Canaveral, Florida, Cooper broadcast slow scan black and white television pictures to the ground. The picture showed a ghostly image of the astronaut. In the murky picture, a helmet and hoses could be seen; it was the first time an American astronaut had sent back television from space.

Cooper also became the first to sleep in orbit. In addition to a planned rest period beginning the tenth orbit, he also drifted off to sleep during the second orbit for a short period. (In fact, Cooper had also reported taking a short nap during the countdown phase.) Cooper slept intermittently during the six hours of orbits 10 through 13. He woke from time to time and took more pictures, taped status reports, and repeatedky adjusted his spacesuit temperature control which kept getting too hot or too cold.

The first malfunction of concern on MA-9 occurred during the nineteenth orbit when the 0.05g light came on. The light, sensitive to changes in gravity, normally lit during reentry. The pilot proceeded to check out the necessary attitude information and all telemetry indicated the spacecraft was in the correct orbit. It was therefore concluded that the light was erroneous. However, because of this, it was determined that the potential existed that not all of the automatic system for reentry would function. Cooper was advised to use the manual mode for reentry, becoming the first astronaut to use this method exclusively. On the 20th orbit, Cooper lost all attitude readings. The 21st orbit saw a short-circuit occur in the bus bar serving the 250 volt main inverter. This left the automatic stabilization and control system without electric power. Throughout the problems, Cooper remained cool, calm and collected.

On the 21st orbit, John Glenn onboard the Coastal Sentry near Kyushu, Japan, helped Cooper prepare a revised checklist for retrofire. At the end of the 21st orbit, Cooper again contacted Glenn on the Coastal Sentry. He reported the spacecraft was in retro attitude and holding manually. The checklist was complete. Glenn gave a 10 second countdown to retrofire. Cooper kept the spacecraft aligned at a 34 degree pitchdown angle and manually fired the retrorockets on "Mark!"

Fifteen minutes later, Faith 7 landed just 6.4 km (four miles) from the prime recovery ship, the carrier USS Kearsarge. The spacecraft tipped over in the water momentarily, then righted itself. Helicopters dropped rescue swimmers and relayed Cooper's request of an Air Force officer for permission to be hoisted aboard the Navy's carrier. Permission was granted; 40 minutes later the explosive hatch was blown open on the deck of the Kearsarge, and Cooper climbed out of Faith 7 to a warm greeting.

During the flight, the spacecraft attained a maximum velocity of 28,078 km/hour (17,447 mph) and an altitude of 265 km (165 miles). The capsule reentered under the manual control of the pilot after completing 22 orbits, landing about 130 km (81 miles) southeast of Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean. The duration of the flight was 34 hours 19 minutes and 49 seconds during which Cooper travelled nearly 875,000 km (543,700 miles).

Mercury spacecraft # 20 - Faith 7, used in the Mercury-Atlas 9 mission, is currently displayed at the NASA Space Center Houston, Houston, Texas.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1963 18:50:00 GMT
NASA launched X-15A Opt Deg/Trav Probe Test/Tech mission # 83, reached 3855 mph (6204 kph) and 124,212 ft (37.860 km). Lost both nose landing gear tires, forward fuselage buckled after APU gear box pressure loss, nose gear scoop door opened at Mach 5.2.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

The Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers issued a decree to establish the Institute of Space Research in the USSR Academy of Sciences on 14 July 1965.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1966 07:55:00 GMT
NASA launched the Nimbus 2 weather satellite.

Nimbus 2 was launched 15 May 1966 to provide TV and infrared (IR) cloud cover photos. The spacecraft carried an advanced vidicon camera system for recording and storing remote cloud cover pictures, an automatic picture transmission camera for providing real-time cloudcover pictures, and both high- and medium-resolution infrared radiometers (HRIR and MRIR) for measuring the intensity and distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted by and reflected from the Earth and its atmosphere. The spacecraft and experiments performed normally after launch until 25 July 1966 when the spacecraft tape recorder failed. Its function was taken over by the HRIR tape recorder until 15 November 1966 when it also failed. Some real-time data were collected until 17 January 1969, when the spacecraft mission was terminated owing to deterioration of the horizon scanner used for Earth reference.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1967 11:02:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 158 for investigation of the upper atmosphere and outer space.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1976 13:30:00 GMT
USSR launched the Meteor 1-25 weather satellite in a continuation of experimental work in studying the natural resources of the Earth.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

N. Chernykh discovered asteroid #2862 Vavilov.

1981 06:07:17 GMT
NASA launched NOVA I on a Scout from Vandenburg AFB, California for the US Navy, an improved Transit navigation satellite.
NOVA I, NASA illustration Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog nova_satellite.jpg
NOVA I, NASA illustration
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

Osservatorio San Vittore discovered asteroid #3344 Modena.

