Daily Archives: January 4, 2017

4 January 2004

Mars rover Spirit landing site. The lander is at the low center of the image. at upper left are the backshell and parachute. The lander's heat shield is at the upper right on the rim of the crater. This image was taken in December 2006. (NASA)
Mars rover Spirit landing site. The lander is at the low center of the image. At upper left are the backshell and parachute. The lander’s heat shield is at the upper right on the rim of the crater. This image was taken in December 2006. (NASA)

4 January 2004, 04:35 Ground UTC: The NASA Mars Exploration Rover A, named Spirit, landed on the surface of Mars within the large impact crater Gusev. The location of touch down and the starting point for the rover’s exploration of Mars is named Columbia Memorial Station.

Spirit captured this color image of the surface of Mars from its landing point at Columbia Memorial Station. The horizon is approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) distant. (NASA)
Spirit captured this color image of the surface of Mars from its landing point at Columbia Memorial Station. The horizon is approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) distant. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 January 1959

Replica of Luna 1 on display at the Kosmos Pavilion of the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy of the USSR. (RIA Novosti Archive)
Replica of Luna 1 on display at the Kosmos Pavilion of the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy of the USSR. (RIA Novosti Archive)

4 January 1959: At approximately 16:40 UTC, the Soviet automatic space probe First Cosmic Ship came within 5,995 kilometers (3,725 miles) of the Moon. It was the first man-made craft to arrive in the vicinity of Earth’s natural satellite.

First Cosmic Ship (which was later known as Мечта (Mechta, “Dream”) and today is called Luna 1) was launched from the Scientific-Research Test Range No. 5 at Tyuratam, Kazakhstan (later named the Baikonur Cosmodrome) at 16:41:21 UTC, 2 January 1959, aboard an 8K72 three-stage launch vehicle.

Mechta was the fourth in a series of lunar probes, and was intended to impact the surface of the Moon.  It was spherical with several antennas, and weighed 361 kilograms (795.9 pounds). The probe carried a magnetometer, Geiger counter, scintillation detector and micrometeorite detector. It was powered by batteries. Radio telemetry equipment relayed the data to Earth.

It was intended that the spacecraft would impact the lunar surface, but an error in programming the third stage burn time caused a near miss. After 34 hours of flight, the probe passed within 5,995 kilometers (3,725 miles) of the lunar surface.  It then entered a solar (heliocentric) orbit between Earth and Mars, where it remains today, circling the Sun every 450.0 days.

The Chief Designer, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, (1907–1966)
Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (1907–1966)

The Vostok-L 8K72 was a modified R-7 Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 rocket was designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, known as The Chief Designer.

The 8K72 version consisted of two core stages with four external boosters. The first stage and each of the boosters were powered by a four-nozzle RD-107 rocket engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen. Total thrust was approximately 1,100,775 pounds. The second stage used a RD-0105 engine, producing 11,015 pounds of thrust. The Luna 1 was propelled by a third stage which remained attached during the translunar coast phase of flight.

The first two stages were 30.84 meters (101.18 feet) high and weighed 277,000 kilograms (610,680 pounds). The Luna 1 third stage weighed 1,472 kilograms (3,245 pounds), empty. It was 5.2 meters (17.06 feet) long with a diameter of 2.4 meters (7.87 feet).

The 8K72 rocket was capable of launching a 4,000 kilogram (8,818.5 pound) payload into Low Earth Orbit. The last launch of an 8K72 was in 1960, but the current Soyuz launchers are based on this early rocket.

Luna 1 was the first space vehicle to reach escape velocity and leave Earth’s gravitational field; the first to reach the vicinity of the Moon, and the first man-made device to orbit the Sun.

Luna 1 was launched from Tyuratam at 16:41:21 UTC, 2 January 1959.
Luna 1 was launched from Tyuratam at 16:41:21 UTC, 2 January 1959.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 January 1958

Replica of Sputnik 1 satellite at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum (NSAM)
Replica of Sputnik 1 satellite at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum (NASA)

4 January 1958: After completing 1,440 orbits, Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite, reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and was destroyed.

Простейший Спутник-1 (Sputnik 1, or Elementary Satellite 1) had been launched 4 October 1957 from Site No. 1 at the Scientific-Research Test Range No. 5, Tyuratam, Kazakh S.S.R. (now, Kazakhstan), aboard a two-stage Sputnik 8K71PS rocket, a variant of the R-7 Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile.

Mikhail S. Khomyakov
Mikhail S. Khomyakov

The satellite was designed at OKB-1 (the Special Design Bureau) by a team of Mikhail Stepanovich Khomyakov, Maksim Khramov and Oleg Genrikhovich Ivanovsky. It was constructed as a sphere with a diameter of 58.0 centimeters (22.84 inches), made from an aluminum alloy with a thickness of 2 millimeters (0.08 inch). The two halves were joined by 36 bolts and filled with pressurized nitrogen. Four “whip” antennas were equally spaced around the satellite’s shell, angled at 35° from the longitudinal axis. With three silver-zinc batteries and equipment, the Sputnik 1 mass was 83.6 kilograms (184.3 pounds).

