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Race To Space
Someone will win the prize...
               ... but at what cost?
Visit RaceToSpaceProject.com to find out more!

David Rittenhouse observed a total solar eclipse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first total solar eclipse observed in the newly formed United States of America.
ref: www.greatamericaneclipse.com

J. R. Hind discovered asteroid #18 Melpomene.

Born, Victor Hess, Austrian/American physicist (Nobel 1936 "for his discovery of cosmic radiation")

Victor Francis Hess (24 June 1883 - 17 December 1964) was an Austrian-American physicist. After teaching at the universities of Graz and Innsbruck, he relocated to the United States in 1938 and was appointed professor of physics at Fordham University. He later became a naturalized US citizen. By means of instruments carried aloft in balloons, Hess and others proved that radiation that ionizes the atmosphere is of cosmic origin. For this discovery of cosmic rays, he won the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics, shared with Carl D. Anderson for the latter's discovery of the positron.

See also www.nobel-winners.com
ref: www.nobelprize.org

A. Kopff discovered asteroids #663 Gerlinde and #664 Judith.

G. Neujmin discovered asteroid #789 Lena.

Born, Sir Fred Hoyle, astronomer, science fiction writer

Sir Fred Hoyle (24 June 1915 - 20 August 2001) was a British astronomer, notable for a number of his theories that run counter to current astronomical opinion, and a writer of science fiction, including a number of books co-authored by his son Geoffrey Hoyle.

An early paper of his made an interesting use of the Anthropic Principle. In trying to work out the routes of stellar nucleosynthesis, he observed that one particular nuclear reaction, the Triple-alpha process, which generated carbon, would require the carbon nucleus to have a very specific energy for it to work. The large amount of carbon in the universe, which makes it possible for life to exist, demonstrated that this nuclear reaction must work. Based on this notion, he made a prediction of the energy levels in the carbon nucleus that was later borne out by experiment.

While having no argument with the discovery of the apparent expansion of the universe by Edwin Hubble, he disagreed on its interpretation: Hoyle (with Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi, who he had worked with on radar in World War II) argued for the universe being in a "steady state," with the continuous creation of new matter driving the expansion of the universe, rather than the universe beginning and expanding explosively in a "Big Bang." Ironically, he is responsible for actually coining the term "Big Bang" in one of his papers criticising the theory. Continuous creation offered no explanation for the appearance of new matter, but in itself was no more inexplicable than the appearance of the entire universe from nothing; in the end the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation led to the nearly unanimous acceptance by astronomers (Hoyle being one of the exceptions) of the Big Bang theory.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1938 18:00:00 EDT (GMT -4:00:00)
A 450 ton meteor exploded 12 miles above Chicora, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. Only 303 grams of the mass were recovered, in two fragments, and the impact site was never found.
ref: www.onlyinyourstate.com

Born, Ellison Shoji Onizuka (at Kealakekua Kona, Hawaii, USA), NASA astronaut, the first Asian-American in space (STS 51-C, STS-51-L/Challenger 10; over 3d 1.5h in spaceflight) (deceased)
Astronaut Ellison Shoji Onizuka, NASA photo Source: Wikipedia (www.jsc.nasa.gov unavailable June 2019) 381px-Ellison_Shoji_Onizuka_%28NASA%29.jpg
Astronaut Ellison Shoji Onizuka, NASA photo
Source: Wikipedia (www.jsc.nasa.gov unavailable June 2019)

Ellison Shoji Onizuka (24 June 1946 - 28 January 1986) was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, an aerospace engineer, and a NASA astronaut. Onizuka flew on two Space Shuttle missions; he died in the Challenger explosion on 28 January 1986 where he was serving as mission specialist on mission STS 51-L.

Onizuka received a Bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering in June 1969, and a Master's in that field in December of the same year, from the University of Colorado. He then entered active duty with the United States Air Force, where he served as a flight test engineer and as a test pilot.

