March 03 – Pioneer 4

1902  –  S-type asteroid 482 Petrina was discovered from Heidelberg on March 3rd by Max Wolf.  It was his sixty-second asteroid.  Petrina is a fairly small asteroid with a diameter of about 46 km.  According to Lutz Schmadel’s Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (Springer Verlag) it was named after Wolf’s dog, Peter.

1959  –  Launch of Pioneer 4, the first US spacecraft to escape Earth’s gravity.  It managed to get within 60,000 km of the Moon before entering a heliocentric (around the Sun) orbit.

Pioneer 4 (image credit: NASA)

Pioneer 4 (image credit: NASA)

Some spacecraft are bigger than others, and its not always obvious from their photographs what kind of scale is involved.  So here’s a photo of Pioneer 3 under construction, which will probably make you think something along the lines of “It’s tiny! Are they all that small?”.

Pioneer 3 (image credit: NASA)

Pioneer 3 (image credit: NASA)

1969  –  Launch of Apollo 9 under commander James McDivett (with command module pilot David R Scott and lunar module pilot Russell (Rusty) Schweickart.  The mission is noteworthy for including the first manned flight of a lunar module, and the fist docking of two US spacecraft.

2009  –  March 4th of 2009 saw the discovery of the extraordinarily small moon Aegaeon within Saturn’s G Ring.  It is estimated to be about one and a half kilometres long and half a kilometre in diameter.  Unsurprisingly it now holds the title of Saturn’s smallest known moon.

Aegaeon from the Cassini spacecraft (image credit: NASA).

Aegaeon from the Cassini spacecraft (image credit: NASA).



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