1987 15:45:00 GMT
The US Navy launched NOSS 8 from Vandenburg AFB, California, a cluster of one primary satellite and three smaller sub-satellites to determine the location and identity of naval units.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1987 17:30:00 GMT
The Soviet super booster rocket Energia made its first flight. The launch vehicle performed successfully, but the Polyus payload failed to inject itself into orbit due to a guidance system failure.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1997 04:07:48 EDT (GMT -4:00:00)
NASA launched STS 48 (Atlantis 19, 84th Shuttle mission) for the sixth Shuttle-Mir docking mission.

NASA's launch of STS 84 on 15 May 1997 occurred on time following a smooth countdown. The sixth Shuttle-Mir docking was highlighted by the transfer of the fourth successive US crew member to the Russian Space Station when astronaut Mike Foale exchanged places with Jerry Linenger, who arrived at Mir on 15 January with the crew of STS 81. Linenger spent 123 days on Mir and just over 132 days in space from launch to landing, placing him second behind US astronaut Shannon Lucid for most the time spent on-orbit by an American. Another milestone reached during his stay was the one year anniversary of a continuous US presence in space that began with Lucid's arrival at Mir on 22 March 1996.

Other significant events during Linenger's stay included the first US-Russian space walk: On 29 April, Linenger participated in a five hour extravehicular activity (EVA) with Mir 23 Commander Vasily Tsibliev to attach a monitor to the outside of the station. The Optical Properties Monitor (OPM) was to remain on Mir for nine months to allow study of the effect of the space environment on optical properties, such as mirrors used in telescopes.

On 23 February, a fire broke out on the 11 year old station. It caused minimal damage, but required station's inhabitants to wear protective masks for about 36 hours until the cabin air was cleaned. Besides Linenger, crew members aboard Mir at the time included two Mir 22 cosmonauts and a German cosmonaut, and two Mir 23 cosmonauts.

STS 84 docked with Mir on 16 May above the Adriatic Sea. Hatches between two spacecraft opened at 12:25 am EDT, 17 May. Greetings were exchanged between the STS 84 crew and Mir 23 Commander Vasily Tsibliev, Flight Engineer Alexander Lazutkin and Linenger, followed by a safety briefing. Linenger and Foale officially traded places at 10:15 am EDT on 17 May 1997.

Transfer of items to and from Mir proceeded smoothly and was completed ahead of schedule. One of first items transferred to the station was an Elektron oxygen generating unit. Altogether, 249 items were moved between the two spacecraft, and about 1,000 pounds of water moved to Mir, for a total of about 7,500 pounds of water, experiment samples, supplies and hardware.

The research program planned for Foale during his stay aboard Mir featured 35 investigations (33 on Mir, two on STS 84, with a preflight/postflight component) in six disciplines: advanced technology, Earth observations and remote sensing, fundamental biology, human life sciences, space station risk mitigation, and microgravity sciences. Twenty-eight of these were conducted during previous missions and were to be continued, repeated or completed during Foale's stay. Seven new experiments were planned in biological and crystal growth studies and materials processing.

Undocking occurred on 21 May. Unlike prior dockings, no flyaround of the station by the orbiter was conducted, but the orbiter was stopped three times while backing away to collect data from a European sensor device designed to assist future rendezvous of a proposed European Space Agency resupply vehicle with the International Space Station.

Other activities conducted during the mission included investigations using the Biorack facility, located in the SPACEHAB Double Module in Atlantis' payload bay, a photo survey of Mir during docked operations, environmental air samplings and radiation monitoring.

