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January 4, 2010 - Overexposure

Overexposure Almost six years after it was originally placed in orbit, NASA’s Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) is seen here being retrieved by the space shuttle Columbia during the STS-32 mission, which was launched twenty years ago this week. Placed in orbit in April 1984, LDEF carried fifty-seven experiments to test how different materials reacted to long-term exposure to the harsh environment of outer space. It was originally scheduled to stay in orbit one year, but mission delays resulting from the Challenger accident left LDEF in orbit much longer. Friction with Earth’s thin upper atmosphere had caused LDEF’s orbit to deteriorate so much that the school bus-size satellite was little more than one month away from reentering the atmosphere when it was retrieved by Columbia.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

January 4-10, 2010

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 4

Mercury in inferior conjunction
Quadrantid meteor shower

1970: NASA cancels Apollo 20 mission; further production of Saturn V launch vehicles ceases

Moon phase Tuesday 5

1969: Venera 5 launched
1972: President Nixon announces approval to develop the Space Shuttle
2005: UB313 (Eris) discovered, ignites the Pluto-Planet debate

Moon phase Wednesday 6

Epiphany

Saturn 8° north of Moon

1998: Lunar Prospector launched

Moon phase Thursday 7

Last Quarter Moon 5:39 AM ET
Vesta appears stationary

1610: Galileo discovers Callisto, Europa, & Io
1964: First power tool for space demonstrated
1968: Surveyor 7 launched

Moon phase Friday 8

1587: Johann Fabricius born
1942: Stephen Hawking born
1973: Luna 21 & Lunokhod 2 launched
1987: Challenger debris buried

Moon phase Saturday 9

1839: Thomas Henderson publishes distance to Alpha Centauri
1968: Surveyor 7 lands on Moon
1990: STS-32 Columbia launched

Moon phase Sunday 10

1946: U.S. Army bounces radar signal off the Moon
1969: Venera 6 launched

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