February 09 – Apollo 14 Splashdown

We have a collection of shorts today, starting on February 9th 1882 with the possibly C-type, 55km wide, main belt asteroid 222 Lucia, discovered by Johann Palisa.  Lucia is a Themistian asteroid, one of a group sharing orbital properties with 22 Themis. It was named after the daughter of the Arctic explorer and president of the Austrian Geographical Society, Count Johann Nepomuk (Hans) Wilczek 02/12/1837 – 27/01/1922).

On this day in 1905, 558 Carmen was discovered by Max Wolf.  It is an M type main belt asteroid of about 59km diameter.

And now, in the interests of détente, we have one item each from either side of the iron curtain in the same year, 1971, starting with the launch of Cosmos (or Kosmos) 394 by the USSR. Launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the north west of Russia into a low Earth orbit of 522 km (324 miles) Kosmos 394 (or 1971-010A if you prefer) was part of the testing programme for Soviet anti-weapons systems. As (i) it played the role of a target, and (ii) the test was a success, I wouldn’t bother trying to find it I the night sky.

February 9th, 1971 also saw the splashdown of Apollo 14, containing Alan Shepherd, Stuart Roosa and Edgar Mitchell, in the South Pacific Ocean. Roosa had worked, in a pre-NASA life, as a forestry smokejumper (guys who were parachuted into inaccessible areas to fight wildfires). As a result, he was thought the ideal candidate to take 500 seeds of several species of tree into lunar orbit.

Colonel Stuart A "Stu" Roosa, USAF (image credit: NASA)
Colonel Stuart A “Stu” Roosa, USAF (image credit: NASA)

On their return to Earth the seeds were germinated, and the resulting Moon trees were planted across the United States (they were also sent to Italy, Brazil, Japan and Switzerland).