8 January 1973

The Soviet space mission Luna 21 is launched.

Forty-five years after the Soviet Lunokhod-2 robot explored the lifeless surface of the moon, a declassified document sheds new light on the legendary project.

The 125-page technical report published this week was written in the months immediately following the 1973 mission by members of the Lunokhod communications team, who were responsible for controlling cameras and radios aboard the eight-wheeled rover and monitoring its health.

The second, and what turned out to be the last, Soviet rover to operate on the lunar surface blasted off on January 8, 1973, and landed on the moon eight days later. Officially dubbed Luna-21, it came down inside a 34-mile-wide crater called Le Monnier, a little over 100 miles north of where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts had explored just a month earlier.

After rolling off its landing platform, Lunokhod-2 traveled for 23 miles, beaming 69,000 TV images back to Earth and producing 86 panoramas of the surrounding landscape. It also probed the strength of the lunar surface in numerous locations and received laser beams fired from Earth.

To the people who worked on Lunokhod-2, the lander was known as Article E8 No. 204. The newly released document details the months of painstaking preparations that led up to launch, including a series of failures in the rover’s programming timer during tests at the launch site in September and October 1972. Engineers had to remove the entire unit from the rover and take apart its components. The problem was eventually traced to a massive short-circuit in an avionics box, due to mechanical damage that resulted from its being forced into position in its holding compartment. After replacing the unit, engineers repeated the entire test routine for the communications system, which seriously shortened its lifespan during the actual mission. This finally explains why Lunokhod-2 survived only around four months on the moon, as compared to 10 months for its predecessor, Lunokhod-1.

The rover’s Earth-based drivers compensated for this shortened lifespan with much faster driving, which produced its own drama. According to the report, the first lunar day of Lunokhod-2’s journey went smoothly, with only a few minor glitches. But when driving resumed on February 11 after a period of hibernation, the operators experienced their first serious problem. Lunokhod-2 refused to immediately stop when the team spotted a crater ahead and issued a stop command. “The motion of the rover was observed based on the shifting of the images on the VKU screen of the MKTV system,” the report says.

Only after repeating the stop command three times did the stubborn vehicle finally come to a halt. The problem was traced to a signal scrambler in the radio system, which led mission controllers to switch to a secondary scrambler.

Harsh temperatures on the moon also forced them to reduce the number of panoramic images taken by the rover. Still, Lunokhod-2 successfully completed its second lunar day on February 22, and hibernated until March 9.

Problems with the secondary radio scrambler got worse during the third lunar day, however, and the engineers switched to another radio channel operating on a different frequency.

By May 10, during the 503rd communications session, engineers discovered that the temperature inside Lunokhod-2 had soared as high as 47 degrees C. Flight controllers immediately turned off onboard systems and ended the communications session, but all subsequent attempts to talk to Lunokhod-2 proved fruitless, according to the report. The document gives the exact time of Lunokhod’s death as May 10, 1973, at 15:25.

Previous accounts of the mission appeared to blame the rover’s demise on a May 9 incident in which its solar panel scraped a particularly steep crater wall and became covered with dust. However, the newly declassified report stresses that by the time Lunokhod-2 stopped talking to mission control, its transmitters were already well past their warranty date—which appears to attribute the rover’s end to the communications system failure.

At the time Lunokhod-2 died, the team was still hoping to apply its engineering lessons to Lunokhod-3 and -4. One drawback they wanted to fix was the inability to rotate the cameras independently of the rover’s body. The authors of the report also recommended installing the cameras at least six feet above the surface to provide a better view for the drivers.

That somebody listened to their recommendations is evident from the flightworthy model of Lunokhod-3 now displayed in a museum at the NPO Lavochkin company near Moscow. Unfortunately, the Soviet lunar program had lost momentum by that time, and Lunokhod-3 never had a chance to fly.

28 December 1973

The Endangered Species Act is passed in the USA.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the few dozens of US environmental laws passed in the 1970s, and serves as the enacting legislation to carry out the provisions outlined in The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation”, the ESA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court found that “the plain intent of Congress in enacting” the ESA “was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” The Act is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The near-extinction of the bison and the disappearance of the passenger pigeon helped drive the call for wildlife conservation starting in the 1900s. Ornithologist George Bird Grinnell wrote articles on the subject in the magazine Forest and Stream, while Joel Asaph Allen, founder of the American Ornithologists’ Union, hammered away in the popular press. The public was introduced to a new concept: extinction.

Market hunting for the millinery trade and for the table was one aspect of the problem. The early naturalists also killed birds and other wildlife for study, personal curio collections and museum pieces. While habitat losses continued as communities and farmland grew, the widespread use of pesticides and the introduction of non-native species also affected wildlife.

