The Demonstration Flights

With the return of Columbia and its crew at the end of STS-i, the first flight was a success, but the shuttle demonstration flight-test program was still just getting started. Even before sts-1 had launched, preparations for sts – 2 were already under way. The mission would build on the success of the first and test additional orbiter systems.


Crew: Commander Joe Engle, Pilot Dick Truly

Orbiter: Columbia

Launched: 12 November 1981

Landed: 14 November 1981

Mission: Test of orbiter systems

sTs-1 had been a grand experiment, the first time a new nasa human launch vehicle made its maiden flight with a crew aboard. Because of that, the mission profile was kept relatively simple and straightforward to de­crease risk. Before the shuttle could become operational, however, many more of its capabilities would have to be tested and demonstrated. In that respect, the mission of sts-2 began long before launch.

“One of the things I remember back then on sts-2,” recalled astronaut Mike Hawley,

when they mate the shuttle to the solid rocket motor on the external tank in the Vehicle Assembly Building [vab, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida], they do something called the shuttle interface test,. . . making sure the cables are hooked up right and the hydraulic lines are hooked up properly and the orbiter and the solids and all ofthat functions as a unit before they take it to the pad. In those days we manned that test with astronauts, and for sts-2 the astronauts that manned it were me and Ellison Onizuka. We were in the Columbia in the middle ofthe night hanging on the side ofthe ET [external tank] in the vab going through this test.

Part of the test, Hawley explained, involved making sure that the or – biter’s flight control systems were working properly, including the moving flight control surfaces, the displays, and the software.

It turns out when you do part of this test and you bypass a surface in the flight control system, it shakes the vehicle and there’s this big bang that happens. Well, nobody told me that, and Ellison and I are sitting in the vehicle going through this test, and I forget which one of us threw the switch, but. . . there’s this “bang!” and the whole vehicle shakes. We’re going, “Uh-oh, I think we broke it. ” But that was actually normal. I took delight years later in knowing that was going to happen and not telling other people, so that they would have the same fun of experiencing what it’s like to think you broke the orbiter. . . . That was a lot of fun. Except for flying, that was probably the most fun I ever had, was working the Cape job.

In contrast to STS-i, commanded by NASA’s senior member of the astro­naut corps, sts-2 was the only demonstration flight to be commanded by a “rookie” astronaut—Joe Engle, who had earned air force astronaut wings on a suborbital spaceflight on the x-15 rocket plane.

Engle’s path to becoming the shuttle’s first NASA-unflown commander began about a decade earlier, when he lost out on a chance to walk on the moon. Engle had been assigned to the crew of Apollo 17, alongside com­mander Gene Cernan and command module pilot Ron Evans. However, pressure to make sure that geologist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt made it to the moon cost Engle his slot as the Apollo 17 Lunar Module pilot. When Engle was informed that he was being removed from the mission, Deke Slayton discussed with him options for his next assignment.

“I wouldn’t say I was able to select, but Deke was very, very good about it and asked me, in a one-to-one conversation, not promising that I would be assigned to a Skylab or not promising I would be assigned to the Apollo – Soyuz mission, but implying that if I were interested in that, he would sure consider that very heavily,” Engle recalled.

He also indicated that the Space Shuttle looked like it was going to be funded and looked like it was going to be a real program. At the time, I think I respond­ed something to the effect that it had a stick and rudder and wings and was an airplane and was kind of more the kind of vehicle that I felt I could contribute more to. And Deke concurred with that. He said, “That was my opinion, but if you want to fly sooner than that, I was ready to help out. ” I think Deke was happy that I had indicated I would just as soon wait for the Space Shuttle and be part of the early testing on that program.

The decision meant that Engle was involved in the very beginnings of the shuttle program, even before the contractors and final design for the vehicle had been selected.

Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas and Grumman were three ofthe primary com­petitors initially and had different design concepts for the shuttle, all pretty much the same, but they were significantly different in shape and in configuration for launch, using different types of boosters and things. I was part ofthat selection pro­cess only as an engineer and a pilot and assessing a very small part ofthe data that went into the final selection. But it was interesting. It was very, very interesting, and it, fortunately, allowed me to pull on some ofthe experience that I had gotten at Edwards in flight-testing, in trying to assess what might be the most reasonable approach to either flying initial flights, data-gathering and things ofthat nature.

Engle and sts-2 pilot Richard Truly served as the backup crew for sts-1 and trained for that mission alongside Crippen and Young. Not long after the first mission was complete, a ceremony was held in which Engle and Truly were presented with a “key”—made of cardboard—to Columbia. “I think the hope was that would be a traditional handover of the vehicle to the next crew,” Engle recalled.

It was a fun thing to do. In fact, I think it was done at a pilots’ meeting one time, as I recall. John and Crip handed Dick and I the key, and I think there were so many comments about buying a used car from Crip and John that it became more ofa joke than a serious tradition, and I don’t recall that it really lasted very long. I think it turned from cardboard into plywood, and I don’t recall that it was done very long after that. Plus, once we got the next vehicles, Discovery, Chal­lenger, on line, it lost some significance as well. You weren’t really sure which ve­hicle you were going to fly after that, so you didn’t know who to give the key to.