The satellite entered an elliptical Low Earth Orbit, with a perigee of 215.0 kilometers (133.6 miles) and apogee of 939.0 kilometers (583.5 miles). The duration of each orbit was 1 hour, 36 minutes, 12 seconds.

An unidentified engineer with Sputnik 1.
An unidentified engineer with Sputnik 1. (OKB-1)

The Sputnik 8K71PS launch vehicle, serial number 1 M1-PS, was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket based on the R-7 Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 rocket was designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, known as The Chief Designer. It had a length of 29.167 meters (95.69 feet) and maximum diameter of 10.3 meters (33.79 feet) at the base, including stabilizers. Its mass was 267.13 tons (588,921 pounds) at liftoff. The propellant was Kerosene T-1 with liquid oxygen.

The first stage consisted of four “strap-on” boosters surrounding the second, of “core” stage, each with an RD-107 four-chamber rocket engine, for a total thrust of 323.6 tons (713,409 pounds) of thrust. The first stage burn time was 120 seconds.

The second stage (core) was powered by one RD-108 four-chamber engine, producing 93 tons (205,028 pounds) of thrust. Burn time for the second stage was 180 seconds.

Sputnik 1 launched at 22:28:34 Moscow time. After 116.38 seconds, the stages separated. The second stage and satellite entered orbit 295.4 seconds after liftoff at an altitude of 228.6 kilometers (142.05 miles) and velocity of 7,780 meters per second (17,403.36 miles per hour). The satellite separated from the second stage 5 minutes, 14.5 seconds after launch.

The second stage reentered the atmosphere 2 December 1957.

Sputnik 1 launch (RIA Novasti Archive)
Sputnik 1 launch at Tyuratam, 19:28:34 UTC, 4 October 1957. (RIA NOVOSTI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Universal Images Group)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 January 1957

The Brooklyn Dodgers' Convair 440 Metropolitan, N1R. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Convair 440 Metropolitan, N1R. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

4 January 1957: The Brooklyn Dodgers, a major league baseball team owned by Walter O’Malley, became the first professional sports team to own its own airplane when it placed an order for a Convair 440 Metropolitan airliner. The price was $775,000, and the ball club took delivery of serial number 406 in April. The airplane had been added to an existing order for twenty 440s for Eastern Airlines. It varied from Eastern’s only in the installation of an autopilot.

The Dodgers’ pilot was Harry R. “Bump” Holman. He began flying for the team in 1950 as a co-pilot on a Douglas DC-3.

The Dodgers flew the Metroliner until 1961 when it was sold for $700,000 and exported to Spain. The ball club replaced it with a Lockheed L-188A Electra purchased from Western Airlines.

The Convair 440 first flew 6 October 1955. It was an improvement over the earlier CV-240 and CV-340 models. Operated by a flight crew of 2 or 3, it could carry up to 52 passengers in a pressurized cabin.

Convair 440 Metropolitan N1R completion at Covair, San Diego, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, Catalog # 00054813)
Convair 440 Metropolitan s/n 406 nears completion at the Convair plant, San Diego, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The airliner was 81 feet, 6 inches (24.841 meters) long with a wingspan of 105 feet, 4 inches (32.106 meters) and height of 28 feet, 2 inches (8.585 meters). The empty weight was 33,314 pounds (15,111 kilograms) and maximum gross weight was 49,700 pounds (22,543 kilograms).

The 440 Metropolitan was powered by two 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter), air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp CB16 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ration of 6.75:1. Burning 100/130 aviation gasoline, the CB16 had a Normal Power rating of 1,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. to 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) and 1,600 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. to 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). It was rated at 2,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for Takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 0.450:1 gear reduction. The CB16 was 6 feet, 9.40 inches (2.068 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.80 inches (1.341 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,390 pounds (1,084 kilograms).

The Convair 440 metropolitan was equipped with the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-CB16 radial engines and Hamilton Standard propellers. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
The Convair 440 Metropolitan was equipped with two Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp CB16 radial engines and Hamilton Standard propellers with square blade tips. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The 440 Metropolitan had a maximum cruise speed of 300 miles per hour (483 kilometers per hour), service ceiling of 24,900 feet (7,590 meters) and maximum range of 1,930 miles (3,106 kilometers). Convair built 199 of the 440 variant.

N1R, s/n 406, received its Airworthiness Certificate 21 March 1957. The FAA registration was cancelled 13 February 1961.

On 24 January 1978, the airplane was being operated by the Transporte Aéreo Militar, a civil transport airline of the Bolivian Air Force, under registration TAM-45. An engine problem forced the crew to return to San Ramon Airport. On landing, the airplane ran off the runway into a ditch and was damaged beyond repair. No one on board was hurt, but one person on the ground was killed.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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