First In Space
neener neener, I got there firstOn 4/12/61 Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, in Vostok 1 (diameter 2.3 meters). The first words spoken from space were:  "I see Earth. It's so beautiful!"

Gagarin ejected as planned at 23,000 feet, and parachuted to Earth, but this was kept secret, since a pilot had to remain with his craft through landing to qualify as a flight.

23 days later...

oh shut upAlan Shepard (born 1923) became the first American in space on 5/5/61, in Mercury-Redstone 3*

The aircraft assigned to facilitate communication during re-entry (as capsule passed below radio horizon) was code-named Cardfile 23.

*Project Mercury, initiated in 1958 (1+9+5+8=23)

In 1923 Hermann Oberth wrote "The Rocket into Interplanetary Space." Wernher von Braun read it in 1925; 5 years later was assisting Oberth with rocket experiments. <1>
Sputnik (23" in diameter) launched 10/4/57, transmitted the "beep" that made American blood run cold for 23 days before the batteries ran down. <2>

Listen LISTEN (80 kb)
NASA was created when the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (1+9+5+8=23)  passed on 7/16 (7+16=23)
John Glenn's orbital flight was postponed many times, the first being to 1/23/62 due to a fuel tank problem. 

Not a 23, but cool anyway:  The day of his flight, 2/20/62 (2+2+0+1+9+6+2=22), he was awakened at 2:20 am <3>

The third stage engine produced 230,000 lbs. of thrust. <4>


First Fatalities
Launched on 4/11/70 (4+1+1+1+9+7+0=23), it was the 23rd American manned space mission, and the first to endanger the lives of astronauts in space. The #2 oxygen tank in Apollo 13 had originally been used in Apollo 10 (10+13=23).  The LEM was 23 ft long.


There is no Apollo 2 or 3.
Don't Litter3/23/61:

After a session in an oxygen atmosphere pressure chamber, Valentin Bondarenko removed sensors attached to him and cleaned the areas with alcohol soaked cottonwool, which he accidentally discarded onto an an electric hot plate.   PHWOOM!   Releasing the pressure so the hatch could be opened took some time.  Bondarenko was still alive when he was removed, and kept repeating, "It was my fault, no one else is to blame." He died 8 hours later. <5> [picture credit]
I made quite an impact4/23/67:

Soyuz 1 transported cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov  into a cosmic plague of mechanical problems.  "Devil machine!" he is said to have exclaimed, "nothing I lay my hands on works!"  Upon re-entry, the craft's parachute, released at 23,000 feet, became snarled.  Komarov made his final encounter with solid ground at 500 miles per hour. <5 6 7> [sound credit]
Listen LISTEN (155 kb)

*that we know of, of course.

SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER assembly completed 10/23/81 <8>
Reinforced carbon-carbon tiles are used where temperatures exceed 2,300F during entry.  High Temperature Reusable Surface Insulation tiles are used where temperatures are below 2,300F. An HRSI tile taken from a 2,300F oven can be immersed in cold water without damage.  The coating is baked on in a 2,300F oven. <9 10>
I was just sitting there....GUS GRISSOM
Became 2nd American in space on 7/21/61.  Upon re-entry, his main chute deployed at 12,300 feet, about 1,000 feet higher than the design nominal altitude.  After splashdown,  the capsule began to fill with water when its 23-lb explosive hatch "just blew," and it eventually sank to the bottom of the sea.

Piloted the first manned Gemini (with John Young) on 3/23/65.   He named the craft "Molly Brown," in memory of his lost capsule.

Became one of the first American fatalities (with Ed White and Roger Chaffee) on 1/27/67 (1+9+6+7=23) in an eerie parallel of the Bondarenko tragedy. During a pre-launch Apollo 1 test, a spark from under his seat turned the oxygen pressurized capsule into a blast furnace.  This time the hatch did not have explosive bolts for easy egress.


First Landings
4/23/62 US Ranger 4 first US lunar impact

2/3/66 Soviet Luna 9, first soft landing.

Soviet Venera 7, landed on 12/15/70 and transmitted for 23 minutes before failure. <11>
Soviet Mars 3, soft-landed on 12/2/71 (1+2+2+1+9+7+1=23) and transmitted for 23 seconds before failure. <11 12>
FIRST LANDSAT Launched 7/23/72.
Russian communications spacecraft, first launched on 4/23/65. <13>


Look into my eyes...FIRST VIETNAMESE

Pham Tuan, 7/23/80,  aboard Soyuz 37
U.S. craft sent to observe Halley's Comet in 1986, returned 2333 images. Tired and damaged, it was placed in hibernation mode on 7/23/92 and orbits in its sleep to this day. <14 15>
Launched 8/23/97.    Fell out of orbit a month later. <16>