In the wake of the tile loss on the first shuttle mission, a renewed effort was made to develop contingencies to deal with future problems and, ac­cording to Engle, additional progress was made.

Probably the biggest change that occurred was more emphasis on being able to make a repair for a tile that might have come off during flight. John and Crip lost a number of tiles on STS-1. Fortunately, none were in the critical underside, where the maximum heat is. Most of them were on the OMSpod and on the top of the vehicle. But the inherent cause of those tiles coming loose and separating was not really understood, and on sts-2 we were prepared to at least try to fill some of those voids with RSI [Reusable Surface Insulation], the rubbery mate­rial that bonds the tile to the surface itself. So in our training, we began to fold in eva training, using materials and tools to fill in those voids.

Exactly seven months after the launch of STS-1, the launch date for the second Space Shuttle mission arrived. Sitting on the launchpad, Engle was in a distinctive position—on his first nasa launch, he would be returning to space. It would, however, be a very different experience from his last; he was actually going to stay in orbit versus just briefly skimming space, as he had in the x-15. In fact, he said, while his thoughts on the launchpad did briefly touch on his previous flights on the x-15, space wasn’t the place he was thinking about returning to. Instead, he was already thinking ahead to the end of the mission.

As I recall, the only conscious recollection to the X-15 was that at the end of the flight we would be going back to Edwards and landing on the dry lake bed. And I think, for all of the training and all of the good simulation that we re­ceived, that’s where I felt the most comfortable, the most at home, going back to Edwards. And at the end of the flight, when we rolled out on final approach going into the dry lake bed, that turned out to really be the case. It was a de­manding mission and there were a lot of strange things that went on during our first flight, but when we got back into the landing pattern, it just felt like I was back at Edwards again, ready to land another airplane.

According to Engle, the launch was very much like it had been in the simulators. However, even though the first shuttle mission had provided real-world data on what an actual flight would be like, there were still, at the time the sts-2 crew was training, ways in which the simulators still did not fully capture the details of the ascent. The thing that most surprised him during launch was “the loud explosion and fireball when the solid rocket boosters were ejected. That was not really simulated very well in the sim-

The Demonstration Flights

17. An aerial view of the launch of Columbia on the second Space Shuttle mission, sts-2. Photo taken by astronaut John Young aboard nasas Shuttle Training Aircraft. Courtesy nasa.

ulator, because I don’t think anybody really anticipated it would be quite as impressive a show as that. I don’t remember that [John and Crip] men­tioned it to us, but that caught our attention, and I think we did pass that on in briefings to the rest of the troops, not just to [the sts-3 crew], but to everyone else who was flying downstream.”

If the launch was relatively nominal, things changed quickly after that. Two and a half hours into flight, Columbia had a fuel cell failure, which, under mission rules, required an early return to Earth—cutting the mission from 125 hours to 54. “We were disappointed,” Engle said.

As I recall, we kind of tried to hint that we probably didn’t need to come back, we still had two fuel cells going, but at the time, it was the correct decision, be­

cause there was no really depth of knowledge as to why that fuel cell failed, and there was no way of telling that it was not a generic failure, that the other two might follow. And, of course, without fuel cells, without electricity, the vehicle is not controllable. So we understood and we accepted. We knew the ground rules; we knew the flight rules that dictated that if you lost a fuel cell, that it would be a minimum-time mission. We had really prepared and trained hard and had a full scenario of objectives that we wanted to complete on the mission. Of course, everybody wants to complete everything.

In fact, according to Engle, the only real disappointment he and Truly felt at the time was that, after investing so much training time into preparing for the mission goals, they weren’t going to have the time to fully accomplish them. “I don’t think we consciously thought, ‘Well, we’re not going to have five days to look at the Earth.’ I don’t think that really entered our minds right then, because we were more focused on how we are going to get all this stuff done.”

Rather than accept defeat, Engle and Truly managed to get enough work done even in the shortened duration that the mission objectives were de­clared 90 percent complete at the end of the flight. “We were able to do it because we had trained enough to know precisely what all had to be done, and we prioritized things as much as we could,” Engle explained.

Fortunately, we didn’t have tdrss [Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System] at the time. We only had the ground stations, so we didn’t have continuous voice communication with Mission Control, and Mission Control didn’t have continuous data downlink from the vehicle either, only when we’d fly over the ground stations. So when our sleep cycle was approaching, we did, in fact, pow­er down some of the systems and we did tell Mission Control goodnight, but as soon as we went los, loss of signal, from the ground station, then we got busy and scrambled and cranked up the remote manipulator arm and ran through the sequence of tests for the arm, ran through as much of the other data that we could, got as much done as we could during the night. We didn’t sleep that night; we stayed up all night. Then the next morning, when the wakeup call came from the ground, why, we tried to pretend like we were sleepy and just waking up.

After the flight, I remember Don Puddy saying, “Well, we knew you guys were awake, because when you’d pass over the ground station, we could see you were drawing more power than you should have been if you were asleep. ” But that was about the only insight they had into it.