He had been selected for the astronaut program in January 1978, and had previously flown on mission STS 51-C on Space Shuttle Discovery in January 1985, also serving as a mission specialist.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

The first generally accepted sighting of UFOs occurred: Kenneth Arnold, flying over Mount Rainier, Washington, noticed nine luminous disks in the form of saucers.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

M. Itzigsohn discovered asteroid #1821 Aconcagua.

US NACA decided to increase research on flight to altitudes of 50 miles and speeds of Mach 10.

The NACA Committee on Aerodynamics recommended on 24 June 1952 that NACA increase its research efforts on the problem of manned and unmanned flight at altitudes between 12 and 50 miles and at speeds of mach 4 through 10. As a result of the recommendation, the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory began preliminary studies on the project, and immediately identified several problem areas. Two of these areas were aerodynamic heating, and the achievement of stability and control at very high altitudes and speeds. Of the two, Langley considered aerodynamic heating to be more serious, and, until the problem was resolved, the design of practical spacecraft impractical.
ref: history.nasa.gov

A proposal to launch a Gemini capsule around the Moon was made.

Gemini contractors proposed on 24 June 1965 to launch a refurbished, modified Gemini around the Moon by April 1967 for $350 million. The Titan 2 launched Gemini would rendezvous and dock with a Titan 3C launched 'Double Transtage', which would then propel the Gemini into a circumlunar trajectory. McDonnell-Douglas and Martin Marrietta's proposal was suppressed by NASA as a threat to the Apollo program.
ref: www.astronautix.com

1966 00:14:00 GMT
NASA launched PAGEOS 1 (Passive Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite) from Cape Canaveral.

The PAGEOS (Passive Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite) spacecraft, launched 24 June 1966, was a 30.48 meter inflatable sphere with no instrumentation on board. It was the second (following GEOS 1) NASA satellite in the National Geodetic Satellites Program. The launch, orbit, separation, inflation and initial operation were nominal, with more than 40 ground stations participating in the observation program. The orbit (3913x4220 km) was generally considered too high for drag-density study, although some work was done in this area by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

Died, Willy Ley, German-American science writer, space advocate, helped popularize rocketry and spaceflight in Germany and the US in the early-mid twentieth century
ref: www.nmspacemuseum.org

Moon tremors were recorded by the Lunar Seismic Network, left on the Moon's surface by American Apollo astronauts, when it was hit by Taurid meteors.
ref: www.esa.int

1977 05:44:00 GMT
USSR launched Molniya 1-37 from Baikonur for operation of long range telephone-telegraph radiocommunication, and transmission of USSR Central Television programs to the stations of the Orbita network.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

Died, Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh, Russian scientist, considered the Chief Theoretician of the Soviet missile and space programs, played a key role in virtually every space project decision until his death
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1981 19:26:00 GMT
USSR launched Molniya 1-50 from Plesetsk for operation of the USSR long-range telephone and telegraph radio communications systems, and transmission of USSR Central Television programs to stations in the Orbita network.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1982 16:29:00 GMT
USSR launched Soyuz T-6 from Baikonur to the Salyut 7 orbital station with the Soviet-French international crew of V. A. Dzhanibekov (USSR), A. S. Ivanchenkov (USSR) and Jean-Loup Chretien (France) to conduct scientific research and experiments.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

1983 06:56:59 PDT (GMT -7:00:00)
NASA's STS 7 (Challenger 2, 7th Shuttle mission) landed with Dr. Sally Ride aboard, the first American woman into space.

The launch of STS 7 on 18 June 1983 proceeded as scheduled with no delays.

Flying on STS 7, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space. The flight also represented the first use of the robotic arm remote manipulator system (RMS) to deploy and retrieve a satellite. Two communications satellites were deployed, ANIK C-2 for TELESAT Canada, and PALAPA-B1 for Indonesia, both attached to Payload Assist Module-D (PAM-D) motors. Seven Get Away Special (GAS) canisters in the cargo bay held a variety of experiments including ones studying effects of space on the social behavior of an ant colony in zero gravity. Ten experiments mounted on the Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS-01) performed research in forming metal alloys in microgravity and the use of a remote sensing scanner. The orbiter's small control rockets fired while SPAS-01 was held by the remote manipulator system to test movement on the extended arm. Experiments to investigate space sickness were carried out. The other payloads on the flight were: Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications-2 (OSTA-2); Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES); Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR); and one Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) experiment.

