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October 5, 2009 - A Sacrifice for Science

A Sacrifice for Science Launched in May 1989 (see week of 4 May), the Magellan spacecraft arrived at Venus in August 1990. During its four years in orbit, Magellan used radar to see through the clouds that perpetually veil Venus. Ninety-eight percent of the planet was thus mapped, providing global three-dimensional views of unprecedented clarity. In this computer-generated image, lava flows spread across the fractured plains in the foreground for hundreds of miles, from the base of Maat Mons, a five-mile-high equatorial volcano. At mission’s end and low on power, Magellan gathered some final scientific data by intentionally dipping into Venus’s atmosphere. Fifteen years ago this week, contact was lost with the daring spacecraft when Magellan, as expected, burned up in the atmosphere.

Image credit: NASA / JPL

Weekly Calendar

October 5-11, 2009

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 5

Mars 6° south of Pollux
Mercury at greatest elongation (18° W)

1882: Robert Goddard born
1923: Edwin Hubble finds Cepheid variable stars in galaxy M-31
1962: European Southern Observatory founded
1984: STS-41G Challenger launched

Moon phase Tuesday 6

1990: STS-41 Discovery launched
1992: NASA and RASA sign Human Spaceflight Agreement to share astronauts and cosmonauts
2008: MESSENGER spacecraft makes its second flyby of Mercury

Moon phase Wednesday 7

1885: Niels Bohr born
1959: Luna 3 returns first images of the lunar far side
2002: STS-112 Atlantis launched

Moon phase Thursday 8

Mercury 0.3° south of Saturn

1873: Ejnar Hertzsprung born

Moon phase Friday 9

1604: Kepler’s Supernova observed
2009: LCROSS detects water on the Moon

Moon phase Saturday 10

1846: William Lassell discovers Triton, moon of Neptune
1980: Very Large Array dedicated
1983: Venera 15 orbits Venus
2007: ISS Expedition 16 crew launched

Moon phase Sunday 11

Last Quarter Moon 4:56 am
Mars 1.2° north of Moon

1968: Apollo 7 launched
1969: Soyuz 6, 7 & 8 in space at once
1994
: Magellan mission ends
2000: STS-92 Discovery launched
2005: Shenzhou 6 launched

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.