The first use of the robot arm was one of the major ways that STS-2 moved forward from sts-1 in testing out the vehicle. “From the beginning we had the rms, the remote manipulator system, the arm, manifested on our flight, and that was a major test article and test procedure to perform, to actually take the arm, to de-berth the arm and take it out through ma­neuvers and attach it to different places in the payload to demonstrate that it would work in zero gravity and work throughout its envelope. Dick be­came the primary rms-responsible crew member and did a magnificent job in working with the arm people.”

The premission training for testing the arm included working with its camera and figuring out what sort of angles it could capture. Truly learned that the arm could be maneuvered so that the camera pointed through the cabin windows of the orbiter. Once they were in orbit, Truly took advan­tage of this discovery by getting shots of himself and Engle in the cabin, with Truly displaying a sign reading “Hi, Mom.”

Sally Ride, who was heavily involved in the training for the arm, also worked with the crew to help develop a plan for Earth observations dur­ing the mission. “They were both very, very interested in observing Earth while they were in space, but they weren’t carrying instruments other than their eyes and their cameras,” Ride said.

They wanted to have a good understanding of what they would be seeing, what they should look for, and what scientists wanted them to look for. The crew had to learn how to recognize the things that scientists were interested in: wave patterns on the surface ofthe ocean, rift valleys, large volcanoes, a variety ofdifferentgeological features on the ground. I spent quite a bit oftime with the scientists, as a liaison be­tween the scientists and the astronauts who were going to be taking the pictures, to try to understand what the scientists had observed and then to help the astronauts understand how to recognize features of interest and what sort of pictures to take.

During the flight, not only was the crew staying extra busy to make up for the lost time, but CapCom Terry Hart recalled an incident in which the ground unintentionally made additional, unnecessary work for the crew.

It turned out that President Reagan was visiting Mission Control during the sts-2, and it was just [over eight months] after he had been shot. . . . This was one of his first public events since recovering ffrom that. Of course, everyone was very excited about that, and it turned out he was coming in on our shift. . . . Mission Control was kind of all excited about the president coming and every­thing. He came in, and I was just amazed how large a man he was. I guess TV doesn’t make people look as large as they sometimes are. And I was on comm, so I was actually the one talking to the crew at that time when he came in. So I had the chance then to give him my seat and show him how to use the radios, and then I actually introduced him to the crew. I said something to the effect that, “Columbia, this is Houston. We have a visiting CapCom here today. ” I said, “I guess you could call him CapCom One. ” And then the president smiled and he sat down and had a nice conversation for a few minutes with the crew.

While the event was a success and an exciting opportunity for the astronauts, Mission Control, and the president, Hart recalled that it was later discovered that a miscommunication had caused an unintended downside to the uplink.

We didn’t realize we had not communicated properly to the crew, and the crew thought this was going to be a video downlink opportunity for them. . . . They had set up TV cameras inside the shuttle to show themselves to Mission Control while they were talking to the president, when the plan was only to have an audio call with the president, because the particular ground station they were over at that time didn’t have video downlink. We had wasted about an hour or two of the crew’s time, so we kind of felt bad about that.

We didn’t learn about that until after. .. . It all worked out and everything, but it just shows you how important it is to communicate effectively with the crews and to work together as a team and all. And of course, most of the crews, the astronauts, they’re all troopers. They want to do their very best, and if Mis­sion Control is not careful, you’ll let them overwork themselves.

The extra time the crew members gained by not sleeping at night allowed them to be more productive, but the lost sleep, and a side-effect problem related to the failed fuel cell, caught up with them as the mission neared its end. The membrane that failed on the fuel cell allowed excess hydrogen to get into the supply of drinking water. “So we had very bubbly water,” Truly said.

Whenever we’d go to take a drink, .. . a large percentage of the volume was hy­drogen bubbles in the water, and they didn’tfloat to the top like bubbles would in a glass here and get rid of themselves, because in zero gravity they don’t; they just stay in solution. We had no way to separate those out, so the water that we

The Demonstration Flights

i8. From the Mission Control room at Johnson Space Center, President Ronald Reagan talks to Joe Engle and Richard Truly, the crew of sts-2. Courtesy nasa.

would drink had an awful lot of hydrogen in it, and once you got that into your system, it’s the same way as when you drink a Coke real fast and it’s still bub­bly; you want to belch and get rid of that gas. That was the natural physiologi­cal reaction, but anytime you did that, of course, you would regurgitate water. It wasn’t a nice thing, so we didn’t drink any water. So we were dehydrated as well; tired and dehydrated when it was time to come back in.

In addition to the strained physical condition of the crew, other factors were complicating the return to Earth. The winds at Edwards Air Force Base were very high a couple of orbits before entry, when the crew was making the entry preparations, leading to discussion as to whether it would be nec­essary to divert to an alternate landing site.

Even under the best of circumstances, sts-2’s reentry would have had a bit more pressure built into it—another of the test objectives for the sec­ond shuttle mission was to gain data about how the shuttle could maneu­ver during reentry and what it was capable of doing. The standard entry profile was to be abandoned, and about thirty different maneuvers were to be flown to see how the shuttle handled them. In order to accomplish this, the autopilot was turned off, making Engle the only commander to have flown the complete reentry and landing manually.