STS 7 ended on 24 June 1983 when Challenger landed on revolution 98 on Runway 15, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Rollout distance: 10,450 feet. Rollout time: 75 seconds. Launch weight: 249,178 pounds. Mission duration: six days, two hours, 23 minutes, 59 seconds. Orbit altitude: 160-170 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.5 degrees. Miles traveled: 2.5 million. The planned landing at Kennedy Space Center was scrubbed due to poor weather conditions, and the mission was extended two revolutions to facilitate the landing at Edwards. The orbiter was returned to KSC on 29 June 1983.

The flight crew for STS 7 was: Robert L. Crippen, Commander; Frederick H. Hauck, Pilot; John M. Fabian, Mission Specialist; Dr. Sally K. Ride, Mission Specialist, the first American woman in space; Norman E. Thagard, Mission Specialist.
ref: www.nasa.gov

1985 06:11:52 PDT (GMT -7:00:00)
NASA's STS 51-G (Discovery 5, 18th Shuttle mission) landed at Edwards AFB after carrying the MORELOS-A, ARABSAT-A and TELSTAR-3D communications satellites to orbit.

The STS 51-G launch on 17 June 1985 proceeded as scheduled with no delays.

Three communications satellites, all attached to Payload Assist Module-D (PAM-D) motors, were deployed: MORELOS-A, for Mexico; ARABSAT-A, for Arab Satellite Communications Organization; and TELSTAR-3D, for AT&T. Also flown were: the deployable/retrievable Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy (SPARTAN-1); six Get Away Special (GAS) canisters; a Strategic Defense Initiative experiment called the High Precision Tracking Experiment (HPTE); a materials processing furnace called the Automated Directional Solidification Furnace (ADSF); and two French biomedical experiments.

STS 51-G ended on 24 June 1985 when Discovery landed on revolution 112 on Runway 23, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Rollout distance: 7,433 feet. Rollout time: 42 seconds. Launch weight: 256,524 pounds. Landing weight: 204,169 pounds. Orbit altitude: 209 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees. Mission duration: seven days, one hour, 38 minutes, 52 seconds. Miles traveled: 2.9 million. The orbiter was returned to the Kennedy Space Center on 28 June 1985.

The flight crew for STS 51-G was: Daniel C. Brandenstein, Commander; John O. Creighton, Pilot; Shannon W. Lucid, Mission Specialist 1; Steven R. Nagel, Mission Specialist 2; John M. Fabian, Mission Specialist 3; Patrick Baudry, Payload Specialist 1; Sultan Salman Al-Saud, Payload Specialist 2.
ref: www.nasa.gov

1993 12:36:00 EDT (GMT -4:00:00)
NASA STS 57 astronauts captured and stowed European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) deployed by STS 46.

The STS 57 launch was originally targeted for mid-May, but rescheduled to June to allow both liftoff and landing to occur in daylight. The liftoff set for 3 June slipped when managers decided to replace the high pressure oxidizer turbopump on main engine number two, after concerns arose over a misplaced inspection stamp (penetration verification stamp) on a spring in the pump. The additional time also allowed investigation of an inexplicable loud noise heard after the Shuttle arrived at the launch pad; the "big bang" was eventually attributed to a ball strut tie-rod assembly inside the 17-inch (43-centimeter) liquid hydrogen line. The launch attempt on 20 June was scrubbed at T-5 minutes due to low clouds and rain at the return-to-launch site at Kennedy Space Center, and weather concerns at all three transoceanic abort landing sites. The launch countdown was the longest since the return to flight (after Challenger) to allow servicing of payloads at the pad. STS 57 was finally launched on 21 June 1993.

STS 57 marked the first flight of the commercially developed SPACEHAB, a pressurized laboratory designed to more than double the pressurized workspace for crew-tended experiments. Altogether 22 experiments were flown, covering materials and life sciences, and a space station wastewater recycling experiment.

