Celestial events in the skies for the week of Apr. 3-9, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Darkness keeps getting later and later, and that’s a joy for gardeners, sports buffs and park lovers. But it’s just longer to wait for the stars to come out! When it’s good and dark just before 9 pm, the familiar winter constellations like Orion are directly south and ready to disappear in the west. This week in space history has 12 manned missions of America and Russia blasting off more than 50 space people. The night sky is brilliant with the winter stars setting and summer ones rising after midnight. The after 4 am sky is filled with three planets straddling the Milky Way—Jupiter near Scorpius, Mars on one side of Sagittarius and Saturn on the left side.
Tuesday, April 3
The Moon rises around 11 pm with the planet Jupiter to its south. On this 1966 date in space history, the Soviet Union’s Luna 10 became the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon.
Wednesday, April 4
On this 1930 date in space history the American Interplanetary Society was formed by three science fiction writers. Four years later, renamed the American Rocket Society, it was pioneering liquid fueled rocket tests, and gaining popularity among those followers of rocket pioneer Robert Goddard. By 1959, there were 21,000 members, all eager to see mankind reach for the stars. In 1983, STS-6 Challenger was launched on its maiden flight with four astronauts. And in 1997 STS-83 Columbia was launched for a 15-day mission cut short to just three days by a fuel cell problem. The same seven astronauts were reassigned to the same mission, which was launched three months later in July as STS-94.
Thursday, April 5
On this 1991 date in space history, Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched on STS-31 with one of NASA’s great space observatories, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. The 18-ton satellite with four telescopes made discoveries for nine years before being de-orbited in June 2000. In 2010 STS-131 Discovery was launched with seven astronauts on a supply mission to the International Space Station.
Friday, April 6
On this 1965 date in space history, the first communications satellite was launched. Intelsat 1 was nicknamed “Early Bird,” and sent the first live images between America and England from its geosynchronous orbit, 22, 500 miles high. In 1984, STS-41C Challenger was launched and ambitiously tracked down, caught and repaired the Solar Max satellite.
Saturday, April 7
A stunning sight Saturday before sunrise as the nearly Last Quarter Moon is between Mars to its right and Saturn to its left, all in the constellation Sagittarius, the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Sunday, April 8
On this date STS-56 Discovery was launched with five astronauts with an atmospheric laboratory in the cargo bay. And in 2002 STS-110 Atlantis was launched with the truss backbone for the International Space Station. The seven astronauts included Jerry Ross on his record-setting seventh spaceflight.
Monday, April 9
On this 1959 date in space history NASA selected the first seven Mercury astronauts. On this 1994 date, STS-59 Endeavour was launched on its sixth mission with six astronauts. The flight was chronicled on the Discovery Channel about the Space Shuttle Program.