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163 B.C.
Halley's Comet passed perihelion in its second 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

Born, Sir William Congreve, English inventor and rocket pioneer
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, Emil Berliner, telephone and recording pioneer (microphone, flat phonograph record)
ref: www.loc.gov

The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (French: BIPM, Bureau International des Poids et Mesures) was formed by treaty.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

A Charlois discovered asteroid #293 Brasilia.

R. S. Dugan discovered asteroid #510 Mabella.

Halley's Comet made its closest approach to Earth (14 million miles) during its then-current pass. Among other things, the 1910 return of Halley's Comet prompted a song named "Halley's Comet Rag" which is included in the US Library of Congress.
ref: adsabs.harvard.edu

US President Calvin Coolidge signed the Air Commerce Act into law, requiring licensing of pilots and planes.
ref: www.faa.gov

1927 07:52:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
With a very full load of fuel, Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, on the world's first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, already having been awake over 21 hours, with 33.5 hour flying ahead of him.
ref: www.charleslindbergh.com

Born, David "Dave" Mathieson Walker (at Columbus, Georgia, USA), Captain USN, NASA astronaut (STS 51-A, STS 30, STS 53, STS 69; nearly 30d 4.5h total time in spaceflight) (deceased)
Astronaut Dave Walker, NASA photo Source: Wikipedia (www.jsc.nasa.gov unavailable May 2019) Walker-dm.jpg
Astronaut Dave Walker, NASA photo
Source: Wikipedia (www.jsc.nasa.gov unavailable May 2019)
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, Thomas "Tom" Dale Akers (at St Louis, Missouri, USA), Colonel USAF, NASA astronaut (STS 41, STS 49, STS 61, STS 79; nearly 33d 22.75h total time in spaceflight)
Astronaut Tom Akers, NASA photo Source: Wikipedia (spaceflight.nasa.gov killed 25 Feb 2021) 384px-Thomas_D_Akers.jpg
Astronaut Tom Akers, NASA photo
Source: Wikipedia (spaceflight.nasa.gov killed 25 Feb 2021)
ref: www.nasa.gov

1952 16:06:00 GMT
The US launched the V-2 #59 test/photography mission, which reached 340,000 feet (103.7 km, 64.4 mi). It carried composition and photography experiments for the Signal Corps Engineering Lab, University of Michigan.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

NACA and the US Air Force signed a "Memorandum of Understanding on the DynaSoar I" concerning the principles in the development and testing of the Air Force's Hypersonic Boost Glide Vehicle (Dyna Soar I).

The US National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the Air Force signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the principles in the development and testing of the Air Force's Hypersonic Boost Glide Vehicle (Dyna Soar I) on 20 May 1958. The following principles would apply to the project: (1) The project would be conducted as a joint Air Force-NACA project. (2) Overall technical control of the project would rest with the Air Force, acting with the advice and assistance of NACA. (3) Financing of the design, construction, and Air Force test of the vehicles would be borne by the Air Force. (4) Management of the project would be conducted by an Air Force project office within the Directorate of Systems Management, Headquarters, Air Research and Development Command. NACA would provide liaison representation in the project office and provide the chairman of the technical team responsible for data transmission and research instrumentation. (5) Design and construction of the system would be conducted through a negotiated prime contractor. (6) Flight tests of the vehicle and related equipment would be accomplished by NACA, the USAF, and the prime contractor in a combined test program, under the overall control of a joint NACA-USAF committee chaired by the Air Force.
ref: history.nasa.gov

USSR's Venera 1 passed Venus at a distance of approximately 100,000 km, becoming the first spacecraft to fly by the planet. Contact with the probe had been lost 7 days after launch, however, on 19 February.

Venera 1 was launched 12 February 1961, and was the first spacecraft to fly by Venus. The probe consisted of a cylindrical body topped by a dome, totaling 2 meters in height. Two solar panels extended radially from the cylinder. The probe was equipped with scientific instruments including a magnetometer attached to the end of a 2 meter boom, ion traps, micrometeorite detectors, and cosmic radiation counters. The dome contained a pressurized sphere which carried a Soviet pennant and was designed to float on the putative Venus oceans after the intended Venus impact. Venera 1 had no on-board propulsion systems, and temperature control was achieved with thermal shutters.

