January 16 – Soyuz 4 and 5 Get Close (1969)

1969 – The first ever docking between two manned spacecraft, Soyuz 4 and 5, took place on January 16th in this year. This was the first occasion on which crew were transferred from one ship to another. Back then though, it wasn’t as simple as floating through a hatch like they do on the International Space Station. Alexei Yeliseyev and Yevgeny Khrunov had to go outside and clamber along from Soyuz 5 to Soyuz 4 if they wanted a lift home.

Hungarian 3 Forint Stamp Showing the Historic Docking.
Hungarian 3 Forint Stamp Showing the Historic Docking.

June 16 – Discovery of Proteus

Today’s anniversary is the discovery of Neptune‘s second largest moon, Proteus, found by analysis of Voyager 2 snapshots taken over a period of time leading up to June 16th 1989.  So, while June 16th isn’t the actual discovery date,    it’s as close as we’re likely to get.  It is thought that Proteus wasn’t formed at the same time as Neptune, but is a by-product of the capture of Triton.

Proteus is approximately 418 km in diameter (about 260 miles) and orbits Neptune close to the equatorial plane at a distance of a little over 117,000 km.  But aside from this, and the fact that it is dark and heavily cratered, almost nothing else is known about it.

Proteus (from Voyager 2). Image credit: NASA.
Proteus (from Voyager 2). Image credit: NASA.

Proteus is named after a shape-changing sea god, son of Poseidon, the Greek god whose Roman equivalent is Neptune.  Neptune’s moons are generally named after children or other associates of Poseidon (Triton, for example, was his other son).


ALSO TODAY:

2010: Launch of Soyuz TMA-19.

 

June 15 – Launch of Soyuz 29

1973Kosmos 573 launched today.  It was an unmanned flight of the two-man Soyuz ferry, testing its ability to transport crews to Salyut space stations.

Fast forward five years, and by June 15th 1978 the Salyut program was in full swing. The launch of Vladimir Kovalyonok and Aleksandr Ivanchenkov onboard Soyuz 29 was to the Salyut 6, which had been put into orbit in September 1977, and became home to 11 crews in total.

Stamp showing the crew of Soyuz 29 and part of a Salyut Space Station

The first task for this crew was to get the station up and running again after a three-month period during which it had been vacant.  In orbit this involves more than just turning on the electricity and gas, and clearing up the junk mail.  It took about a week to get the atmosphere breathable, the temperature bearable, and the crew adjusted to weightlessness.

 

The Salyut 6 Station.

During their stay, the two-man crew of Salyut 6 became a four-man crew when they were visited by Soyuz 30, part of the “Intercosmos” program of flights involving cosmonauts from The allies of the USSR.  Soyuz 30 carried Pyotr Klimuk, the first Belarusian cosmonaut, and Mirosław Hermaszewski, the first from Poland.


 

June 06 – Launch of Soyuz 11 (1971)

In the history of spaceflight, June 6th 1971 is significant for all the wrong reasons, being the launch date of Soyuz 11, the crew of which are, to date, the only astronauts or cosmonauts to die beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Commander Georgy Dobrovolsky, and engineers Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev, docked with the Salyut 1 space station just under a day after lift-off, and spent 23 days in space, after which they made what looked like a successful re-entry. Unfortunately, on recovery of the capsule, all three were found to have asphyxiated due to a ventilation valve opening at an altitude of 168km, resulting in instant depressurization, and death within a matter of seconds.


Fourteen years later, on June 6th 1985, a more successful voyage in the series, Soyuz T-13, became the first mission to bring a previously “dead” space station, Salyut 7, back to life. Power had been lost on the station in February, and it was basically just drifting through space. The story of the mission was made into a film in Russia in 2017, but I’m not sure it’s been released over here yet.


ALSO TODAY:

2017: The 2-3kg Mukundpura meteorite lands in a farmer’s field near Jaipur in India (the weight can only be estimated because not all of it was necessarily found) . It was less spectacular than the 2002 explosion mentioned below, leaving a crater just 15cm deep and about 40cm wide. This was the second large Indian meteorite in under a day: the previous evening another weighing around 3kg had fallen in the Assam region.

2002: The “Eastern Mediterranean Event“. A meteorite explodes over the Mediterranean Sea with a force equivalent to 26 kilotons of TNT. I don’t blame you if you never heard of this one, because it was over water. Had it landed 200 miles away on Cyprus, I’m sure it would be a lot more famous. Don’t forget, #AsteroidDay is coming soon.

1924: Discovery of asteroid 1031 Arctica.

1931: Discovery of 1210 Morosovia.

1978: Discovery of asteroid 3369 Treshnikov.

1979: Launch of Soyuz 34.

2018: Launch of Soyuz MS-09.