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1852
Born, Albert A Michelson, established the speed of light as a universal constant (Nobel 1907)

1894
A Charlois discovered asteroid #397 Vienna.

1912
Born, Leonid I Brezhnev (at Kamensk, Ukraine), leader of the Soviet Union (1965-1982), Soviet leader during the entire manned Lunar landing program, made key decisions leading to the development of a succession of Soviet space stations built in the 1970s

1913
A Massinger discovered asteroid #772 Tanete; and C Le Morvan discovered asteroid #774 Armor.

1928
The first autogyro flight in the United States took place.

1953
Died, Robert A Millikan, US physicist (Nobel 1923)

1960
US launched Mercury-Redstone 1A on a suborbital flight.

The US launched the Mercury Redstone 1A suborbital flight on 19 December 1960 to an altitude of 210 km. Its successful mission's objectives were suborbital flight and qualification of the spacecraft/launch vehicle compatibility. A cutoff overspeed caused an overshoot of the recovery area.

1962
Transit 5A1, the first operational navigation satellite, was launched.

1971
NASA launched Intelsat 4 F-3 for the COMSAT Corporation.

1972 19:24:59 GMT
NASA's Apollo 17 returned from the last manned mission to the Moon to date. (2014)

Apollo 17 was launched 7 December 1972, the last manned mission launched by the Saturn V rocket, the eleventh manned space mission in the NASA Apollo program, and the sixth and last mission to date (2014) to land on the Moon. It was the first night launch, and the final mission, of the Apollo program. Crew members were Gene Cernan, commander; Ron Evans, Command Module pilot; and Harrison Schmitt, Lunar Module pilot.

Approximately five hours after launch, while en route to the Moon, the crew took a photograph of Earth called "The Blue Marble" at a distance of approximately 55,000 km. It is one of the most widely distributed photograph images in existence.

One of the last two men to set foot on the Moon was also the first scientist-astronaut, Schmitt, a geologist. While Evans circled in the command module "America," Schmitt and Cernan landed on the Moon on 11 December 1972. The crew collected a record 108.86 kilograms of rocks during three moonwalks, roamed 33.80 kilometers from the "Challenger" LEM through the Taurus-Littrow valley in their rover, discovered orange-colored soil, and left the most comprensive set of instruments in the ALSEP on the Lunar surface.

At 05:40:56 GMT on 14 December 1972, Apollo 17 Mission Commander Gene Cernan returned to the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), ending the last Extravehicular Activity (EVA) of what would prove to be the final expedition of the Apollo program. To date (2014), no other humans have yet returned to set foot on the Lunar surface, foisting on Captain Cernan the dubious honor and title of being "The Last Man on the Moon."

The LEM ascent stage was released after Cernan and Schmitt returned to the Command Module, and impacted the Moon on 15 December 1972.

Apollo 17 splashed down on 19 December 1972 at 17 deg 53 min S, 166 deg 7 min W, 350 nautical miles SE of the Samoan Islands and 6.5 km (4 mi) from the recovery ship USS Ticonderoga.

See also http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1972-096A
See also http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4012/vol3/table2.45.htm
See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Marble


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1973
A photograph of the Sun with a giant (588,000 km across) solar flare was taken from NASA's Skylab.

1973
P Wild discovered asteroid #1937 Locarno.

1974
Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroid #3051.

1974
The Altair 8800, the first personal computer, went on sale.

1978
USSR's Venera 12 descent stage separated from the flight platform as the probe neared Venus.

Venera 12 was part of a two-spacecraft mission to study Venus and the interplanetary medium. Each of the two spacecraft, Venera 11 and Venera 12, consisted of a flight platform and a lander probe. Identical instruments were carried on both spacecraft. The flight platform had instruments to study solar-wind composition, gamma-ray bursts, ultraviolet radiation, and the electron density of the ionosphere of Venus. The lander probe carried instruments to study the characteristics and composition of the atmosphere of Venus.

