Tag Archives: Sputnik

Sputnik 2, With ‘Laika’, The FIRST Animal In Space, Was Launched This Day, 60-Years Ago; November 3, 1957.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE and read here. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_2

The Sputnik 2 & ‘Laika’ THE DOG!

Wow, I remember it well and can still recall those exciting days. I had just turned 4. It was BIG news in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). We did NOT have TV in the country at that stage, but it was covered, extensively, in the newspapers and radio.

I became a space junkie with the launch of Sputnik — and I guess I still am.

Exciting times. Wow. 60-years ago. But still vivid in my mind.

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by Anura Guruge

The Space Age Started This Day, 60-Years Ago, With The Soviet Launched Sputnik 1; October 4, 1957.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE and read here. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_1

The Sputnik.

I remember it well. I had just turned 4. It was BIG news in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). We did NOT have TV in the country at that stage, but it was covered, extensively, in the newspapers and radio.

My adoptive father, a news and political junkie, was excited. Much of what I heard and learnt was from him.

And then there was my surrogate father, a white, Baptist, lawyer (for the Ceylon Ministry of Food) who was BIG into dabbling in things electrical — so much so that all of his other nephews and nieces, bar I, called him ‘Light Mama‘ (i.e., Light-father, the ‘light’ a reference to his fondness for all things electric). I just called him ‘Ta‘. That happens to be the first two letters of ‘Tatta‘ — our Sinhalese name for ‘father’ (and very similar to the Yiddish word for father). I called my adoptive father, ‘Tatta’, and my surrogate father ‘Ta’. Makes sense, right?

Well, ‘Ta’, was very excited too in his reserved, dignified, lawyerly manner. He managed to tune one of his many radios, some built from scratch by him using vacuum tubes, to hear the ‘beep … beep’ signal.

60-years ago. Wow.

You know that I got to meet Yuri Gagarin, the first man EVER in space, when he visited Ceylon 4-years after the Sputnik.

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by Anura Guruge

Three Chinese In Space Right Now, In A Chinese Space Station. Did YOU Know That?

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

Anura Guruge

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As somebody who grew up with Sputnik, actually met, and shook hands with Yuri Gagarin, and write about astronomy I have always known about Russia’s, Europe’s and Japan’s exploits in space. And yes, of course, I knew China had an ambitious space program too.

But, despite being a news junkie and following news about space on a daily basis, I had no idea that China has their own Space Station, not that dissimilar to the ISS, and that, right now, they have three Chinese ‘taikonauts’ on board. Not sure why but I kind of feel strange that their are 3 Chinese up there looking down on me.

I heard about this when I got this story in my e-mail from Spaceweather.com — who sends me e-mail updates. Stopped me in my tracks. I went scurrying around to check. Wow. Wow. Wow.

I, like so many others, are resigned to the fact that China will become an even greater Superpower. This sure is a major step for the Chinese towards that goal.

Wow, ‘taikonauts’ looking down at me. 

Just think of the possibilities. Maybe I could hold up a big sign that says: ‘2 #5, 1 #7, 1 #6, 1 #48 and extra helping of hot mustard‘. 

Click to access 'spaceweather.com'

Click to access ‘spaceweather.com’

Yuri Gagarin, in 1961, in Colombo, Ceylon, with a very youthful looking Aunty Bandaranaike, the 1st Female Prime Minister ever. I would have been 8. This was the time when my first conversation for the day, nearly every day, would be with Aunty Bandaranaike, albeit on the phone. This from a 2011 article in the Sri Lankan ‘Daily News’ to commemorate this historic visit. That was when I met him and shook hands. Click for ‘Daily News’ article.

Mariner 2: 50 Years Since First Encounter With Another Planet, Venus, On December 14, 1962.

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.


..by Anura Guruge

My Book On ‘Dwarf Planets’.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was writing about ‘Mariner 2‘ in what hopefully and with luck might be my next book; my 12th (not counting those that I have co-authored or edited). Given that this book is meant to be the first book I have written specifically as an eBook (i.e., Kindle, iPad, Google etc.), I am not that concerned about copyright because I fully appreciate that eBook content is readily ‘shareable‘ — which is why I have refrained from making all my books eBooks.

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In December 14, 1962, the 447 lbs U.S. ‘Mariner 2’, became the first successful interplanetary space probe when it passed, as planned, within 21,648 miles of Venus following an incident-prone 108-day voyage from Earth. It had a pyramidal structure, consisting of a solid base topped off by a skeletal mast that culminated in a cylindrical housing. Much of probe’s seven scientific instruments were contained within the mast structure; the total weight permitted for these instruments capped at 40 lbs. The base 41” across was hexagonal in shape, and was made up of six magnesium compartments. It had a total height of 12’. For comparison, Dawn, when launched, was six times heavier and its base over one-and-a-half times longer.