STS 84 ended 24 May 1997 when Atlantis landed on revolution 144 on Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on the second KSC opportunity after being waved off from the first due to low clouds in the vicinity. Orbit altitude: 184 statute miles. Orbit inclination: 51.6 degrees. Rollout distance: 8,384 feet (2,555 meters). Rollout time: 51 seconds. Mission duration: nine days, five hours, 19 minutes, 56 seconds. Miles traveled: 3.6 million.

The flight crew for STS 84 was: Charles J. Precourt, Mission Commander; Eileen M. Collins, Pilot; Jean-Francois Clervoy, (ESA) Mission Specialist; Carlos I. Noriega, Mission Specialist; Edward T. Lu, Mission Specialist; Elena V. Kondakova, (RSA) Mission Specialist; C. Michael Foale, Mission Specialist (returned on STS 86); Jerry M. Linenger returned from Mir (launched on STS 81).
ref: www.nasa.gov

2001 01:11:00 GMT
PanAmSat 10 was launched from Baikonur on a Proton booster.

On a launch delayed from 4 April 2001, PAS 10 (PanAmSat 10) was an American geosynchronous communications spacecraft orbited on 15 May 2001 by a Proton booster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The 3.7 tonne (with fuel) satellite carried 48 transponders (24 in C-band and 24 in Ku-band) to provide direct-to-home video channels to Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa after parking over 68.5 degrees E longitude. PAS 10 replaced PAS 4. As of 5 September 2001, it was at 68.50 deg E drifting at 0.001 deg E per day.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

2002 01:50:00 GMT
China launched a Chang Zheng 4B booster carrying the HY-1 (Haiyang-1) marine observation and FY-1D (Feng Yun 1D) weather satellites into space.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

The ISEE-3 Reboot Project successfully raised $125,000 to re-establish communications with NASA's ISEE3/ICE probe in an attempt to return it to a useful orbit.

The Explorer-class heliocentric spacecraft, International Sun-Earth Explorer 3, was part of the mother/daughter/heliocentric mission (ISEE 1, 2, and 3). The purposes of the mission were: (1) to investigate solar-terrestrial relationships at the outermost boundaries of the Earth's magnetosphere; (2) to examine in detail the structure of the solar wind near the Earth and the shock wave that forms the interface between the solar wind and Earth's magnetosphere; (3) to investigate motions of and mechanisms operating in the plasma sheets; and, (4) to continue the investigation of cosmic rays and solar flare emissions in the interplanetary region near 1 AU.

The three spacecraft carried a number of complementary instruments for making measurements of plasmas, energetic particles, waves, and fields. The mission thus extended the investigations of previous IMP spacecraft. The launch of three coordinated spacecraft in this mission permitted the separation of spatial and temporal effects. ISEE 3, launched 12 August 1978, had a spin axis normal to the ecliptic plane and a spin rate of about 20 rpm. It was initially placed into an elliptical halo orbit about the Lagrangian libration point (L1) 235 Earth radii on the sunward side of the Earth, where it continuously monitored changes in the near-Earth interplanetary medium. In conjunction with the mother and daughter spacecraft, which had eccentric geocentric orbits, this mission explored the coupling and energy transfer processes between the incident solar wind and the Earth's magnetosphere. In addition, the heliocentric ISEE 3 spacecraft also provided a near-Earth baseline for making cosmic-ray and other planetary measurements for comparison with corresponding measurements from deep-space probes. ISEE 3 was the first spacecraft to use the halo orbit.

In 1982, ISEE 3 began the magnetotail and comet encounter phases of its mission. A maneuver was conducted on 10 June 1982 to remove the spacecraft from the halo orbit around the L1 point and place it in a transfer orbit involving a series of passages between Earth and the L2 (magnetotail) Lagrangian libration point. After several passes through the Earth's magnetotail, with gravity assists from Lunar flybys in March, April, September and October of 1983, a final close Lunar flyby (119.4 km above the Moon's surface) on 22 December 1983 ejected the spacecraft out of the Earth-Moon system and into a heliocentric orbit ahead of the Earth, on a trajectory intercepting that of Comet Giacobini-Zinner. At this time, the spacecraft was renamed International Cometary Explorer (ICE). A total of fifteen propulsive maneuvers (four of which were planned in advance) and five Lunar flybys were needed to carry out the transfer from the halo orbit to an escape trajectory from the Earth-Moon system into a heliocentric orbit.