On 22 June, all six crew members talked with President Clinton.

On 24 June, the crew captured and stowed the approximately 9,424-pound (4,275 kilogram) European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) deployed by STS 46. However, EURECA ground controllers were unable to stow the spacecraft's two antennas, and on 25 June, Low and Wisoff spent the beginning of a scheduled extravehicular activity (EVA) manually folding the antennas. The remainder of the 5 hour, 50 minute EVA was spent on planned tasks, the second in series of generic EVAs during 1993.

The other cargo bay payloads flown on STS 57 were the Get Away Special (GAS) bridge assembly holding one ballast can and 11 GAS can payloads, including a Complex Autonomous Payload called Consortium for Materials Development in Space-IV (CONCAP-IV) and CAN DO experiment designed by the Charleston, South Carolina school district; and the Super Fluid Helium On Orbit Transfer (SHOOT) experiment to investigate resupply of liquid helium containers in space.

Middeck payloads flown on STS 57 were: the Fluid Acquisition and Resupply Experiment (FARE); and the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment-II (SAREX-II). No flight hardware was required for Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) calibration test which was also performed.

STS 57 ended on 1 July 1993 when Endeavour landed on revolution 155 on Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Landing weight: 244,400 pounds. Rollout distance: 9,954 feet (3,034 meters). Rollout time: 65 seconds. Orbit altitude: 252 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees. Mission duration: nine days, 23 hours, 44 minutes, 54 seconds. Miles traveled: 4.1 million. Landing attempts on 29 June and 30 June were waved off due to unacceptable cloud cover and rain showers at KSC; Mission 61-C (1986) was last time prior to the flight when there were two wave-offs in one Shuttle mission. After landing, the STS 57 crew in Endeavour talked to the STS 51 crew in Discovery at Pad 39B, the first orbiter-to-orbiter crew conversation since the orbiting 51-D crew talked to the 51-B crew at KSC in 1985.

The flight crew for STS 57 was: Ronald J. Grabe, Commander; Brian Duffy, Pilot; G. David Low, Payload Commander; Nancy J. Sherlock, Mission Specialist 2; Peter J. Wisoff, Mission Specialist 3; Janice E. Voss, Mission Specialist 4.
ref: www.nasa.gov

The Cassini probe flew by Venus for the second time as part of its trajectory to Saturn.

NASA's Cassini Orbiter's mission consisted of delivering an ESA probe, Huygens, to Titan, then remaining in orbit around Saturn for detailed studies of the planet and its rings and satellites. The principal objectives were to: (1) determine the three-dimensional structure and dynamical behavior of the rings; (2) determine the composition of the satellite surfaces and the geological history of each object; (3) determine the nature and origin of the dark material on Iapetus' leading hemisphere; (4) measure the three-dimensional structure and dynamical behavior of the magnetosphere; (5) study the dynamical behavior of Saturn's atmosphere at cloud level; (6) study the time variability of Titan's clouds and hazes; and, (7) characterize Titan's surface on a regional scale.

The Cassini/Huygens probe was launched on 15 October 1997. Unable to be launched directly to Saturn with propulsion systems available at the time, Cassini took a roundabout route to reach the ringed planet, referred to as a VVEJGA (Venus-Venus-Earth-Jupiter Gravity Assist) trajectory. Cassini made two flybys of Venus (April 1998 and June 1999), one of the Earth (August 1999), and one of Jupiter (December 2000). Various observations were made at each of these encounters in order to verify instrument and spacecraft systems as well as to perform calibration observations. At Jupiter, numerous simultaneous observations were made using Cassini, Galileo, and the Hubble Space Telescope, among other missions.

On 1 July 2004 UTC, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft fired its main engine to reduce its speed, allowing the spacecraft to be captured by Saturn's gravity and enter orbit. The spacecraft then started a four-year mission to explore the ringed planet, its mysterious moons, the stunning rings and its complex magnetic environment.

