Celestial events in the skies for the week of Jan. 10-16, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The first Full Moon of 2017 is this week, and Native Americans called it the “Wolf Moon,” as they could be heard howling with hunger outside villages. The evening skies have Venus and Mars getting closer in the constellation Aquarius, while in the pre-dawn heavens Jupiter is brilliant yellow just above blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Virgin. Yes, it is cold outside—it’s Winter after all—and it’s okay to do some stargazing from the warm side of a pane glass window. Trust me, I do!
Tues. Jan. 10
On this 1946 date in space history, the U.S Army bounces a radar signal off the Moon and it’s received one second later. Today several observatories fire laser bursts to the Moon to determine its exact distance—which is moving away from Earth at the rate of one inch a year.
Wed. Jan. 11
On this 1978 date in space history, Soyuz 27 docked to the Salyut 6 space station with Soyuz 26 attached—the first triple docking in space, clearly leading the technology of long-term human spaceflight. Also on this date in 1996, Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched with six astronauts, who spent 10 days in orbit conducting microgravity research. In 1998, Lunar Prospector began orbiting the Moon in search of water, and it found tons of the ice under the lunar poles.
Thurs. Jan. 12
On this 1986 date in space history a refurbished Columbia was launched on its 24th Space Shuttle mission. The seven-man crew included citizen passenger US House Representative Bill Nelson, who’s district include Cape Canaveral, and current NASA administrator pilot Charles Bolden, appointed to the post 8 years ago by President Obama. Also on this 1997 date, Atlantis was launched with six people headed for the Russian MIR with Jerry Linenger replacing John Blaha on a four-month rotation of American astronauts aboard the foreign space station.
Fri. Jan. 13
In 1978, NASA announced first six female astronauts: Sally Ride, Rhea Seddon, Judy Resnick, Kathleen Sullivan, Anna Fisher and Shannon Lucid. They all flew in space and their individual stories are fascinating. Also on this date in 1993, Endeavour was launched with five astronauts spending five days in orbit deploying the fifth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (vital to military communications) and testing space suits and working tools in the cargo bay for construction of the International Space Station.
Sat. Jan. 14
On this 2005 date in space history NASA landed a tiny space probe on the alien moon Titan orbiting the planet Saturn. Ejected from the $1 billion Cassini spaceship in orbit about Saturn, the probe Huygens parachuted while taking photos of flowing methane rivers before landing on the shore of a small lake. It sent back data and photos for about an hour in the minus -200 F. degrees below zero surface.
Sun. Jan. 15
On this 1973 date in space history, Luna 21 lands on the Moon at Le Monnier crater and deploys rover Lunokhod 2. The rover drove 24 miles, an interplanetary record until eclipsed by the American Mars rover Opportunity in 2014 (it’s still truckin’). Lunokhod 2 sent back 86 panoramic images and 80,000 video stills.
Mon. Jan. 16
On this 1969 date in space history, the Soviet Union performed the first outer space docking of two manned spacecraft, Soyuz 5 and 6. This beat America’s first manned docking of the moonships Apollo and Lunar Module by Apollo 9 on March 3. Two cosmonauts in Soyuz 5 left their commander and spacewalked to the two empty seats beside the Soyuz 4 commander—the first and only transfer of crews by spacewalks. NASA’s Apollo and Lunar Module were linked by docking hatches. Also on this 2003 date, NASA’s first reusable spacecraft, Columbia, was launched on the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program—which ended 17 days later in disaster. A whole punched in the left wing during launch by a piece of ice off the big fuel tank went unnoticed and created a weakness during the fiery reentry, destroying the spaceship as it flew over Texas the morning of Feb.1.