The six compartments in the base housed: a small rocket engine for course-correction, the required propellant, a bottle of nitrogen gas for altitude adjustments, most of the electronics, all of the communications equipment, a 1000 Watt-hour sealed silver-zinc battery and a battery charger. The only radio transmitter on-board had a 3 Watt transmission power, this being comparable to that of a contemporary car phone and about one-third that of a modern cell phone. Three huge steerable antennas, one in California, the other in Australia and the third in South Africa, had to be used to capture the weak radio signal from the probe, the geographic separation of the three compensating for Earth’s unceasing rotation around its axis. One of the key objectives of the mission was to explore the limits of long-range, extraterrestrial communications, particularly as it related to spacecraft command and control.

There were two solar cell wings, one 6’ x 2.5’ the other a foot shorter; a large directional dish antenna was mounted off the bottom of the base unit, a cylindrical omnidirectional antenna sat at the top of the mast while two smaller antennas for command and control were embedded into the solar panels. When deployed the two solar panel wings had a total span of 16.5’. The solar panels were extended within 45 minutes of launch. With the solar panels deployed Dawn has a wingspan of 64.75’.

The seven scientific instruments borne aloft by ‘Mariner 2’ consisted of: two radiometers (one microwave and the other infrared) for measuring Venusian atmospheric and terrestrial radiation [in particular temperature]; a fluxgate magnetometer to monitor and measure magnetic fields; an a Geiger counter equipped ionization chamber to determine high-energy cosmic radiation; a particle detector [i.e., a modified Geiger counter] to establish the presence of lower-energy radiation particularly the x-ray and ultraviolet range; a cosmic dust detector and a solar plasma spectrometer to study the solar wind. No cameras were included since Venus was known to be shrouded by a dense, amorphous cloud blanket.

‘Mariner 2’ was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, on Florida’s eastern seaboard, around 2 a.m. local time, on August 27, 1962. It was launched atop a two-stage ‘Atlas-Agena’ rocket, the first-stage ‘Atlas’ part derived from the United States’ first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, the ‘SM-65 Atlas’; the first of which was produced in 1959. The Atlas burn lasted just five minutes, the first-stage then separating from the Agena-Mariner section. Two burns of the upper-stage ‘RM-81 Agena’ followed, prior to its separation. Earth orbit escape resulted 26 minutes and 3 seconds after liftoff.

On July 22, 1962, NASA launched ‘Mariner 1’, a twin of ‘Mariner 2’, its first foray into robotic interplanetary probes. Within five minutes of launch, due to erroneous guidance, the ‘Atlas-Agena’ launch vehicle had veered off-course and had to be destroyed. Thirty-four days later, the Soviets launched ‘Venera 2 MV-1 No.1’ [‘Sputnik 19’] with the intent of it becoming the first man made object to land on another planet.

Mariner 2 never let those on Earth forget that most of its technology was still in the experimental stage and that it was boldly blazing into truly uncharted territory. Its journey, as was to be expected, was not without incident. In those early days launch accuracy was still a bit iffy, mandating a need for midcourse corrections. Thus, a week after launch a midcourse correction maneuver sequence was initiated using the onboard rocket engine and gas jets. Eleven days into the flight, ‘Mariner 2’ unexpectedly switched off its navigational gyroscopes and lost orientation [i.e., ‘attitude’] control. Mariner 2, however, managed to automatically recover from this glitch. Three weeks later there was a similar loss of orientation, again Mariner being able to quickly recover from it without any intervention from home. Just over a month later, the output from the smaller solar panel abruptly dropped.

On December 14, 1962, Mariner reached its expected target distance from Venus. The goal had always been to flyby rather than getting too close and running the risk if getting yanked in by Venus’ gravitational field. During the flyby Mariner’s radiometers, magnetometer and Geiger counters made repeated scans, back-and-forth, across both the dark and light sides of the planet – the radiometer readings for surface temperature involving three separate scans over a thirty-five minute period. The results indicated that the Venusian surface was extremely hot, its thick carbon dioxide heavy atmosphere causing rampant greenhouse effect heating.

The last radio transmission from Mariner 2 was received on Earth on January 3, 1963, twenty days post the Venus flyby. This groundbreaking mission to that point had lasted 129 days. It is thought that Mariner 2 entered heliocentric orbit soon after that and has remained so since.