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

Born, Johannes Kepler, astrologer, astronomer and mathematician

Johannes Kepler (27 December 1571 - 15 November 1630), a key figure in the Scientific Revolution, was a German astronomer, mathematician and astrologer. He is best known for his laws of planetary motion. He is sometimes referred to as "the first theoretical astrophysicist," although Carl Sagan also referred to him as the last scientific astrologer.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, Jacob Bernoulli, Swiss mathematician, the first person to develop the technique for solving separable differential equations, an early researcher in probability theory
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, George Cayley, naturalist, physical scientist, engineer, inventor, politician, built the first human-carrying heavier than air vehicle (glider, 1853)

Sir George Cayley (27 December 1773 - 15 December 1857) was an exuberant polymath from Brompton-by-Sawdon, near Scarborough in Yorkshire, England. He was a naturalist, physical scientist, engineer, inventor and politician. His most celebrated achievement was to design and build a functional piloted (though unpowered) aeroplane in the middle of 1853, nearly fifty years before the Wright Brothers.

A prolific inventor, Cayley keenly observed and chronicled the natural world throughout his life. A number of his inventions were forgotten and then "re-invented" by others, many years later. Among the many things that he invented are self-righting lifeboats, tension-spoke wheels, caterpillar tractors (which he called the Universal Railway), cow-catchers for railway locomotives, automatic signals for railway crossings, seat belts, experimental designs for helicopters, and a kind of prototypical internal combustion engine fueled by gunpowder. He also made contributions in the fields of prosthetics, heat engines, electricity, theatre architecture, ballistics, optics and land reclamation.

He is mainly remembered, however, for his flying machines and considered by some to be the first aeronautical engineer. He built a "whirling-arm apparatus" so that he could measure the force of the air on variously shaped specimens at various airspeeds and angles of attack. He also experimented with free flying model gliders of various wing sections, in the stairwells at Brompton Hall. These meticulously documented scientific experiments led him to develop an efficient cambered airfoil and to identify the four vector forces that influence an aircraft: thrust, lift, drag, and weight. He discovered the importance of dihedral for lateral stability in flight, and deliberately set the center of gravity of many of his models well below the wings for this reason. Investigating many other theoretical aspects of flight, many now acknowledge him as the first analyst of aerodynamics.

By 1804 he was producing model gliders of a pattern that is similar to that of modern aircraft: a pair of large monoplane wings towards the front, with a smaller tailplane at the back comprising horizontal stabilizers and a vertical fin. His experimental models grew in size until eventually he built a machine that could carry a person. After demonstrating that animals could fly in it safely, in late June or early July 1853 he persuaded his coachman to have a go. Launched from a hill on the Brompton Estate by teams of estate workers, Sir George Cayley's coachman flew the machine for a distance of between 100 and 200 meters across Brompton Dale, landing safely into a meadow on the other side. This was the earliest recorded manned flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

Sir George is believed to have worked entirely alone on his development of a theory of flight. Most of his contemporaries considered it to be no more than a whimsical hobby, but today we recognise his enormous achievements in this field.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, Louis Pasteur (at Dole, France), bacteriologist (pasturization)
ref: en.wikipedia.org

M. Wolf discovered asteroid #553 Kundry.

L. Boyer discovered asteroid #1340 Yvette.

Died, Johannes Winkler, German rocket engineer, founded the Society for Space Travel (Verein fur Raumschiffarht - VfR), published The Rocket (Die Rakete), the first journal of rocketry and astronautics

Johannes Winkler (29 May 1897 - 27 December 1947) was a German rocket engineer. While working as an engineer for Junkers Aircraft in Breslau, Winkler became seriously fascinated with Oberth's calculations proving the feasibility of manned space travel using liquid propellant rockets. Winkler founded the pioneering Society for Space Travel (Verein fur Raumschiffarht - VfR) and became its first president. From 1927 to late 1929, he was the editor and publisher of The Rocket (Die Rakete), the first journal of rocketry and astronautics. He quit his job at Junkers and built and flew the first liquid propellant rocket in Germany in 1931. After the failure of his HW-2 rocket he returned to his old job at Junkers, and then worked for the government Luftforschungsanstalt (Aeronautical Research Institute) during World War II. Although he designed a number of JATO units and sounding rockets, none were ever put into production.
ref: www.nmspacemuseum.org

1968 15:51:42 GMT
NASA's Apollo 8 returned to Earth after becoming the first crewed mission to reach the Moon.

Apollo 8 was originally meant to be an Earth orbital test, like the Apollo 9 mission. However, it was becoming clear the Soviets were trying to preempt the first Lunar flyby with their Zond program, which aimed to fly a stripped down Soyuz on a Proton rocket carrying 1 or 2 cosmonauts to the Moon. The Soviets conducted a partially successful unmanned test in September 1968, which spurred NASA into redesignating the Apollo 8 mission on short notice. Apollo 8 was therefore moved up to be a Lunar flight. The Apollo 8 crew rode inside the Command Module, with no Lunar lander attached. They were the first astronauts to be launched by the Saturn V, which had flown only twice before.

Apollo 8 was launched 21 December 1968, crewed by Frank Borman, commander; Jim Lovell, Command Module pilot; William A. Anders, Lunar Module pilot (a misnomer, since there was no Lunar Module on the mission). Approximately two hours and fifty minutes after leaving the ground, the Saturn V's S-IVB third stage was restarted, propelling the crew from an Earth parking orbit velocity of 7792.8 meters per second to a translunar trajectory velocity of 10,822 meters per second. 66 hours 16 minutes later, on 24 December 1968, the Service Module engines were ignited to put Apollo 8 into orbit around the Moon.