The first two orbits around Saturn set up the necessary trajectory for deployment of the Huygens probe on the third orbit. The maneuver placed the paired spacecraft on an intersect course with Titan and the probe was released on 25 December 2004. The two spacecraft separated with a relative velocity of 0.3-0.4 m/s but remained in the same orbit for about three weeks. Cassini then executed a deflection maneuver to enable it to fly by Titan at an altitude of 60,000 km, positioning it to receive transmissions from Huygens as it entered Titan's atmosphere, some 2.1 hours prior to Cassini's closest approach. Huygens landed on Titan on 14 January 2005.

During the Saturn Tour, Cassini was initially planned to complete 74 orbits of the ringed planet, 44 close flybys of the hazy moon Titan, and numerous flybys of Saturn's other icy moons. Cassini completed its initial four-year mission to explore the Saturn system in June 2008 and the first extended mission, called the Cassini Equinox Mission, in September 2010. The healthy spacecraft is continuing to make exciting new discoveries in a second extended mission called the Cassini Solstice Mission. That extension, which went through September 2017, was named for the Saturnian summer solstice occurring in May 2017. The northern summer solstice marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. Since Cassini arrived at Saturn just after the planet's northern winter solstice, the extension allowed for the first study of a complete seasonal period.

Due to depleted fuel reserves that would prevent the probe from being maneuvered to avoid a collision with one of Saturn's natural satellites, Cassini's mission was terminated on 15 September 2017: At approximately 10:32 UT, the spacecraft entered Saturn's atmosphere at 69,368 mph (111,637 kph), ending its 294th orbit.

See also NASA's Cassini Orbiter page and NASA's Huygens page in the NSSDC Master Catalog.
ref: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

1999 15:44:00 GMT
NASA launched the FUSE (Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

FUSE, the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, was launched on a Delta II rocket into a 754 km x 769 km x 25.0 degree initial orbit on 24 June 1999 as a part of NASA's Origins project. After separation, the Delta second stage executed a depletion burn, and was left in a 182 x 915 km x 19.1 degree orbit from which it would quickly decay out of orbit.

FUSE was a space-based telescope, run by the Johns Hopkins University, and looked at light in the far ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, between 90 to 120 nanometers, which is unobservable with other telescopes. Its primary mission was to characterize universal deuterium, in an effort to learn about the stellar processing times of the deuterium left over from the Big Bang. FUSE operated until 18 October 2007 when its pointing system failed.
ref: fuse.pha.jhu.edu

2000 00:28:00 GMT
USSR launched the Express A3 geosynchronous communications satellite from Baikonur, which was positioned at 11 deg W in 2000.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

2002 18:23:00 GMT
NOAA 17 was launched from Vandenburg, California, as the primary morning weather satellite, supplementing the NOAA 16 afternoon satellite, carrying weather imagers, microwave and infrared sounders, and a SARSAT search-and-rescue package.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

2004 22:04:00 GMT
The ISS EO-9-1 EVA, intended to replace a failed gyroscope module, was terminated early (after only 14 minutes) because of a spacesuit leak.

Astronauts Fincke and Padalka exited the International Space Station to perform EVA ISS EO-9-1 at 24 June 2004 21:56 GMT on what was to be a six hour spacewalk to replace a failed gyroscope electronics module. The EVA had already been delayed from 10 June, then 16 June. The original plan was to use American suits, but a coolant leak in one of those forced the crew to use Russian suits. This, in turn, meant they would have to exit from the airlock in Russian Pirs module, which extended the distance they would have to travel outside the station to 30 meters. Eight minutes after exiting the hatch, a serious leak was detected by Russian ground controllers in Fincke's suit. The crew was called back in, and the EVA was re-set for six days later.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

NASA's Curiosity rover finished its first full Martian year (687 Earth days) on Mars.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 15:02:00 UTC (10:02AM EST) on 26 November 2011. The spacecraft flight system had a launch mass of 3,893 kg (8,583 lb), consisting of an Earth-Mars fueled cruise stage (539 kg (1,188 lb)), the entry-descent-landing (EDL) system (2,401 kg (5,293 lb) including 390 kg (860 lb) of landing propellant), and an 899 kg (1,982 lb) mobile rover with an integrated instrument package. On 11 January 2012, the spacecraft successfully refined its trajectory with a three-hour series of thruster-engine firings, advancing the rover's landing time by about 14 hours.

