Daily Archives: December 4, 2023

4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC

Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from LC 39A, 08:35:34 UTC, 4 December 1998. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from LC 39A, 08:35:34 UTC, 4 December 1998. (NASA)

4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC: Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-88) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an 11-day mission to assemble the Unity docking connector module (Node 1) of the International Space Station.

The Mission Commander of STS 88 was Colonel Robert Donald Cabana, United States Marine Corps, on his fourth (and final) space flight. The Pilot was Colonel Frederick Wilford Sturcklow, U.S. Marine Corps, on his first space flight. There were four Mission Specialists: Colonel Jerry Lynn Ross, U.S. Air Force; Major Nancy Jane Currie, U.S. Army, on her third space flight; James Hansen Newman, Ph.D., on his third flight; and Sergei Konstantinovick Krikalev (Серге́й Константинович Крикалёв), a Cosmonaut-Researcher for NPO Energia, on his fourth of six space flights.

Left to right: Sergei K. krikalev (seated), Jerry L. Ross, Rober D. Cabana, Frederick W. Sturckow, James H. Newman and Nancy J. Currie (seated). (NASA)
Crew of STS-88: (left to right) Sergei K. Krikalev (seated), Jerry L. Ross, Robert D. Cabana, Frederick W. Sturckow, James H. Newman and Nancy J. Currie (seated). (NASA)

The first segment of the space station was the Functional Cargo Block, known as Zarya (Заря́), which had been placed in Earth orbit two weeks earlier, 20 November 1998, by a Proton-K three-stage rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Node 1 provided a docking station for arriving space craft. Adaptor points for additional modules were built into the node’s circumference. Endeavour carried Node 1 in its cargo bay. It was maneuvered into position and installed using the shuttle’s robotic arm, operated by Major Currie.

U.S.-built Unity module (right) attached to Russian-built Zarya module, forming the basic components of the International Space Station (ISS), photographed in Earth orbit, 15 December 1998. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration STS088-703-019)
U.S.-built Unity module (right) attached to the Functional Cargo Block (the Russian-built Zarya module), forming the basic components of the International Space Station (ISS), photographed in Earth orbit, 15 December 1998. (NASA)

Endeavour returned to Earth at the Shuttle Landing Facitity, Kennedy Space Center, at 10:53:29 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 15 December 1998 (03:53, 16 December 1998, UTC). The total duration of Mission STS-88 was 11 days, 19 hours, 18 minutes, 47 seconds.

Endeavour touches down at Shuttle Landing Facility at 10:53:29 p.m. EST (NASA)
Endeavour touches down at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility at 10:53:29 p.m. EST, 15 December 1998. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

4 December 1965, 19:30:03.702 UTC

Gemini 7 lifts off from Launch Complex 19, 1430 EST, 4 December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini VII/Titan II GLV-7 lifts off from Launch Complex 19, 1430 EST, 4 December 1965. (NASA)

4 December 1965, 19:30:03.702 UTC: At 2:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Gemini VII/Titan II GLV-7 lifted of from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida. On board were Major Frank F. Borman II, United States Air Force, the mission command pilot, and Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., United States Navy, pilot. During the climb to Earth orbit, the maximum acceleration reached was 7.3 Gs.

Gemini VII was placed into Earth orbit at an initial maximum altitude (apogee) of 177.1 nautical miles (327.8 kilometers) and a minimum (perigee) of 87.2 nautical miles (161.5 kilometers), at a velocity of 16,654.1 miles per hour (26,802.2 kilometers per hour), relative to Earth.

This mission was a planned 14-day flight which would involve an orbital rendezvous with another manned spacecraft, Gemini VI-A. The actual total duration of the flight was 330 hours, 35 minutes, 1 second.

Artist’s concept of Gemini spacecraft, 3 January 1962. (NASA-S-65-893)

The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a series of cone-shaped segments forming a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 18 feet, 9.84 inches (5.736 meters) and a maximum diameter of 10 feet, 0.00 inches (3.048 meters) at the base of the equipment section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 6.00 inches (2.347 meters). The Gemini re-entry heat shield was a spherical section with a radius of 12 feet, 0.00 inches (3.658 meters). The weight of the Gemini spacecraft varied from ship to ship. Gemini VII had a gross weight of 8,076.10 pounds (3,663.26 kilograms) at launch. It was shipped from St. Louis to Cape Kennedy in early October 1965.

Gemini 7, photographed in Earth orbit from Gemini 6, December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini VII, photographed in Earth orbit from Gemini VI-A, 15–16 December 1965. (NASA)

The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin Marietta’s Middle River, Maryland, plant so as not to interfere with the production of the ICBM at Denver, Colorado. Twelve GLVs were ordered by the Air Force for the Gemini Program. The GLV-7 first and second stages were shipped from Middle River to Cape Kennedy on 9 October 1965.

The Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 70 feet, 2.31 inches (21.395 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). It was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by Aerozine 50, a hypergolic 51/47/2 blend of hydrazine, unsymetrical-dimethyl hydrazine, and water. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR87-7 produced approximately 430,000 pounds of thrust (1,912.74 kilonewtons). It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. Post flight analysis indicated that the first stage engine of GLV-7 had produced an average of 462,433 pounds of thrust (2,057.0 kilonewtons). The second stage was 25 feet, 6.375 inches (7.031 meters) long, with the same diameter, and used an Aerojet LR91 engine which produced approximately 100,000 pounds of thrust (444.82 kilonewtons), also burning Aerozine 50. GLV-7’s LR91 produced an average of 102,584 pounds of thrust (456.3 kilonewtons).

