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January 19, 2015 - Cloaked in Secrecy

Cloaked in Secrecy  Although several shuttle missions in the early 1980s had carried military payloads, STS-51C was the first dedicated mission for the Department of Defense. Launched thirty years ago this week, the shuttle Discovery and its crew of five astronauts spent a brief three days in orbit. In stark contrast to previous missions, the press kit for STS-51C was much thinner, with only the most basic details about the flight being released to the public. It is believed that the crew deployed a signal intelligence satellite called Magnum/ORION for the Air Force. A rocket motor attached to the satellite boosted it into geostationary orbit, 35,900 km (22,300 mi) above Earth. Commanding this flight was Ken Mattingly, who orbited the Moon as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 16 mission in 1972.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

January 19-25 2015

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History


Moon phase Monday 19

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Mars 0.2° south of Neptune

1747: Johann Bode born
1851: Jacobus Kapteyn born
1965: Gemini II launched
2006: New Horizons launched

Moon phase Tuesday 20

New Moon 8:14 AM ET
Mercury appears stationary

1573: Simon Marius born
1930: Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin born
1966: Apollo A-004 launched, first flight test of CSM hardware
1978: Progress 1 launched

Moon phase Wednesday 21

Mercury 3° south of Moon
Moon at perigee

Moon phase Thursday 22

Venus 6° south of Moon
Neptune 4° south of Moon

1968: Apollo 5 launched
1978: First automatic resupply ship docking (Progress 1)
1992: STS-42 Discovery launched
1998: STS-89 Endeavour launched
2003: Pioneer 10’s last signal to Earth

Moon phase Friday 23

Mars 4° south of Moon

Moon phase Saturday 24

1978: Cosmos 954 satellite reenters atmosphere over Canada
1985: STS-51C Discovery launched
1986: Voyager 2 flies past Uranus
1992: Magellan begins third mapping cycle of Venus

Moon phase Sunday 25

Uranus 0.6° south of Moon

1736: Joseph Lagrange born
1962: NASA authorizes Saturn V rocket
1983: IRAS launched
1994: Clementine spacecraft launched
2004: Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity lands

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