Rocket again quivered for 17 sec. References: 482 .
NASA's Space Task Group, charged with carrying out Project Mercury and other manned space flight programs, officially became a separate NASA field element. References: 18 .
The name had been suggested by Alex P. Nagy of NASA Headquarters because the twin stars Castor and Pollux in constellation Gemini (the Twins) seemed to him to symbolize the program's two-man crew, its rendezvous mission, and its relation to Mercury. Coincidentally, the astronomical symbol (II) for Gemini, the third constellation of the zodiac, corresponded neatly to the Mark II designation.
Tentative plans were made by NASA to extend the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) flight from 18 to 22 orbits. References: 483 .
The Orbital Workshop dynamic test article arrived at the Clear Lake Creek Basin adjacent to MSC aboard the barge Orion. It was offloaded on 7 January and moved to the MSC acoustic test facility where it was set up for vibroacoustic testing scheduled to start on 20 January. The acoustic test facility had been checked out previously, and the acoustic environments generated met simulated conditions surrounding the Skylab during Skylab I liftoff and Skylab 1 maximum gravity.
Flexibility to conduct a second Skylab mission would be retained until such time as NASA planning for the FY 1976 budget was complete. To accomplish this, NASA issued the following guidelines. Launch umbilical tower 2 would be retained in its present status for possible Skylab usage until a decision was made to prepare for a Skylab launch or to begin modifications for the Shuttle Program. Action would be continued to place in storage existing hardware (including appropriate backups and spares) required for conduct of a Skylab mission. The Skylab Program would fund the activities required to place the hardware in minimum cost storage and the storage costs through June 1974.
Maximum speed 520 kph. Maximum altitude 3000 m. Time 36 minutes. References: 81 .
The Mars Polar Lander was placed by the first burn of the second stage into a 157 x 245 km x 28.35 deg parking orbit. The second stage restarted at 20:55 GMT and shut down in a 226 x 740 km x 25.8 deg Earth orbit. The solid rocket third stage (a Star 48B with a Nutation Control System and a yo-yo despin device) then ignited and put the spacecraft into solar orbit, separating at 21:02 GMT. Mars Polar Lander was to land near the south pole of Mars on December 3, 1999, and conduct conduct a three month mission, trenching near its landing site and testing for the presense of frozen water and carbon dioxide. Attached were two Deep Space 2 Microprobes, penetrators which would impact the Martian surface separately from the lander and return data on subsurface conditions from widely spaced points.
When the spacecraft reached Mars on December 3, the lander separated from the cruise stage at 19:51 UTC and the two penetrators, Scott and Amundsen, were to separate about 20 seconds later. No further communications were ever received from the spacecraft. Landing had been expected at 20:01 UTC at 76.1S 195.3W, with the penetrators landing a few kilometres from each other at 75.0S 196.5W.
This failure resulted in a review and reassessment of NASA's 'faster, better, cheaper' approach to planetary missions.