Venera 1 was launched along with an Earth orbiting launch platform (Tyazheliy Sputnik 5 (61-003C)). From the 229 x 282 km Earth orbit, Venera 1 was launched toward Venus. On 19 February, 7 days after launch and at a distance of about two million km from Earth, contact with the spacecraft was lost. On 20 May 1961, Venera 1 passed within 100,000 km of Venus and entered a heliocentric orbit.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

A. Penzias and R. Wilson detected the 3 degrees K primordial background microwave radiation, generally assumed to be the signature of the "Big Bang" marking the beginning of the universe.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, Paul Willam Richards (at Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA), NASA mission specialist astronaut (STS 102; over 12d 19.75h in spaceflight)
Astronaut Paul Richards, STS-102 mission specialist, NASA photo (25 July 2013) 9366433003_149b5100ce_n.jpg
Astronaut Paul Richards, STS-102 mission specialist, NASA photo (25 July 2013)
ref: www.nasa.gov

1965 16:33:00 GMT
The US Air Force launched the DMSP-Block-4A F3 (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) weather satellite into Earth orbit.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1975 14:03:48 GMT
The US Air Force launched an Atlas 3C carrying two military communications satellites (DSCS II-05 and DSCS II-06), but the transtage gyro platform lost power; attitude control was lost; and the satellites were stranded in a too low, unusable orbit.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1978 13:13:00 GMT
NASA launched Pioneer 12 (Pioneer Venus Orbiter) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, toward a 4 December 1978 rendezvous with Venus.
Pioneer Venus Orbiter in orbit, NASA illustration Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog pv_orbiter.jpg
Pioneer Venus Orbiter in orbit, NASA illustration
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog

The Pioneer Venus Orbiter (Pioneer 12), launched 20 May 1978, was the first of a two-spacecraft orbiter-probe combination designed to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the atmosphere of Venus. Its instruments were mounted on a shelf within the spacecraft except for a magnetometer mounted at the end of a boom to reduce magnetic interference from the spacecraft. Pioneer Venus Orbiter measured the detailed structure of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Venus, investigated the interaction of the solar wind with the ionosphere and the magnetic field in the vicinity of Venus, determined the characteristics of the atmosphere and surface of Venus on a planetary scale, determined the planet's gravitational field harmonics from perturbations of the spacecraft orbit, and detected gamma-ray bursts. UV observations of comets were also made. From Venus orbit insertion on 4 December 1978 to July 1980, periapsis was held between 142 and 253 km to facilitate radar and ionospheric measurements. Thereafter, the periapsis was allowed to rise (to 2290 km at maximum) and then fall, to conserve fuel. In 1991 the Radar Mapper was reactivated to investigate previously inaccessible southern portions of the planet. In May 1992 Pioneer Venus began the final phase of its mission, in which the periapsis was held between 150 and 250 km until the fuel ran out and atmospheric entry destroyed the spacecraft. Although it had a planned primary mission duration of only eight months, Pioneer Venus Orbiter remained in operation from orbit insertion on 4 December 1978 until it burned up in the Venusian atmosphere on 8 October 1992.

See also Pioneer Venus Orbiter in the NSSDCA Master Catalog.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1980 09:21:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 1181, a military communications satellite, into Earth orbit.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

The Hubble Space Telescope sent its first photographs from space.
First Image Taken by Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera, medium resolution Source: NASA and STScI STScI-01EVTBEP72XKKKH4FZ0GWVB57Z.jpg
First Image Taken by Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera, medium resolution
Source: NASA and STScI
ref: hubblesite.org

1992 00:30:00 GMT
India launched the SROSS 3 scientific satellite into orbit from Sriharikota, the first time it independently launched its own satellite.