One species in particular received widespread attention—the whooping crane. The species’ historical range extended from central Canada south to Mexico, and from Utah to the Atlantic coast. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss contributed to a steady decline in the whooping crane population until, by 1890, it had disappeared from its primary breeding range in the north central United States. It would be another eight years before the first national law regulating wildlife commerce was signed, and another two years before the first version of the endangered species act was passed. The whooping crane population by 1941 was estimated at about only 16 birds still in the wild.

The Lacey Act of 1900 was the first federal law that regulated commercial animal markets. It prohibited interstate commerce of animals killed in violation of state game laws, and covered all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, as well as plants. Other legislation followed, including the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929, a 1937 treaty prohibiting the hunting of right and gray whales, and the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940. These later laws had a low cost to society–the species were relatively rare–and little opposition was raised.

Whereas the Lacey Act dealt with game animal management and market commerce species, a major shift in focus occurred by 1963 to habitat preservation instead of take regulations. A provision was added by Congress in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 that provided money for the “acquisition of land, waters…for the preservation of species of fish and wildlife that are threatened with extinction.”

The predecessor of the ESA was the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. Passed by Congress, this act permitted the listing of native U.S. animal species as endangered and for limited protections upon those animals.

It authorized the Secretary of the Interior to list endangered domestic fish and wildlife and allowed the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to spend up to $15 million per year to buy habitats for listed species. It also directed federal land agencies to preserve habitat on their lands. The Act also consolidated and even expanded authority for the Secretary of the Interior to manage and administer the National Wildlife Refuge System. Other public agencies were encouraged, but not required, to protect species. The act did not address the commerce in endangered species and parts.

In March, 1967 the first list of endangered species was issued under the act. It included 14 mammals, 36 birds, 6 reptiles and amphibians and 22 fish.

This first list is referred to as the “Class of ’67” in The Endangered Species Act at Thirty, Volume 1, which concludes that habitat destruction, the biggest threat to those 78 species, is still the same threat to the currently listed species. It included only vertebrates because the Department of Interior’s definition of “fish and wildlife” was limited to vertebrates. However, with time, researchers noticed that the animals on the endangered species list still were not getting enough protection, thus further threatening their extinction. The endangered species program was expanded by the Endangered Species Act of 1969.

The Endangered Species Conservation Act, passed in December, 1969, amended the original law to provide additional protection to species in danger of “worldwide extinction” by prohibiting their importation and subsequent sale in the United States. It expanded the Lacey Act’s ban on interstate commerce to include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks and crustaceans. Reptiles were added mainly to reduce the rampant poaching of alligators and crocodiles. This law was the first time that invertebrates were included for protection.

The amendment called for an international meeting to adopt a convention or treaty to conserve endangered species. That meeting was held in Washington, D.C., in February, 1973 and produced the comprehensive multilateral treaty known as CITES or Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

President Richard Nixon declared current species conservation efforts to be inadequate and called on the 93rd United States Congress to pass comprehensive endangered species legislation. Congress responded with a completely rewritten law, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which was signed by Nixon on December 28, 1973. It was written by a team of lawyers and scientists, including Dr. Russell E. Train, the first appointed head of the Council on Environmental Quality, an outgrowth of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Dr. Train was assisted by a core group of staffers, including Dr. Earl Baysinger at EPA, Dick Gutting, and Dr. Gerard A. “Jerry” Bertrand, a Ph.D marine biologist by training, who had transferred from his post as the scientific adviser to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, office of the Commandant of the Corps, to join the newly formed White House office. The staff, under Dr. Train’s leadership, incorporated dozens of new principles and ideas into the landmark legislation, crafting a document that completely changed the direction of environmental conservation in the United States. Dr. Bertrand is credited with writing the most challenged section of the Act, the “takings” clause – Section 2.

The stated purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species and also “the ecosystems upon which they depend.” California historian Kevin Starr was more emphatic when he said: “The Endangered Species Act of 1982 is the Magna Carta of the environmental movement.”

The ESA is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. NMFS handles marine species, and the FWS has responsibility over freshwater fish and all other species. Species that occur in both habitats are jointly managed.

5 August 1973

Mars 6 is launched from the USSR.

The Mars 6 spacecraft carried an array of instruments to study Mars. The lander was equipped with a thermometer and barometer to determine the surface conditions, an accelerometer and radio altimeter for descent, and instruments to analyse the surface material including a mass spectrometer. The coast stage, or bus, carried a magnetometer, plasma traps, cosmic ray and micrometeoroid detectors, and an instrument to study proton and electron fluxes from the Sun.