Selection of Gale Crater for the landing during preflight planning had followed consideration of more than thirty locations by more than 100 scientists participating in a series of open workshops. The selection process benefited from examining candidate sites with NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and earlier orbiters, and from the rover mission's capability of landing within a target area only about 20 kilometers (12 miles) long. That precision, about a fivefold improvement on earlier Mars landings, made sites eligible that would otherwise be excluded for encompassing nearby unsuitable terrain. The Gale Crater landing site, about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, is so close to the crater wall and Mount Sharp that it would not have been considered safe if the mission were not using this improved precision.

Science findings began months before landing as Curiosity made measurements of radiation levels during the flight from Earth to Mars that will help NASA design for astronaut safety on future human missions to Mars.

The Mars rover Curiosity landed successfully on the floor of Gale Crater at 05:32 UTC on 6 August 2012, at 4.6 degrees south latitude, 137.4 degrees east longitude and minus 4,501 meters (2.8 miles) elevation. Engineers designed the spacecraft to steer itself during descent through Mars' atmosphere with a series of S-curve maneuvers similar to those used by astronauts piloting NASA space shuttles. During the three minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft slowed its descent with a parachute, then used retrorockets mounted around the rim of its upper stage. The parachute descent was observed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see Wikipedia for the image and some notes. In the final seconds of the landing sequence, the upper stage acted as a sky crane, lowering the upright rover on a tether to land on its wheels. The touchdown site, Bradbury Landing, is near the foot of a layered mountain, Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons). Curiosity landed on target and only 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from its center.

Some low resolution Hazcam images were immediately sent to Earth by relay orbiters confirming the rover's wheels were deployed correctly and on the ground. Three hours later, the rover began transmitting detailed data on its systems' status as well as on its entry, descent and landing experience. On 8 August 2012, Mission Control began upgrading the rover's dual computers by deleting the entry-descent-landing software, then uploading and installing the surface operation software; the switchover was completed by 15 August. On 15 August, the rover began several days of instrument checks and mobility tests. The first laser test of the ChemCam on Mars was performed on a rock, N165 ("Coronation" rock), on 19 August.

In the first few weeks after landing, images from the rover showed that Curiosity touched down right in an area where water once coursed vigorously over the surface. The evidence for stream flow was in rounded pebbles mixed with hardened sand in conglomerate rocks at and near the landing site. Analysis of Mars' atmospheric composition early in the mission provided evidence that the planet has lost much of its original atmosphere by a process favoring loss from the top of the atmosphere rather than interaction with the surface.

In the initial months of the surface mission, the rover team drove Curiosity eastward toward an area of interest called "Glenelg," where three types of terrain intersect. The rover analyzed its first scoops of soil on the way to Glenelg. In the Glenelg area, it collected the first samples of material ever drilled from rocks on Mars. Analysis of the first drilled sample, from a rock target called "John Klein," provided the evidence of conditions favorable for life in Mars' early history: geological and mineralogical evidence for sustained liquid water, other key elemental ingredients for life, a chemical energy source, and water not too acidic or too salty.

Within the first eight months of a planned 23-month primary mission, Curiosity met its major objective of finding evidence of a past environment well suited to supporting microbial life.

On 7 October 2012, a mysterious "bright object" (image) discovered in the sand at Rocknest, drew scientific interest. Several close-up pictures were taken of the object and preliminary interpretations by scientists suggest the object to be "debris from the spacecraft." Further images in the nearby sand detected other "bright particles." The newly discovered objects are presently thought to be "native Martian material". (2015)

On 4 July 2013, Curiosity finished its investigations in the Glenelg area and began a southwestward trek toward an entry point to the lower layers of Mount Sharp. There, at the main destination for the mission, researchers anticipate finding further evidence about habitable past environments and about how the ancient Martian environment evolved to become much drier. As of 29 July 2014, the rover had traveled about 73% of the way, an estimated linear distance of 6.1 km (3.8 mi) of the total 8.4 km (5.2 mi) trip, to the mountain base since leaving its "start" point in Yellowknife Bay. (see also Where is the rover now?)