As the spacecraft passed behind the Moon for the first time, and communications were interrupted, the Apollo 8 crew became the first humans to see the far side of the Moon. The next 12 hours of crew activity in Lunar orbit involved photography of both the near and far sides of the Moon and landing-area sightings. The crew completed photographic exercises in an excellent manner. Over 800 70 mm still photographs were obtained. Of these, 600 were good-quality reproductions of Lunar surface features, and the remainder were of the S-IVB during separation and venting, and long-distance Earth and Lunar photography. Over 700 feet of 16 mm film were also exposed during the S-IVB separation, Lunar landmark photography through the sextant, Lunar surface sequence photography, and documentation of intravehicular activity.

One of the most famous photos from this mission is the "Apollo 8 Earthrise View" (AS08-14-2383) where the Earth was about five degrees above the Lunar horizon in a telephoto view taken when the Apollo 8 spacecraft was near 110 degrees east longitude. The horizon, about 570 kilometers (350 statute miles) from the spacecraft, was near the eastern limb of the Moon as viewed from the Earth. The width of the view at the horizon was about 150 kilometers (95 statute miles). On the Earth, 240,000 statute miles away, the sunset terminator was crossing Africa. The crew took the photo around 10:40 a.m. (Houston time) on the morning of 24 December (approximately 15:40 GMT). In the picture, the South Pole is in the white area near the left end of the terminator, and North and South America are under the clouds.

The crew initially followed the Lunar orbit mission plan and performed all scheduled tasks. However, because of crew fatigue, the commander made the decision to cancel all activities during the final four hours in Lunar orbit to allow the crew to rest. The only activities during this period were a required platform alignment and preparation for transearth injection. A planned 26-minute 43-second television transmission of the Moon and Earth was made Christmas Eve, during which the crew read the first ten verses of Genesis from the Bible, then wished viewers "Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth." An estimated one billion people in 64 countries heard or viewed the live reading and greeting; delayed broadcasts reached an additional 30 countries that same day.

After ten revolutions and 20 hours 10 minutes 13.0 seconds in Lunar orbit, the transearth injection maneuver was performed with the Service Propulsion System, and the astronauts were on their way home.

The Service Module was jettisoned as Apollo 8 approached Earth, and the Command Module followed an automatically guided entry profile. The Command Module reentered Earth's atmosphere (400,000 feet altitude) at a velocity of 36,221.1 ft/second following a transearth coast of 57 hours 23 minutes 32.5 seconds. The ionization became so bright during entry that the Command Module interior was bathed in a cold blue light as bright as daylight. At 180,000 feet, as expected, the lift of the Command Module bounced it to 210,000 feet, where it then resumed its downward course. The parachute system effected splashdown of the Command Module in the Pacific Ocean at 15:51:42 GMT (10:51:42 a.m. EST) on 27 December 1968. Mission duration was 147:00:42.0. The impact point was 1.4 nautical miles from the target point and 2.6 n mi from the recovery ship U.S.S. Yorktown.

Basic flight objectives: Demonstration of performance in cislunar and Lunar orbit environment; evaluation of crew performance in Lunar orbit mission; demonstration of communications and tracking; high-resolution photography. Summary of results: Successful; first manned Lunar orbit; first manned Saturn V launch. Flight time: 147:00:42

The photo attached to the launch record in this newsletter (21 December) was published by NASA at www.hq.nasa.gov (1) and www.hq.nasa.gov (2) (higher resolution). The description on Wikipedia states "The Apollo 8 Saturn V builds thrust after ignition of the S-IC first stage F-1 engines on December 21, 1968. Note that the Moon is double-exposed - it was neither visible at the time of launch nor in the crescent phase at this time."

See also the NSSDCA Master Catalog which includes a smaller version of the above-mentioned launch photographic art.
ref: history.nasa.gov

C. Kowal discovered asteroid #2102 Tantalus.

Died (complications from cancer), John Leonard "Jack" Swigert Jr, astronaut (Apollo 13; nearly 5d 23h total time in spaceflight), survived the first emergency beyond low Earth orbit, altitude record (401,056 km, still standing, 2021)
ref: en.wikipedia.org

1999 18:01:00 CST (GMT -6:00:00)
NASA's STS 103 (Discovery) landed at Kennedy Space Port after completing the third Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission.

STS 103 was launched 19 December 1999 for eight days in orbit on a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Two teams of space walkers spent more than 24 hours conducting extravehicular activities (EVAs) installing new equipment and performing other maintenance tasks to upgrade the space-based observatory.

The Hubble Telescope was captured 21 December 1999. Mike Foale, John Grunsfeld, Claude Nicollier and Steve Smith performed 3 EVAs, each just over 8 hours long, on 22 December, 23 December and 24 December. The new, improved, and upgraded equipment included six fresh gyroscopes, six battery voltage/temperature improvement kits, a faster and more powerful main computer, a next-generation solid state data recorder, a new transmitter, an enhanced fine guidance sensor, and new insulation. Hubble was released back into its own orbit on 25 December 1999.

The STS 103 mission ended when Discovery landed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida on 27 December 1999, approximately 49 minutes less than 8 days after it was launched, and having traveled 3.25 million miles.

The STS 103 flight crew was: Curtis L. Brown, Commander; Scott J Kelly, Pilot; Steven L. Smith, Mission Specialist 1; Jean-Francois Clervoy, Mission Specialist 2; John M. Grunsfeld, Mission Specialist 3; Michael Foale, Mission Specialist 4; Claude Nicollier, Mission Specialist 5.
ref: www.nasa.gov

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