“Getting that data to verify and confirm the capabilities of the vehicle was something that we wanted very much to do and, quite honestly, not everyone at nasa thought it was all that important,” Engle recalled.

There was an element in the engineering community that felt that we could al­ways fly it with the variables and the unknowns just as they were from wind tunnel data. . . . Then there was the other school, which I will readily admit that I was one of, that felt you just don’t know when you may have a payload you weren’t able to deploy, so you have maybe the cg [center of gravity] not in the optimum place and you can’t do anything about it, and just how much ma­neuvering will you be able to do with that vehicle in that condition? How much control authority is really out there on the elevons? And how much cross range do you really have if you need to come down on an orbit that is not the one that you really intended to come down on? So it was something that, like in any­thing, there was good, healthy discussions on, and ultimately the data showed that, yes, it was really worthwhile to get.

(In fact, after sts-2, maneuvers that Engle tested by flying manually were programmed into the shuttle’s flight control software so that they could be performed by the autopilot if needed in the future.)

And so, with a variety of factors working against them, the crew mem­bers began the challenging reentry. “We had a vehicle with a fuel cell that had to be shut down, so we were down to less than optimum amount of electrical power available,” Engle recalled.

The winds were coming up at Edwards. We hadn’t had any sleep the night before, and we were dehydrated as could be. And just before we started to prepare for the entry, Dick decided he was not going to take any chances of getting motion sickness on the flight, because the entry was demanding. . . . He had replaced his scopolamine patch [for motion sickness] and put on a fresh one. The atmo­sphere was dry in the orbiter and we both were rubbing our eyes. We weren’t aware that the stuffthat’s in a scopolamine patch dilates your eyes. So we got in our seats and got strapped in, got ready for entry, and I’d pitched around and was about ready for the first maneuver and said, “Okay, Dick, let me make sure we got the first one right, ” and I read off the conditions. I didn’t hear anything back, and I looked over and Dick had the checklist and he was going back and forth and he said, “Joe Henry, I cant see a damn thing. ” So I thought, “This is going to be a pretty good, interesting entry. We got a fuel cell down. We got a broke bird. We got winds coming up at Edwards. We got no sleep. We’re thirsty and we’re dehydrated, and now my plt’s [pilot’s] gone blind."Fortunately, Dick was able to read enough of the stuff, and I had memorized those maneuvers. That was part of the benefits of the delay of the launch was that it gave us more time to practice, and those maneuvers were intuitive to me at the time. They were just like they were bred into me.

As the reentry progressed, Engle recalled, it felt like everything went into slow motion as he waited to execute one maneuver after another. And then, with the winds having cooperated enough to prevent Columbia from hav­ing to divert to another site, it was time for the former x-15 pilot’s trium­phant return to Edwards.

When we did get back over Edwards and lined up on the runway, as I men­tioned before, I think one of the greatest feelings that I’ve had in the space pro­gram since I got here was rolling out on final and seeing the dry lake bed out there, because I’d spent so much time out there, and I dearly love Edwards and the people out there. In fact, I recall when Dick and I spent numerous week­ends practicing landings at Edwards, I would go down to the flight line and talk with guys. . . and go up to the flight control tower and talk with the peo­ple up there, and we would laugh and joke with them. I remember the tower operator said, “Well, give me a call on final. I’ll clear you." Of course, that was not a normal thing to do, because we were talking with the CapCom here at Houston throughout the flight. But I rolled out on final, and it was just kind of an instinctive thing. I called and I said, “Eddy Tower, it’s Columbia roll­ing out on high final. I’ll call the gear on the flare." And he popped right back and just very professional voice, said, “Roger, Columbia, you’re cleared num­ber one. Call your gear." It caused some folks in Mission Control to ask, “Who was that? What was that other chatter on the channel?" because nobody else is supposed to be on. But to me it was really a neat thing, really a gratifying thing, and the guys in the tower, Edwards folks, just really loved it, to be part of it.

According to Engle, the landing was very much like his experiences with Enterprise during the approach and landing tests.

From an airplane-handling-qualities standpoint, I was very, very pushed to find any difference between Enterprise and the two orbital vehicles, Columbia

and Discovery, other than the fact that Enterprise was much lighter weight and, therefore, performance-wise, you had to fly a steeper profile and the air­speed bled off quicker in the approach and landing. But as far as the response of the vehicle, the airplane was optimized to respond to what pilots tend to like in the way of vehicle response. . . . There were some things that would have been nice to have had different on the orbiter, . . . and that is the hand con­troller itself. It’s not optimized for landing a vehicle. It really is a derivative of the Apollo rotational hand controller, which was designed for and optimized for operation in space, and since that’s where the shuttle lives most of the time, it leans toward optimizing space operations, rendezvous and docking and those types of maneuvers.

Despite the change in schedule caused by the shortening of the mission, more than two hundred thousand people showed up to watch the landing. After the vehicle touched down, Engle conducted a traditional pilot’s in­spection of his vehicle.