On 6 August 2013, Curiosity audibly played "Happy Birthday to You" in honor of the one Earth year mark of its Martian landing. This was the first time that a song was played on a foreign planet; making "Happy Birthday" the first song and Curiosity the first device used to play music on a foreign planet. This was also the first time music was transmitted between two planets. On 24 June 2014, Curiosity completed a Martian year (687 Earth days) on Mars.

On 26 September 2013, NASA scientists reported the Mars Curiosity rover detected "abundant, easily accessible" water (1.5 to 3 weight percent) in soil samples at the Rocknest region of Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater.

On 3 June 2014, Curiosity observed the planet Mercury transiting the Sun, marking the first time a planetary transit has been observed from a celestial body besides Earth.

On 11 July 2015, Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photographed an extremely unusual high silica rock fragment dubbed "Lamoose" (image). The rock, about 4 inches (10 centimeters) across, is fine-grained, perhaps finely layered, and apparently etched by the wind. [Ed. note: If I were on Mars and had seen this "rock" I would have picked it up to turn it over to see what the other side looks like.] Other nearby rocks in that portion of the "Marias Pass" area of Mt. Sharp also have unusually high concentrations of silica, first detected in the area by the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) laser spectrometer. This rock was targeted for follow-up study by the MAHLI and the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). Silica is a compound containing silicon and oxygen, commonly found on Earth as quartz. It is a primary raw material for Portland cement, many ceramics such as earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, and is used in the production of glass for windows, bottles, etc. High levels of silica could indicate ideal conditions for preserving ancient organic material, if they are present. (Press release: NASA's Curiosity Rover Inspects Unusual Bedrock, issued 23 July 2015)

For more information about the Curiosity rover and its continuing science experiments and discoveries, visit NASA's Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity Web page or the JPL link below.

-Rover Details-

Curiosity has a mass of 899 kg (1,982 lb) including 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments, including equipment to gather and process samples of rocks and soil, distributing them to onboard test chambers inside analytical instruments. It inherited many design elements from previous rovers, including six-wheel drive, a rocker-bogie suspension system, and cameras mounted on a mast to help the mission's team on Earth select exploration targets and driving routes. The rover is 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 m (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in height. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, builder of the Mars Science Laboratory, engineered Curiosity to roll over obstacles up to 65 centimeters (25 inches) high and to travel about 200 meters (660 feet) per day on Martian terrain at a rate up to 90 m (300 ft) per hour.

Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), producing electricity from the heat of plutonium-238's radioactive decay. The RTG gives the mission an operating lifespan on the surface of "a full Mars year (687 Earth days) or more." At launch, the generator provided about 110 watts of electrical power. Warm fluids heated by the generator's excess heat are plumbed throughout the rover to keep electronics and other systems at acceptable operating temperatures. Although the total power from the generator will decline over the course of the mission, it was still providing 105 or more watts a year after landing; it is expected to still be supplying 100 watts after ten years.

Curiosity is equipped with several means of communication, an X band small deep space transponder for communication directly to Earth via NASA's Deep Space Network and a UHF Electra-Lite software-defined radio for communicating with Mars orbiters. The X-band system has one radio, with a 15 W power amplifier, and two antennas: a low-gain omnidirectional antenna that can communicate with Earth at very low data rates (15 bit/s at maximum range), regardless of rover orientation, and a high-gain antenna that can communicate at speeds up to 32 kbit/s, but must be aimed. The UHF system has two radios (approximately 9 W transmit power), sharing one omnidirectional antenna. This can communicate with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Odyssey orbiter (ODY) at speeds up to 2 Mbit/s and 256 kbit/s, respectively, but each orbiter is only able to communicate with Curiosity for about 8 minutes per day. The orbiters have larger antennas and more powerful radios, and can relay data to earth faster than the rover could do directly. Therefore, most of the data returned by Curiosity is via the UHF relay links with MRO and ODY. The data return via the communication infrastructure as implemented at MDL, and the rate observed during the first 10 days was approximately 31 megabytes per day. In 2013, after the first year since Curiosity's landing, the orbiters had already downlinked 190 gigabits of data from Curiosity.