Built by Lavochkin, Mars 6 was the first of two 3MP spacecraft launched to Mars in 1973 and was followed by Mars 7. Two orbiters, Mars 4 and Mars 5, were launched earlier in the 1973 Mars launch window and were expected to relay data for the two landers. However, Mars 4 failed to enter orbit, and Mars 5 failed after a few days in orbit.

Mars 6 was launched by a Proton-K carrier rocket with a Blok D upper stage, flying from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 81/23. The launch occurred at 17:45:48 UTC on 5 August 1973, with the first three stages placing the spacecraft and upper stage into a low Earth parking orbit before the Blok D fired to propel Mars 6 into heliocentric orbit bound for Mars. The spacecraft performed a course correction on 13 August 1973.

Mars 6’s lander separated from the flyby bus on 12 March 1974 at an altitude of 48,000 kilometres 30,000 mi from the surface of Mars. The bus made a flyby with a closest approach of 1,600 kilometres 990 mi. The lander encountered the atmosphere of Mars at 09:05:53 UTC, slowing from 5,600 to 600 metres per second 12,500 to 1,300 mph as it passed through the upper atmosphere. A parachute was then deployed to further slow the probe’s descent, and retrorockets were intended to fire during the last seconds before the probe reached the ground.

The spacecraft returned data for 224 seconds during its descent through the Martian atmosphere. However, at 09:11:05 UTC, with the spacecraft about to fire its retrorockets in preparation for landing, all contact was lost. Due to a design flaw, a chip aboard the spacecraft had degraded during the mission, and a large amount of the data which had been returned was unusable.

28 December 1973

The Endangered Species Act is passed in the USA.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the few dozens of US environmental laws passed in the 1970s, and serves as the enacting legislation to carry out the provisions outlined in The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation”, the ESA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court found that “the plain intent of Congress in enacting” the ESA “was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” The Act is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

President Richard Nixon declared current species conservation efforts to be inadequate and called on the 93rd United States Congress to pass comprehensive endangered species legislation. Congress responded with a completely rewritten law, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which was signed by Nixon on December 28, 1973. It was written by a team of lawyers and scientists, including Dr. Russell E. Train, the first appointed head of the Council on Environmental Quality, an outgrowth of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Dr. Train was assisted by a core group of staffers, including Dr. Earl Baysinger at EPA, Dick Gutting, and Dr. Gerard A. “Jerry” Bertrand, a marine biologist by training, who had transferred from his post as the Scientific Adviser to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, office of the Commandant of the Corps, to join the newly formed White House office. The staff, under Dr. Train’s leadership, incorporated dozens of new principles and ideas into the landmark legislation, crafting a document that completely changed the direction of environmental conservation in the United States. Dr. Bertrand is credited with writing the most challenged section of the Act, the “takings” clause – Section 2.

The stated purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species and also “the ecosystems upon which they depend.” California historian Kevin Starr was more emphatic when he said: “The Endangered Species Act of 1982 is the Magna Carta of the environmental movement.”

The ESA is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA handles marine species, and the FWS has responsibility over freshwater fish and all other species. Species that occur in both habitats  are jointly managed.

In March 2008, The Washington Post reported that documents showed that the Bush Administration, beginning in 2001, had erected “pervasive bureaucratic obstacles” that limited the number of species protected under the act:

1 December 1973

Papua New Guinea gains self governance from Australia.

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After the war, some Australian officials wanted a return to the prewar order, while others wanted to empower the local population in gratitude for their assistance in the fighting. At first the Highlanders were utilized as a massive new source of labour for the coastal plantations. From the 1950s the growing of Arabica coffee by local smallholders spread rapidly throughout much of the Highlands, providing another source of income and keeping the people there in their villages. Meanwhile, cacao was rapidly adopted as a plantation and smallholder crop in the islands and around Madang. Despite the general lack of economic development in Papua, the town of Port Moresby grew rapidly and attracted large numbers of migrants, particularly from the poorer areas and especially the Highlands.

In 1945 Australia combined its administration of Papua and that of the former mandate into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which it administered from Canberra via Port Moresby. From 1946 Australia managed the New Guinea (eastern) half as a United Nations trust territory. In the 1950s Australia took a gradualist approach to educating the population and improving health services, but from 1960 international pressure led Australia to expedite efforts to create an educated elite and improve social conditions, boost the economy, and develop political structures in preparation for decolonization. General elections for a House of Assembly were held in 1964, 1968, and 1972; self-government was achieved on December 1, 1973, and full independence from Australia on September 16, 1975. At that time Australian development assistance provided nearly half of the national budget.

23 August 1973

In Stockholm, Sweden a bank robbery that went wrong results in a hostage crisis. The hostages begin to sympathize with their captors, leading to the what becomes known as the “Stockholm syndrome”.