I think every pilot, out of just habit, gets out of his airplane and walks around it to give it a postflight check. It’s really required when you’re an operational pilot, and I think you’re curious just to make sure that the bird’s okay. And of course, after a reentry like that, you’re very curious to know what it looks like. You figure it’s got to look scorched after an entry like that, with all the heat and the fire that you saw during entry. Additionally, of course, we were interested at that time to see if the tiles were intact. . . . We lost a couple of tiles, as I re­call, but they were not on the bottom surface. They had perfected the bonding on those tiles first, because they were the most critical, and they did a very good job on that. But we walked around, kicked the tires, did the regular pilot thing.


Crew: Commander Jack Lousma, Pilot Gordon Fullerton

Orbiter: Columbia

Launched: 22 March 1982

Landed: 30 March 1982

Mission: Test of orbiter systems

The mission that flew after sts-2 could have been a very different one, had the shuttle been ready sooner or the sun been quieter, according to as­

tronaut Fred Haise. The Apollo 13 veteran had initially been named as com­mander of the mission, with Skylab II astronaut Jack Lousma as his pilot. The purpose of the mission would have been to revisit the Skylab space sta­tion, abandoned in orbit since its third and final crew departed in February 1974. At a minimum, the mission would have recovered a “time capsule” the final Skylab crew had left behind to study the effects of long-term exposure to the orbital environment. There were also discussions about using the shut­tle mission to better prepare the aging Skylab for its eventual de-orbit. Un­fortunately, delays with the shuttle pushed the mission backward, and an ex­pansion of Earth’s atmosphere caused by higher than predicted solar activity pushed the end of Skylab forward. “And what happened, obviously was there was a miscalculation, I guess, on the solar effect on our atmosphere, which was raised, causing more drag,” Haise said. “So the Skylab [predicted time] for reentering was moving to the left in schedule, and our flight schedule was going to the right. So at a point, they crossed, and that mission went away.”

Haise and Lousma trained for several months for the mission, and when the Skylab rendezvous became impossible, Haise decided to reevaluate his future plans. Given his own experience and the number of newer astro­nauts still waiting for a flight, he decided to leave NASA and take a man­agement position with Grumman Aerospace Corporation. “I just felt it was the right time to start my next career. And so I left the program in ’79 for that purpose.”

Haise’s departure meant changes for astronaut Gordon Fullerton, who recalled that at one point during shifting crew assignment discussions, he had actually been scheduled to fly with Haise on the second shuttle mis­sion. “For a while I was going to fly with Fred. Then Fred decided he wasn’t going to stick it out,” Fullerton explained. “So then I ended with Vance [Brand] for a little while, and then finally with Jack Lousma, which was great. Jack’s a great guy, [a] very capable guy and a great guy to work with, and so I couldn’t have done better to have a partner to fly with.”

Recalled astronaut Pinky Nelson of the pair:

Jack and Gordo were black and white. I mean, they were the yin and yang of the space program, basically. Jack is your basic great pilot, kind of “Let’s go do this stuff," and Gordo is probably the second-most-detail-oriented person I’ve ever seen. Gordo at least knew he was that way and had some perspective on it, but there were things he could not let go. So he knew everything, basically. He knew all the details and really worked hard at making sure that everything was in place, while Jack looked after the big picture kind ofstuff. They were a good team.

The shuttle was very much still a developmental vehicle when Lousma and Fullerton prepared for and flew sts-3. “When we flew sts-3, we had [a big book] called Program Notes, which were known flaws in the software,” Fullerton explained. “There was one subsystem that, when it was turned on, the feedback on the displays said ‘off,’ because they’d gotten the polarity wrong. . . which they knew and they knew how to fix it, but we didn’t fix it. We flew it that way, knowing that ‘off meant ‘on’ for this subsystem. The crew had to train and keep all this in mind, because to fix it means you’d have to revalidate the whole software load again, and there wasn’t time to do that.”

The big issue preventing the changes being made was time. The prob­lems had been identified before the first launch, but continuing to work on them would have continued to delay the program. “They had to call a halt and live with some real things you wouldn’t live with if you’d bought a new car. That’s all part of the challenge and excitement and satisfaction that comes with being involved with something brand new.”

While Fullerton was largely confident in the vehicle despite the prob­lems, his only concern was the fact that the simulators were programmed assuming that the orbiter was working nominally. If a failure occurred in a system with a “program note,” resolving it wouldn’t necessarily look quite like it did in simulation.

It’s really a complex vehicle. It really is. . . . If everything works like normal, it’s all a piece ofcake. It’s when something breaks that you worry about, and the big challenge is to get to a point where you feel like you’ve got a handle on it. So was I ready to not show up on the launch date? No, not at all. Was I quaking in my boots? No. Was I intense about the whole thing? Yes, mostly because I am wor­ried about my part of this. Especially for pilots, it’s the launch phase [you worry about], because while it’s short and concentrated, ifanythinggoes wrong, the or­biter only takes care of the first failure. The second failure is pretty much left to the crew, generally, and so you worry about being ready to recognize a problem and do the right thing. You feel like the whole world’s watching you when that failure occurs because of the manual action you’ve got to take to save the day. So it’s that kind of pressure, pressure of performance, rather than fear or anything.