Men On The Moon
Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 (11+12=23)

Apollo 11 landed 7/20/69
at Mare Tranquillitatis ("Sea of Tranquility")
Lat. 06875' N, Long. 2343' E <18>

Apollo 12 landed 11/19/69
at Oceanus Procellarum ("Sea of Storms")
Lat. 3197' S, Long. 23385' W <18>

On 12/23/68 the Apollo 8 astronauts became the first crew to pass out of Earth's gravitational control and into the influence of the Moon's gravity. 

hinged on its own moon rocket, the N-1. After its 4th and final failure on 11/23/72, the program was abandoned. <17>

*not counting rumored lost cosmonauts


Launched 4/23/71, with cosmonauts Shatalov, Yeliseyev (selected 5/23/66), and Rukavishnikov. After docking at Soviet space station Salyut, they were unable to enter due to a faulty hatch on their own spacecraft. When Shatalov tried to undock, the jammed hatch impeded the docking mechanism. Eventually he was able to undock and land, but during the landing, the air supply became toxic, knocking out Rukavishnikov. Craft recovered 4/25/71 23:40 GMT. Flight time: 001d 23h 46m <19>
6/6/71 cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev, and Vladislav Volkov (b. 11/23/35, selected 5/23/66) took the spacecraft up to dock with Salyut, where they remained for 23 days, setting a duration record. Upon return to Earth, it was discovered that the cosmonauts were dead. A valve which was supposed to let fresh air in opened early and let the air OUT instead. They were not wearing space suits.
10/76: Soyuz 23 made the first Soviet splashdown after its guidance system malfunctioned during an unsuccessful attempted docking of Salyut 5.  Landed at night in Lake Tengiz, during a blizzard, and were not rescued until next morning.
Sputnik-Korabl launched 7/23/60 exploded.
USSR Lunar Probe Luna 23 crashed on the moon 10/28/74.
I thought you closed that valve...
No, I thought you did...
No, I thought YOU did...


MIR 23 Help! Help!

The Mir 23 crew arrived on 2/12/97, during the 23rd week of the Mir 22 mission (Mir 22 became Mir 23 on 3/2/97).

Quick, get the marshmallows...
Fire broke out on 2/23/97, nearly gassing the crew with smoke, and damaging one of the Elektron oxygen generating machines.  Astronaut Linenger, a doctor who treated crew members after the fire, spent a total of 123 days on Mir.

On the 23rd day aboard for the Mir 23 crew (3/7/97) a second Elektron failed.  As of the March 14 NASA mission report <20> the crew had gone through 23 oxygen-generating candles, and were awaiting the assistance of Progress 234 supply vehicle, which arrived in early April.

Bumper cars in spaaaaace...
In June, the aforementioned Progress 234 (filled with garbage) was whacked into Mir, damaging a solar panel and causing an air leak. Commander Tsibliev had forgotten to calculate in the extra weight of the garbage.

Hey, what's this do?
In July, cosmonaut Lazutkin pulled the wrong plug and cut power to all systems -- electricity, orientation, life support and communications. 

These are only a few of the many thrilling adventures of the Mir 23 crew. 

Insult to Injury...
They finally returned home on 8/14/97, in one of the hardest landings ever experienced by a returning Mir crew, as the landing rockets failed to fire on re-entry. <21>

Mir was launched 23 days after the Challenger explosion.

The MIR "lifeboat" is a 23 ft. long Soyuz.

Shannon Lucid arrived on 3/23/96, and wound up breaking the American and the women's records for time in space.

Mir 23 Commander Vasili Tsibliev EVERY day is "one of those days"
(call sign Sirius) <22>
born 2/20/54 (2+2+0+1+9+5+4=23)
(Mir's birthday is also 2/20)

Previously served as backup crew to Soyuz TM-23, which docked with Mir 2/23/96.

Russian newspaper Segodnya reported that he "made an unforgivable mistake"<23> in the Progress 234 collision (Tsibliev also banged the Soyuz TM-17 into Mir in 1994) <24>  And he was also blamed for pulling the wrong plug in July.  Declared unfit to repair Mir on 7/16/97 (7+16=23) due to irregular heartbeat and stress, he was put on heart medication and sedatives.

His stepfather died during this mission.  His sister died during his previous mission. <25>

Mir 23 Flight Engineer Alexander Lazutkinmea culpa
eventually confessed to pulling the wrong plug, and blaming Tsibliev.  He also took responsibility for the 2/23 fire. <26>

Online drugstore commercial (unveiled 8/23/99) included scenes filmed on Mir. "In the cold confines of the space station Mir, humans can go months without gravity," it says, "But there's one thing they can't go without: deodorant." <27>


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