This Day In Astro History

Bjarni Tryggvason, Courtesy of NASA
Bjarni Tryggvason
A Canadian engineering superstar!

STS-85 Mission Patch
STS 85 Mission Patch

Alan Hills meteorite
Past Life on Mars?
The Alan Hills meteorite

August 7

Canadian Maple Leaf1997 - Bjarni Tryggvason (52) flies aboard STS-85 (Discovery) serving as Payload Specialist 1. Born in Reykjavik, Iceland. He completed high school in Richmond, British Columbia, and received engineering degrees from the University of British Columbia and University of Western Ontario. He was one of the six Canadian astronauts selected in December 1983. He logged more than 284 hours in space.
Bjarni was back-up Payload Specialist to Canadian Steve MacLean for the CANEX-2 set of experiments which flew on Mission STS-52. In 1992 he was the Project Engineer for the design of the SVS target spacecraft which was deployed during that mission.  He is the principal investigator in the development of the Large Motion Isolation Mount (LMIM) which has flown numerous times on NASA's KC-135 and DC-9 aircraft. He is also the principal investigator in the development of the Microgravity Vibration Isolation Mount (MIM). The MIM has been in operation on board the Russian Mir Space Station since April 1996, and was first operated by U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid during her historic six month flight on the Mir. The MIM is being used on the Mir to support several Canadian and U.S. experiments in material science and fluid physics.  He also served as a Canadian Space Agency representative on the NASA Microgravity Measurement Working Group, and the International Space Station (ISS) Microgravity AIT (Analysis and Integration Team). With the completion of STS-85, Tryggvason has logged more than 284 hours in space. His major role on the flight will be focusing on further tests of the Microgravity Vibration Isolation Mount (MIM) and performing fluid physics experiments designed to examine sensitivity to spacecraft vibrations. This work is directed at developing better understanding of the need for systems such as the MIM on the International Space Station and on the effect of vibrations on the many experiments to be performed on the ISS. (MIM) 

1996 - Life on Mars? A NASA research team of scientists at the Johnson Space Center and at Stanford University announce their findings of evidence that strongly suggests primitive life may have existed on Mars more than 3.6 billion years ago.    The two-year investigation was co-led by planetary scientists Dr. David McKay, Dr. Everett Gibson and Kathie Thomas-Keprta of Lockheed-Martin, all from JSC, with the major collaboration of a Stanford team headed by Professor of Chemistry Dr. Richard Zare, as well as six other NASA and university research partners.  The meteorite, called ALH84001, was found in 1984 in Allan Hills ice field, Antarctica, by an annual expedition of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Meteorite Program. (NASA press release see here) "There is not any one finding that leads us to believe that this is evidence of past life on Mars. Rather, it is a combination of many things that we have found," McKay said. "They include Stanford's detection of an apparently unique pattern of organic molecules, carbon compounds that are the basis of life. We also found several unusual mineral phases that are known products of primitive microscopic organisms on Earth. Structures that could be microscopic fossils seem to support all of this. The relationship of all of these things in terms of location – within a few hundred thousandths of an inch of one another – is the most compelling evidence."  (NASA) 

1976 - Viking 2 was inserted into orbit around Mars.

1959 - Explorer 6, with a mass of 64.4 kg, is the first satellite to return photos of the Earth from orbit.
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It is my conclusion that human evolution and the motions of matter in space are intrinsically linked. The observation and understanding of the complexity of biological history on Earth cannot be complete without the tandem observation and understanding of a dynamic greater cosmos. - SpaceGene