Lousma and Fullerton’s flight built on the accomplishments of STS-2 in further testing the capabilities of the shuttle’s Canadarm remote manipula­tor system. On sts-2, Truly had run the arm through a series of maneuvers without any added loads. On STS-3, Fullerton would take the next step by using the arm to grapple an object, lift it, move it, and then return it to place. Fullerton and Lousma paid particular attention to their physical condition during the mission, after the problems suffered by the sts-2 crew. “Jack and I worried about it a lot,” Fullerton admitted. “One thing that we did do, that I don’t think they did, is we had a g-suit, like they wear in the F-18, ex­cept that for entry you could pump up the g-suit and just keep it that way, and so that helped you keep your blood flow up near your head. . . . There was some controversy about whether you ought to pump them up or not, among individuals. We said, ‘We’re going to pump them up.’”

Another physical concern the crew worked to mitigate was orbital mo­tion sickness. Fullerton noted that they looked into whether they could use NASA’s T-38 astronaut jets to decrease problems with nausea in space.

We’re not sure there’s a direct correlation to flying airplanes and sickness. I know if you go up and do a lot of aerobatics day after day, you get to be much more tolerant of it. So Jack and I, we scheduled T-]8s every chance we got in the last couple of weeks before we went down there, and I flew literally hundreds of ai­leron rolls. . . . If I did roll after roll after roll, I could make myself sick, and I did that, and I got to the point where it took hundreds of them to make me sick. But I did that figuring, I don’t know if this helps, but I have the oppor­tunity, I’ll do it.

The results were pretty much the same on both of Fullerton’s flights.

For the first day or so, I didn’t ever throw up or anything. I never got disorient­ed, butIfeltkindoffifty-fify, you know. Yourepretty happy tojustfloataround and relax rather than keep charging. And into the second day, this is really fun and great, and you feel 100 percent. So whether the aileron rolls helped or not, I’m not sure, but it was relatively easy. Of course, everybody has their acclima­tion problems. That’s pretty consistent through the population. It takes about twenty-four hours to get to feel normal, at varying levels of discomfort. Most ev­erybody can hang in there and do their stuff, even though they don’t feel good. A few are pretty well debilitated.

Pinky Nelson, who was a CapCom for STS-3, found it fascinating to ob­serve a two-man team doing all the tasks necessary to fly the vehicle and also conduct mission objectives. “Flying the Space Shuttle with two people was a nontrivial job. It was a full-time job to keep that thing going with just two people and carry out some kind of a mission. I don’t know how they did it, actually. I don’t think I’d want to fly in the shuttle with just one other person.”

Working as CapCom during that time was a challenge, Nelson explained, because the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System didn’t exist yet and the only opportunity to communicate with the astronauts was when the shuttle was over ground communications stations.

The time that you could communicate was very limited. You’d get a three-minute pass over Hawaii and a two-minute pass over Botswana or something, so you had to plan. Unlike now, when you can talk pretty much anytime, you had to plan very carefully and prioritize what you were going to say. The data came down in spurts, so the folks in the back rooms had to really plan for looking at their data and analyzing it and being able to make decisions based on spurts of data rather than continuous data. So it was kind of a different way to operate.

According to Nelson, there were some particular tricks to the art of be­ing a good CapCom. One had to learn to speak succinctly and precisely and to stick to language that the astronauts were used to hearing from sim­ulations. Another vital skill was listening to the tone of voice of the crew.

When you went aos, acquisition of signal, over a site, you would call up and say, “Columbia, Houston through Hawaii for two and a half," or something like that, and then you could just tell by the tone of their voice in the answer whether they were up to their ears or whether they were ready to listen. So there was a lot of judgment that had to be made, just in terms of, you always have a pile of stuff to get up. How much of this should I attempt to get up? What has to go up? Do I need to listen instead of talk? I found that to be just an interest­ing experience, a challenging job, and I really liked it. There were a few run – ins. I remember Neil Hutchinson, the flight director, was trying to get me to get a message up and I just wouldn’t do it, because I knew that they just weren’t ready to act on it, and it was important but wasn’t critical or anything. And Neil was ready to kill me, and I just kind of sat there and just said, “No. They’re busy. They don’t need to do this now. " So that was fun.

Unlike STS-2, which was shortened by the fuel cell problem, Lousma and Fullerton’s mission was actually lengthened by a day because of adverse weather at the landing site, Fullerton recalled.

“Wow!” We cheered. “Great!" because we really had a busy time with just two people. This was an engineering test flight, and we had a flight plan full of stuff… so there was always something that you were watching the clock on…. We did have sleep periods, which we would use for window gazing, . . . be­cause you don’t need as much sleep as they were scheduling. But when they said, “Wave off,” I remembered getting in the recycle book, going through the pages, shutting down some of the computers, opening the doors again, and I got all the way down, all of the sudden, I turned the page, and there was nothing on it, and there was this realization, hey, this is free time, and it was terrific. We got out of the suits, and then we got something to eat and watched the world, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way, if it had been my choice.

When the time for landing came the next day, the plan called for an ear­ly morning touchdown, meaning that the main part of the reentry would be at night. “We could see this glow from the ionization really bright out there,” Fullerton said.