The Gemini/Titan II GLV-7 combination had a total height of 107 feet, 7.33 inches (32.795 meters) and weighed 346,228 pounds (157,046 kilograms) at ignition.

Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., U.S. Navy, and Major Frank F. Borman II, U.S. Air Force, with a scale model of a Gemini spacecraft. (NASA)
Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., U.S. Navy, and Major Frank F. Borman II, U.S. Air Force, with a scale model of a Gemini spacecraft. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

4 December 1950

Ensign Jesse L. Brown, United States Navy, in the cockpit of a Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair, circa 1950. (Naval History and Heritage Command, USN 1146845)

4 December 1950: Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown, United States Navy (13 October 1926–4 December 1950)

The following article is from the United States Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command:

Jesse Leroy Brown was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, into a sharecropper family. He was a school athlete who excelled at math and dreamed of being a pilot from the time he was a young boy. When he left Mississippi to attend Ohio State University in 1944, his high school principal wrote to him, “As the first of our graduates to enter a predominately white university, you are our hero.” Even though Brown had to work the midnight shift loading boxcars for the Pennsylvania Railroad to earn money for his education, he was still able to maintain a high GPA.

Brown joined the Naval Reserve to help pay for college. After he saw a poster recruiting students for a new naval aviation program, he was discouraged from applying and was told he would never make it to the cockpit of a Navy aircraft. He persisted and was finally permitted to take the qualification exams. He wrote to a childhood friend that he had made it through five hours of written tests, followed by oral tests and a rigorous physical exam ─ making it through each round of eliminations with flying colors. Despite his excellent performance and acceptance into the program, Brown told his friend, “I’m not sure the Navy really wants me.”

He received orders to Selective Flight Training in Glenview, Illinois, in March 1947, followed by additional training at Naval Air Station Ottumwa and Naval Air Station Pensacola. On 21 October 1948, at the age of 22, Brown became the first African American man to complete Navy flight training. A public information officer released a photograph and story the next day with the headline, “First Negro Naval Aviator.” The story was picked up by the Associated Press and Brown’s picture appeared in Life magazine.

Brown, now a section leader, flew a Vought F4U-4 Corsair and was assigned to fighter squadron VF-32 aboard USS Wright (CVL-49). His squadron transferred to USS Leyte (CV-32) in October 1950 as part of Fast Carrier Task Force 77 on its way to Korea to assist U.N. forces.

On 4 December 1950, on the way to Chosin Reservoir with his squadron, Brown announced over the radio, “I think I may have been hit. I’ve lost my oil pressure.” He crash-landed his Corsair on the side of a mountain in the snow.

Circling over the crash site in his own Corsair, squadron commander Lieutenant (j.g.) Thomas J. Hudner Jr. realized something was wrong when Brown didn’t emerge from the cockpit of the wrecked aircraft. Hudner made the decision to crash-land next to Brown’s wrecked Corsair, risking court-martial, capture by the Chinese, and his own life by ignoring his commanding officer’s directive, “If a plane goes down, that’s one down. We don’t need Hollywood stuff.”

Hudner found Brown in pain, bleeding, and trapped in his aircraft by a damaged instrument panel, with no way to rescue him. A Sikorsky helicopter piloted by Marine First Lieutenant Charlie Ward arrived in response to Hudner’s radio distress call, but there was nothing that could be done to extricate Brown from the Corsair. Brown asked Hudner to tell his wife, Daisy, how much he loved her before he died in his cockpit. As daylight dwindled and the possibility of capture grew increasingly imminent, Hudner and Ward were reluctantly forced to leave Brown’s body behind.

Unable to safely recover his body, Brown’s shipmates instead decided to honor him with a warrior’s funeral. On 7 December 1950, seven aircraft loaded with napalm and piloted by Ensign Brown’s friends made several low passes over his downed Corsair. The top of Brown’s head was still visible with snow on his hair when they dropped the napalm on his plane while reciting The Lord’s Prayer.

Ensign Jesse Brown would posthumously receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart. Hudner nervously anticipated a court-martial for defying a direct order and willful destruction of a Navy aircraft. Instead, he would receive the Medal of Honor for “exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate.” When USS Jesse L. Brown (DE-1089) was launched in 1973, Hudner was in attendance, standing next to Brown’s widow. In 2017, USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) was christened in Hudner’s honor.

(In addition to U.S. Navy records, this biography was supplemented with information obtained from the book, The Flight of Jesse Leroy Brown, by Theodore Taylor; Avon Books, Inc.; ISBN: 0-380-97689-7; ©1998 by Theodore Taylor.)

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown (NSN: 0-504477), United States Navy, for heroism in aerial flight as Pilot of a fighter plane in Fighter Squadron THIRTY-TWO (VF-32), attached to the U.S.S. LEYTE (CV-32), in hostile attacks on hostile North Korean forces. Participating in 20 strikes on enemy military installations, lines of communication, transportation facilities, and enemy troop concentrations in the face of grave hazard, at the Chosin Reservoir, Takshon, Manp Jin, Linchong, Sinuiju, Kasan, Wonsan, Chonjin, Kilchu, and Sinanju during the period 12 October to 4 December 1950. With courageous efficiency and utter disregard for his own personal safety, Ensign Brown, while in support of friendly troops in the Chosin Reservoir area, pressed home numerous attacks destroying an enemy troop concentration moving to attack our troops. So aggressive were these attacks, in the face of enemy anti-aircraft fire, that they finally resulted in the destruction of Ensign Brown’s plane by anti-aircraft fire. His gallant devotion to duty was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089). (US DefenseImagery DN-SC-82-00352)