February 27 – Discoverer 38

Launched on February 27th, 1962, from Vandenburg Air Force Base by the Thor launch vehicle, Discoverer 38 had a wide variety of experiments on board, including some which were later recovered in mid-air on their way back to Earth.  The experiments in the re-entry capsule mainly involved measuring the effects of exposure to radiation and the environment beyond our atmosphere.  Some organic matter (human tissue, algae, molds, etc) were included to see how they stood up to being in space.  The re-entry capsule was detached and recovered successfully after 65 orbits, with the rest of the craft burning up on re-entry on March 21st.

Discoverer 38 was the last of the US series of Corona spy satellites to use the “Discoverer” cover name.  The name was used to help disguise the fact that, while carrying out scientific study at high altitudes was undoubtedly of great importance to the US government, no way was it as important as taking photographs of the USSR, which was the other part of Discoverer 38’s mission.

KH-4 CORONA-M (of the type used for the Discoverer 38 mission).  (image credit: Giuseppe De Chiara)

KH-4 CORONA-M (of the type used for the Discoverer 38 mission). (image credit: Giuseppe De Chiara)


 

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