India's SROSS 3, launched 20 May 1992, was in the Stretched Rohini Satellite Series, and carried two scientific payloads: 1) Retarding Potential Analyser (RPA), consisting of two planar detectors to measure plasma parameters and investigate energetics of the equatorial ionosphere; and (2) Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) detectors, consisting of two scintillation detectors to study celestial gamma ray bursts in the energy range of 20 keV to 3000 keV. The launch vehicle was an Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

A ten meter meteor (1993KA) came within 150,000 km of Earth.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1994 02:01:00 GMT
Russia launched Rimsat-2 (Gorizont 30) from Baikonur on a Proton-K, leased to Rimsat Corp., to an orbital slot allocated to Tonga, positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 142 deg E in 1994-1997; 122 deg E in 1997-1999; 142 deg E in 1999.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1995 05:52:02 GMT
Russia launched the Spektr experiment module from Baikonur to the Mir space station on a Proton booster. It docked to Mir on 1 June 1995.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

During the 5h 20m Mir EO-21-2 EVA, cosmonauts Yuri Onufriyenko and Yuri Usachyov installed the MCSA solar array on its mounting bracket. Astronaut Shannon Lucid assisted from inside the station.
ref: www.spacefacts.de

1997 07:07:00 GMT
Russia's Cosmos Zenit-2 launch ended when a strut in the first stage engine compartment failed at T+48 seconds.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1997 22:39:00 GMT
Norway launched the Thor 2 communication satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, into geostationary orbit, stationed over 0.8 degrees W longitude.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1999 22:30:00 GMT
Canada launched the Nimiq 1 communications satellite into geostationary orbit from the Russian Baikonur cosmodrome, on a Proton booster.

Telesat Canada's Nimiq 1 communication satellite was launched from Baikonur on 20 May 1999 into a 7050 km x 35790 km x 15.9 degree transfer orbit. The Nimiq used its liquid apogee engine (Royal Ordnance Leros 1) to reach geosynchronous orbit. Telesat Canada also operated the Anik Canadian domestic communications satellites, the first of which was launched in 1972. Nimiq 1 was positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 91 deg W in 1999. As of 4 September 2001, it was at 91.11 deg W drifting at 0.002 deg W per day.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

2000 23:31:00 CDT (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA's STS 101 (Atlantis) docked at the ISS during the International Space Station Flight 2A.2a mission.

STS 101 was launched 19 May 2000, an ISS logistics flight. During the mission, the shuttle Atlantis spent nearly 10 days in space, six of which (20 May - 26 May) were spent docked with the International Space Station.

On STS 101, Atlantis flew as the most updated space shuttle ever, outfitted with a new "glass cockpit" which was 34 kilograms (75 pounds) lighter and used less power than before, and other state-of-the-art upgrades to key systems, including more than 100 new modifications incorporated during a ten month period at Boeing's Palmdale, California, shuttle factory in 1998. Among the improvements: Atlantis' airlock was relocated to the payload bay to prepare for International Space Station assembly flights; the communications system was updated; several weight reduction measures were installed; enhancements were made to provide additional protection to the cooling system; and the crew cabin floor was strengthened.

While docked with the space station, the crew refurbished and replaced components in both the Zarya and Unity Modules. Voss and Williams performed a 6.5 hour space walk the day after docking to install a Russian Strela cargo boom on the outside of Zarya. They also replaced a faulty radio antenna and performed several other tasks in advance of space walks on future station assembly missions.

The top priority for STS 101 was to replace four of six 800 ampere batteries in the Zarya Module. Zarya received additional new equipment: four cooling fans and ducting to improve airflow, three fire extinguishers, ten smoke detectors, and an onboard computer. A suspect radio frequency power distribution box in Unity used as part of the early S-band communications system was also replaced.

Three hour-long orbit raising burns on 24 and 25 May by the Reaction Control System (RCS) engines on Atlantis were used to raise the station to a 372 x 380 km x 51.6 deg orbit.

STS 101 ended on 29 May 2000 when Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It was the fourteenth nighttime landing in Shuttle history, and the twenty-second consecutive mission to end with a landing at KSC. Mission duration: 9 days, 20 hours, 9 minutes. Orbit altitude: 173 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 51.6 degrees. Miles traveled: 4.1 million.