In fact, we had lost a couple of tiles on launch. We knew that because we’d looked out and had seen the holes in front of the windshield, and we looked at it with an arm camera. They said, “Not to worry. It’s cool up on top there. ” We didn’t know how many we’d lost from the bottom, but wasn’t any use worrying about that. And then to see all this glow right there where the missing tiles were gave us pause to think about it. Again, there was no point in worrying about it, noth­ing you can do. [There was] the spectacular light show through entry. Then the sun came up, which washes all that out, as it’s dying out anyway.

They were pushing at that time to go full-auto land, and so. .. we stayed in automatic all the way down through the pullout of the dive, and then [Lous­ma] only got the feel of the airplane the last couple of seconds before touchdown, which, in retrospect, everybody agreed was dumb, and now people fly from the time they go to subsonic at a minimum to get the feel of the airplane all the way down. He only got the last second, and then we landed a bit fast and. . . there was a kind of a wheelie that Jack did. Again, it pointed out another flaw or room for improvement in the software. The gains between the stick and the elevons that were good for flying up in the air were not good when the main wheels were on the ground, and he thought he had ballooned. He kind of plant­ed it down but then came back on the stick, and the nose came up. So what? It didn’t take off again, and we came down and rolled to a stop. A lot of people thought this was a terrible thing.

The landing at White Sands would leave a lasting mark on Columbia. According to astronaut Charlie Bolden, “I flew it several flights later, on my first flight, and when we got on orbit there was still gypsum coming out of everything. . . . It was just unreal what it had done.” Astronaut Mike Lounge noted, “I’m told that many years later, picking up pieces from East Texas of Columbia [after the loss of the vehicle on the STS-107 mission], they were finding gypsum from White Sands.”


Crew: Commander T. K. Mattingly, Pilot Hank Hartsfield

Orbiter: Columbia

Launched: 27 June 1982

Landed: 4 July 1982

Mission: Test of orbiter systems

When the crews were chosen for each of the planned demonstration flights, Hank Hartsfield recalled, the astronauts were assigned originally not to a particular mission, but only to crews designated with a letter, A through F. “Ken [Mattingly] and I were in E crew. . . . No one knew ex­actly how this was going to work. All we knew was that Young and Crip – pen were A, and Engle and Truly were B. We knew John was first, and they were being backed up by Engle and Truly. But after that, we weren’t quite sure what was happening. . . . Ken and I wondered, ‘What are we going to fly?’ . . . It was kind of a strange thing. Lousma and Fullerton were train­ing. Eventually we figured out they were going to be [sTS-3].”

Eager to figure out who was doing what, the astronauts in the remain­ing crews began paying close attention to what sort of training each was do­ing, looking for subtle clues. “We got this call. . . that we should go to St. Louis or wherever [the STS-3 crew members] were training; that Ken and I should go up there and start getting this training. It was kind of funny, be­cause it scared them. Lousma made a panicked call back to Houston, said, ‘What’s going on? Are we being replaced?’ Because nobody bothered to tell anybody what was going on.”

As it turned out, Hartsfield explained, he and Mattingly were sent to train alongside the STS-3 crew so that they could be trained as a backup for the STS-2 crew while Lousma and Fullerton were preparing for their own mis­sion. Hartsfield and Mattingly served as a backup for the third flight as well.

Then we flew [sts-]4. It was kind of a funny way the crews were labeled. . . . The D crew flew five, and we flew four, . . . the last of the two-person flights. It was a little bit confusing as to the way the crews were announced, . .. but it all sorted out, and I think sorted out fairly. Everybody got to fly, and nobody got kicked off a flight, you know. For some of us who had waited so many years— the seven of us that came from the MOL program, from the time we were picked for the space program till the time we flew was around sixteen years with the air force and a long time at Houston—it was a long wait. At that point, you didn’t want to see anything get in your way. When the crew confusion started going on, “Well, I hope I’m not losing my place, I’ve waited too long. " But ev­erybody got to fly, so it was a good deal.

STS-4 commander Ken Mattingly recalled talking with Deke Slay­ton after the Apollo 16 flight about what he wanted to do next. The two shared a relatively unique fascination with the shuttle program from a flight engineering perspective. “We both recognized that I enjoyed the engineering side of the flying, perhaps more than a lot of the guys. So the idea of trying to get in on an early flight test was what every pilot wants to do anyhow. The idea of being in a group that was going to be downsized and have an opportunity to participate in the first flights and maybe even compete for the first flight, that was all the motivation any­body could ever want.”

While Mattingly was not surprised when the first flight went to his Apollo 16 commander and the corps’ senior flight-status astronaut, John Young, he was disappointed that he had to wait until the last development mission to get to fly. The rationale, he explained, was that his expertise was needed in different ways—because his flight opportunity was delayed, Mattingly was available to back up the second and third crews should something go wrong, and then, on the fourth flight, he could complete any tasks that hadn’t been accomplished by the first three crews. “That was the logic. It was kind of

fun to be part of those missions, but. . . Hank and I were kind of hoping we could [fly] earlier. But it really did turn out to have a lot of benefits for us, because we did pick up a lot of experience we would not have had and were able to do some other activities that [we] wouldn’t have had time to go do if we’d been scrambling just to get up and down.”