Typically 225 kbit/day of commands are transmitted to the rover directly from Earth, at a data rate of 1–2 kbit/s, during a 15-minute (900 second) transmit window, while the larger volumes of data collected by the rover are returned via satellite relay. The one-way communication delay with Earth varies from 4 to 22 minutes, depending on the planets' relative positions.

-Science Payload-

In April 2004, NASA solicited proposals for specific instruments and investigations to be carried by Mars Science Laboratory. The agency selected eight of the proposals later that year and also reached agreements with Russia and Spain to carry instruments those nations provided. Curiosity carries the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars' surface, a payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers. More than 400 scientists from around the world participate in the science operations.

A suite of instruments named Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) analyzes samples of material collected and delivered by the rover's arm, plus atmospheric samples. It includes a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer and a tunable laser spectrometer with combined capabilities to identify a wide range of carbon-containing compounds and determine the ratios of different isotopes of key elements. Isotope ratios are clues to understanding the history of Mars' atmosphere and water.

An X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument called CheMin also examines samples gathered by the robotic arm. It is designed to identify and quantify the minerals in rocks and soils, and to measure bulk composition.

Mounted on the arm, the Mars Hand Lens Imager takes extreme close-up pictures of rocks, soil and, if present, ice, revealing details smaller than the width of a human hair. It can also focus on hard-to-reach objects more than an arm's length away and has taken images assembled into dramatic self-portraits of Curiosity.

Also on the arm, the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer determines the relative abundances of different elements in rocks and soils.

The Mast Camera, mounted at about human-eye height, images the rover's surroundings in high-resolution stereo and color, with the capability to take and store high definition video sequences. It can also be used for viewing materials collected or treated by the arm.

An instrument named ChemCam uses laser pulses to vaporize thin layers of material from Martian rocks or soil targets up to 7 meters (23 feet) away. It includes both a spectrometer to identify the types of atoms excited by the beam, and a telescope to capture detailed images of the area illuminated by the beam. The laser and telescope sit on the rover's mast and share with the Mast Camera the role of informing researchers' choices about which objects in the area make the best targets for approaching to examine with other instruments.

The rover's Radiation Assessment Detector characterizes the radiation environment at the surface of Mars. This information is necessary for planning human exploration of Mars and is relevant to assessing the planet's ability to harbor life.

In the two minutes before landing, the Mars Descent Imager captured color, high-definition video of the landing region to provide geological context for the investigations on the ground and to aid precise determination of the landing site. Pointed toward the ground, it can also be used for surface imaging as the rover explores.

Spain's Ministry of Education and Science provided the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, plus ultraviolet radiation levels.

Russia's Federal Space Agency provided the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument to measure subsurface hydrogen up to 1 meter (3 feet) below the surface. Detections of hydrogen may indicate the presence of water bound in minerals.

In addition to the science payload, equipment of the rover's engineering infrastructure contributes to scientific observations. Like the Mars Exploration Rovers, Curiosity has a stereo Navigation Camera on its mast and low-slung, stereo Hazard-Avoidance cameras. The wide view of the Navigation Camera is also used to aid targeting of other instruments and to survey the sky for clouds and dust. Equipment called the Sample Acquisition/Sample Preparation and Handling System includes tools to remove dust from rock surfaces, scoop up soil, drill into rocks to collect powdered samples from rocks' interiors, sort samples by particle size with sieves, and deliver samples to laboratory instruments.

The Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument Suite was a set of engineering sensors that measured atmospheric conditions and performance of the spacecraft during the arrival-day plunge through the atmosphere, to aid in design of future missions.
ref: mars.jpl.nasa.gov

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