The primary scientific objective of ICE was to study the interaction between the solar wind and a cometary atmosphere. As planned, the spacecraft traversed the plasma tail of Comet Giacobini-Zinner on 11 September 1985, and made in situ measurements of particles, fields, and waves. It also transited between the Sun and Comet Halley in late March 1986, when other spacecraft (Giotto, Planet-A, MS-T5, VEGA) were also in the vicinity of Comet Halley on their early March comet rendezvous missions. ICE became the first spacecraft to directly investigate two comets. ICE data from both cometary encounters are included in the International Halley Watch archive.

Tracking and telemetry support were provided by the DSN (Deep Space Network) starting in January 1984. The ISEE-3/ICE bit rate was nominally 2048 bps during the early part of the mission, and 1024 bps during the Giacobini-Zinner comet encounter. The bit rate then successively dropped to 512 bps (on 9/12/85), 256 bps (on 5/1/87), 128 bps (on 1/24/89) and finally to 64 bps (on 12/27/91).

As of January 1990, ICE was in a 355 day heliocentric orbit with an aphelion of 1.03 AU, a perihelion of 0.93 AU and an inclination of 0.1 degree.

An update to the ICE mission was approved by NASA headquarters in 1991. It defined a Heliospheric mission for ICE consisting of investigations of coronal mass ejections in coordination with ground-based observations, continued cosmic ray studies, and special period observations such as when ICE and Ulysses were on the same solar radial line. By May 1995, ICE was being operated with only a low duty cycle, with some support being provided by the Ulysses project for data analysis. Termination of operations of ICE/ISEE3 was authorized 5 May 1997.

In 1999, NASA made brief contact with ICE to verify its carrier signal.

On 18 September 2008, NASA located ICE with the help of KinetX using the Deep Space Network after discovering it had not been powered off after the 1999 contact. A status check revealed that all but one of its 13 experiments were still functioning, and it still had enough propellant for 150 m/s (490 ft/s) of Δv (velocity change).

In early 2014, space enthusiasts started discussing reviving ICE when it approached the Earth in August. However, officials with the Goddard Space Flight Center said the Deep Space Network equipment required for transmitting signals to the spacecraft had been decommissioned in 1999, and was too expensive to replace.

On 15 May 2014, the ISEE-3 Reboot Project successfully raised $125,000 through crowdfunding to re-establish communications with the probe.

On 29 May 2014, the reboot team commanded the probe to switch into Engineering Mode to begin to broadcast telemetry. Project members, using the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex DSS-24 antenna, achieved synchronous communication on 26 June and obtained the four ranging points needed to refine the spacecraft's orbital parameters, data needed to calculate maneuvers required to bring the satellite out of heliocentric orbit. The reboot project successfully fired the thrusters on 2 July for the first time since 1987. They spun up the spacecraft to its nominal roll rate, in preparation for the upcoming trajectory correction maneuver in mid-July. However, a longer sequence of thrusters firings on 8 July failed, apparently due to a loss of the nitrogen gas used to pressurize the fuel tanks. The ISEE-3 Reboot Team announced that all attempts to change orbit using the ISEE-3 propulsion system had failed on 24 July. They began shutting down propulsion components to maximize the electrical power available for the science experiments.

In late July 2014, ISEE-3 Reboot Project announced the ISEE-3 Interplanetary Citizen Science Mission would gather data as the spacecraft flies by the Moon on August 10 and continues in heliocentric orbit. With five of the 13 instruments on the spacecraft still working, the science possibilities include listening for gamma ray bursts, where observations from additional locations in the solar system can be valuable. The team plans to acquire data from as much of ISEE-3's 300-day orbit as possible and the project is recruiting additional receiving sites around the globe to improve diurnal coverage. They may upload additional commands while the spacecraft is close to Earth, after which they will mostly be receiving data.

On 10 August 2014, ICE passed the Moon at a distance of approximately 15,600 km (9600 mi) from the surface and continued into heliocentric orbit. It will return to Earth's vicinity in about 17 years.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

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