On this date in 1964, NASA launched Echo 2, a passive communications satellite. Effectively a simple aluminum-mylar balloon, Echo 2, like its predecessor Echo 1, acted as a simple reflector, allowing other weather and communications satellites to bounce their signals to various points on the globe. A concise summary of the Echo program may be… Continue reading
A year on Mercury lasts 88 Earth days. For every Earth year, Mercury will complete just over four orbits of the Sun.
In 1965 on this date, the Department of Defense requested proposals for the design and development of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). The MOL program was intended as a manned reconnaissance satellite, supporting national defense. However, the MOL program was canceled in June, 1969 without any crewed missions being flown. A good overview article about… Continue reading
Mercury will reach greatest eastern elongation tomorrow. The 23rd will be the best day to see Mercury in is current evening apparition. Look for Mercury in the east about 30 minutes after sunset.
On this date in 1960, a rhesus monkey, ‘Miss Sam,’ was launched aboard a Mercury spacecraft, Mercury Little Joe-1B. Thirty minutes after launch, ‘Miss Sam’ returned to Earth, and all test objectives were successfully fulfilled. A highly detailed summary of the Little Joe test launches may be found here.
Today the Moon reaches first quarter phase. The terminator is the line that separates night and day on the on the Moon. The best details are always seen along this line due to shadows adding contrast. Grab some binoculars and scan the terminator for some amazing lunar features. The Moon and Mars will also be… Continue reading
In 2006 on this date, the New Horizons spacecraft was launched; this was the last robotic mission to an unexplored “planet” in our solar system. In 2015 it sent back data and close-up images of the “dwarf planet” Pluto, and in early 2019, data and closeup images of the Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth. More information… Continue reading
Mercury is the nearest planet to the Sun. Owing to its position, Mercury will only be seen just before sunrise or just after sunset. When Mercury becomes visible it is called a morning or evening apparition During 2021, Mercury will have 4 evening apparitions and 3 morning apparitions.
On this date in 1969, the manned Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 4 returned to Earth. It was during this mission, along with the Soyuz 5 mission, that the first docking between two spacecraft was achieved by the Soviet Union. A concise description of Soyuz 4 may be found on the excellent astronautix.com website here.
In 1908 on this date, Edward Teller was born. A Hungarian-American physicist, he was part of the Manhattan Project, the United States’ push to develop the nuclear bomb during World War II. Known colloquially as the “Father of the H-Bomb,” he did not care for the title, considering it to be in poor taste. An… Continue reading