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October 28, 2013 - Planetary Billiards

Planetary Billiards Engineers had long suspected that a spacecraft, flying close to a planet, could use that planet’s gravity to alter the spacecraft’s trajectory and increase its speed, allowing it to reach yet another planet without any further fuel expenditure. Forty years ago this week, theory became reality with the launch of Mariner 10, the first spacecraft to implement this “gravity assist” technique. As it flew past Venus in February 1974, Mariner 10 used Venus’s gravity to speed toward a series of three encounters with Mercury over the next year. This seamless mosaic of images of the innermost planet is based on data acquired by Mariner 10 on the outbound leg of its first flyby of Mercury on March 29, 1974. Mariner 10 passed by Mercury again on September 21, 1974, and March 16, 1975.

Image credit: NASA / JPL / Ted Stryk

Weekly Calendar

October 28 - November 3, 2013

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 28

1971: Britain launches its first satellite
1974: Luna 23 launched
2009: Ares I-X test flight

Moon phase Tuesday 29

Mars 6° north of Moon

1964: First flight of Lunar Landing Research Vehicle
1987: Cosmos 1894 becomes 2,000th satellite
1991: Galileo flies past Gaspra
1998: STS-95 Discovery launched

Moon phase Wednesday 30

1981: Venera 13 launched
1985: STS-61A Challenger launched
1997: First successful Ariane 5 rocket launched

Moon phase Thursday 31

Halloween

2005: Hubble Space Telescope discovers two new moons orbiting Pluto
2006: NASA announces SM4, the fifth and final Hubble servicing mission

Moon phase Friday 1

Venus at greatest elongation (47° E)
Mercury in inferior conjunction

1962: Mars 1 launched
1999: Area Code 321 goes into effect for areas near Kennedy Space Center

Moon phase Saturday 2

Spica 0.8° south of Moon

1885: Harlow Shapley born
1917: First light for Mount Wilson Observatory 100-inch Hooker telescope

Moon phase Sunday 3

Daylight Savings Time ends 2:00 AM

New Moon 7:50 AM ET
Taurid meteor shower

1957: Sputnik 2 carries dog Laika, first living creature to orbit Earth
1966: Test flight of Manned Orbital Laboratory components
1973: Mariner 10 launched
1994: STS-66 Atlantis launched

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.