The flight crew for STS 101 was: James D. Halsell, Commander; Scott J. Horowitz, Pilot; Mary Ellen Weber, Mission Specialist 1; Jeffrey N. Williams, Mission Specialist 2; James S. Voss, Mission Specialist 3; Susan J. Helms, Mission Specialist 4; Yuri V. Usachev (RSA), Mission Specialist 5. For Usachev, Voss and Helms, the short visit to the ISS was a preview of the much longer time they would spend aboard the outpost as the Expedition Two crew in 2001.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

2010 21:58:22 GMT
JAXA launched the Akatsuki probe toward Venus for observations aimed at investigation of the complex Venusian meteorology.

On 20 May 2010, JAXA launched its Akatsuki probe from the Tanegashima YLP-1 launch site at 21:58:22 UTC (21 May 2010 6:58:22 a.m. JST) toward Venus aboard an H-IIA 202 rocket, with infrared camera observations of cloud and surface imaging planned from orbit there. (A small solar power sail demonstration mission, Ikaros, was also carried aloft on the same launch.) Other experiments were included to confirm the presence of lightning, and to determine whether volcanism occurs currently on Venus. The primary objective was studying the complex Venusian meteorology caused by atmospheric super-rotation: On most planets, the atmosphere circulates much slower than the planet's rotation speed (Earth's fastest winds are only 10-20% of its rotation speed). However, Venus rotates at 6 km/h at the equator (its rotational period of 243 days is the slowest of the solar system's planets), but the atmosphere spins around the planet at 300 km/h at the cloud tops, winds move at up to 60 times the speed of its rotation.

Akatsuki was originally intended to conduct scientific research for two or more years from an elliptical orbit around Venus at an altitude ranging from 300 to 80,000 km (190 to 49,710 mi). However, instead of firing for 12 minutes during the orbit insertion burn starting at 8:49 a.m. 7 December 2010 JST (6 December 23:49 UTC, 6 December 6:49 p.m. EST), the probe's engines only fired for 152 seconds (2.5 minutes), the failure occurring when Akatsuki was behind Venus for 22 minutes from Earth's perspective. Analysis of the data indicated the likely cause of the malfunction was salt deposits jamming the valve between the helium pressurization tank and the fuel tank. As a result, the engine mixture became oxidizer-rich, resulting in high combustion temperatures that damaged the chamber's throat and nozzle. Since the burn was far short of what was needed to go into Venus orbit, Akatsuki ended up in a heliocentric one with an orbital period of 203 days. Where Venus orbits the Sun in 225 days, the probe returned to the vicinity of Venus in December 2015. During the intervening time, tests of the orbit maneuver engine (OME) showed it had insufficient specific impulse available for orbital maneuvers (thrust was only about 10% of what was expected), and a plan to use the four hydrazine attitude control thrusters of the reaction control system (RCS) to enter orbit was developed. Because the RCS thrusters don't use oxidizer, the remaining 65 kg of MON oxidizer was dumped overboard to lighten the spacecraft in October 2011. On 7 December 2015, the RCS thrusters were used to impart a total delta-v of 243.8 m/s to the spacecraft in a 20 minute burn, successfully placing the probe in a highly elliptical prograde orbit ranging from 440,000 km (270,000 mi) to 400 km (250 mi) above Venus' surface, with an orbital period of 13 days and 14 hours. A follow-up burn on 26 March 2016 lowered Akatsuki's apoapsis to about 330,000 km (210,000 mi) and shortened its orbital period from 13 to 9 days.

Akatsuki finally started its two year science mission in mid-May 2016. On 9 December 2016, two infrared cameras failed, terminating 1- and 2-micron observations.

Soon after insertion in December 2015 and in "a few glimmers in April and May" of 2016, Akatsuki's instruments recorded a "bow-shape feature in the atmosphere stretching 6,000 miles, almost pole to pole — a sideways smile" in the planet's winds above Aphrodite Terra, "a highland region about the size of Africa that rises up to three miles from the surface." Project scientists termed the feature a "gravity wave" but it is more likely simply a transient atmospheric phenomenon.

See also Wikipedia: Akatsuki (spacecraft)
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

2010 21:58:22 GMT
JAXA launched the IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) experimental solar sail satellite on the rocket that sent Akatsuki toward Venus.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

The prototype kilogram, the last remaining artifact which SI unit definitions depended on, became irrelevant as a redefinition of SI base units came into force.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

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