Venera 12 was launched into a 177 x 205 km, 51.5 degree inclination Earth orbit, from which it was propelled into a 3.5 month Venus transfer orbit, which involved two mid-course corrections, on 21 September and 14 December. After ejecting the lander probe on 19 December, two days before encounter, the flight platform continued past Venus in a heliocentric orbit. The flight platform's near encounter with Venus occurred on 21 December 1978, at approximately 34,000 km from the planet. The flight platform acted as a data relay for the descent craft for 110 minutes until it flew out of range, then continued to return its own measurements on interplanetary space. The platform was equipped with a gamma-ray spectrometer, retarding potential traps, UV grating monochromator, electron and proton spectrometers, gamma-ray burst detectors, solar wind plasma detectors, and two-frequency transmitters.

The Venera 12 descent craft carried instruments designed to study the detailed chemical composition of the atmosphere, the nature of the clouds, and the thermal balance of the atmosphere. After separating from its flight platform on 19 December 1978, it entered the atmosphere of Venus two days later, at 11.2 km/sec (approximately 25,000 mph). During the descent, it employed aerodynamic braking, followed by parachute braking, and ending with atmospheric braking. It made a soft landing on the surface at 06:30 Moscow time on 21 December 1978 after a descent time of approximately 1 hour. The touchdown speed was 7-8 m/s (15-18 mph). Information was transmitted to the flight platform for relay to Earth until the flight platform moved out of range 110 minutes after the lander touchdown.

Both Venera 11 and 12 landers failed to return the planned color television views of the surface, and to perform soil analysis experiments. All of the camera protective covers failed to eject after landing (the cause was not established). Some US literature noted that the imaging system "failed" but did return some data. The soil drilling experiment was apparently damaged by a leak in the soil collection device, the interior of which was exposed to the high Venusian atmospheric pressure. The leak had probably formed during the descent phase because the lander was less aerodynamically stable than had been thought. Consequently, the landing gear of the following two landers (Venera 13 and 14) were equipped with tooth-shaped stabilizers.

Two other experiments on the lander also failed, and their failure was acknowledged by the Soviets at the time.

Among the instruments on board was a gas chromatograph to measure the composition of the Venus atmosphere, instruments to study scattered solar radiation and soil composition, and a device named Groza which was designed to measure atmospheric electrical discharges. Results reported included evidence of lightning and thunder, a high Ar36/Ar40 ratio, and the discovery of carbon monoxide at low altitudes.

The Venera 12 flight platform continued in solar orbit, and successfully used its Soviet-French ultraviolet spectrometer to study Comet Bradfield on 13 February 1980 (one year and two months after its Venus encounter). At that time, the spacecraft was 190,373,790 km from Earth.


http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1978-086A

1985
NASA's STS 61-C mission was scrubbed at T-13 seconds because of a SRB (solid rocket booster) auxiliary power problem.

1988
NASA unveiled plans for a Lunar colony and a manned missions to Mars.

1998
Died, Bernhard Tessmann (at Huntsville, Alabama), rocket engineer, German expert in guided missiles during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the US after the war

Tessmann first met Von Braun in 1935. He was involved in the basic planning for Peenemuende, moving there in late 1936 to supervise construction, and conducted the first engine testing there at Test Stand I. Tessmann worked on wind tunnels, then on thrust measuring systems for V-2 engines. He was evacuated to Koelpinsee after the August 1943 bombing, where he designed ground equipment for V-2 mobile units and was involved in planning the Projekt Zement underground V-2 facilites at Ebensee, Austria. He was evacuated to Thuringia at the end of the war, and as of January 1947, was working at Fort Bliss, Texas. He worked the remainder of his life with the rocket team, at Fort Bliss, White Sands, and then at Huntsville. As of 1960, he was Deputy Director, Test Division, at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

1999 18:50:00 CST (GMT -6:00:00)
NASA launched STS 103 (Discovery) for 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.

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.



NASA photo, STS 103 astronauts riding the Shuttle's robot arm during the third Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission
http://www.spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/archives/sts-103/index.html


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