Although Mattingly and the rookie astronaut Hartsfield had never flown together before, their assignment to STS-4 was a reunion of sorts: Harts­field had served as CapCom during Mattingly’s Apollo flight to the moon.

In [Apollo] 16, Hank and I had developed a better-than-average rapport, I think, because in lunar orbit, Hank ran the show and all the flight plan from the ground. I told him, “You only get to go to the moon once, so I don’t want to miss a minute of looking out the window. So you run the spacecraft, and I’ll look and tell you about it." And he really did a magnificent job on that, and as a result, we got a lot of stuff done that we wouldn’t have otherwise. So on sts – 4, it was kind offun to go back to working together that way, and we were still trying to see how much we could cram into this thing.

Hartsfield added that not only did the two astronauts get along well, they had a unique commonality. “We both went to Auburn. I think it’s the only time the entire crew went to the same university in the spaceflight business. We used to take a lot of ribbing from the University of Alabama folks, say­ing the only reason they put two Auburn guys on one flight, that way we’d only mess up one. So we had to take a lot of ribbing, but it was a lot of fun.”

STS-4 CapCom Pinky Nelson described having an interesting work­ing relationship with the STS-4 commander. “T. K. Mattingly is probably the most technically capable person who has ever been an astronaut, just in terms of his capacity to stuff things between his ears,” Nelson voiced.

He knew absolutely everything, and had to know everything, and was fanatical about tracking everything, and drove me nuts, because I don’t work that way. I tend to work in a way where you take in a lot of information, but you have a filter. You say, okay, this is important, this might be important, this is probably not important, and you prioritize things, where T. K. works that everything is on the top line. He’s able to work that way just because of his incredible capac­ity, and I wasn’t, so he and I had kind of an odd relationship. If I didn’t see the point of having to do something, I wouldn’t do it, basically.

Despite their differences, Mattingly and Nelson had enough in common, and enough willingness to coexist where they were different, that they ac­tually had a decent working relationship.

T K. and I really got along. We were able to communicate fairly well because we had the same kind ofstyle ofno extra words kind of communication. But, boy, he was a hard taskmaster, I thought. He just didn’t see the forest, but he saw every tree, and he expected everybody else to do that, and they just couldn’t. He really wore some people down. That kind of thing doesn’t bother me so much. I was able to just kind ofignore it and say, “Okay, I’m going to catch some flak for this, but I deserve it. I don’t care. I’m not going to do it anyway."… Some newspaper article about the mission called me the “laconic and taciturn CapCom. "That was great.

When launch day came, Hartsfield was excited that, after sixteen years in the air force and nasa astronaut corps, he was finally going to fly.

To me, it was kind of an emotional thing. I remember when we were going out to the pad in the van, and just before we got up to the pad to get out and go to get in the bird, it just sort ofhit me, and I said, . . . “Ken, I can’t believe it. I think we’ll really get to do this." It hit me emotionally, because tears started welling up in my eyes. You know, I had to wipe my eyes. It just, to me, was an emotional thought, after all that time, I was finally going to get to fly, it appeared. And I did.

Mattingly’s perspective on the ascent was different from that of many of his peers, as he was one of only a few astronauts who could compare launch on the large Saturn V rocket and the Space Shuttle. Many shuttle astronauts have commented on the power and vibration of the solid rockets during the first two minutes of flight; Mattingly, on the other hand, noted how relatively smooth the launch was. “Compared to the Saturn, the shuttle is like electric propulsion; it doesn’t make any noise, it doesn’t shake and rattle, it just goes. It’s just nothing like the Saturn, or, as I understand, the Gemini or the Titan.”

Hartsfield recalled that the launch was not without complications, due to a hailstorm the night before.

About nine o’clock that night, after the storm passed over and it quit raining, we went out to the pad with a lot of other people to look at the orbiter. And the black tiles all had little white specks all over where they’d been pelted with the hail. So Ken and I went back to the crew quarters thinking, “Shit, we ain’t go-

ing nowhere tomorrow.” So we were real down. And we went to bed and couldn’t believe it the next morning when these guys were hammering [on] the door, say­ing, “Come on, get up, guys, we’re going.” We said, “What, we’re going?" “Yeah, they cleared it.” They flew some guy from Houston in a T-38 down there, one of these tile experts, and he went out and walked around and decided that it was okay to go, that the tiles weren’t damaged that badly.

The next day it was discovered that there was a side effect of the damage that the expert had failed to anticipate. During launch, controllers noticed that the vehicle was not getting the performance it should for the amount of fuel being used. It turned out the hail had damaged the waterproof coat­ing of the tiles, and they’d absorbed water during the storm. “They calculat­ed later that we’d carried about two thousand pounds of water with us that had soaked into the tiles,” Hartsfield explained. “So all this flight planning that we’d worked on for so long and had down pat went out. . . the window. We spent seventy-two hours with the belly to the sun trying to bake out the tiles. Because they were concerned that if you had water in those tiles and then got entry heating, they didn’t know whether you might get some steam or something generated and blow the tiles out or crack them or something.”

With the excitement and drama of launch done, the arrival in orbit was a moment of wonder even for veteran astronaut Mattingly.

The most magical thing was, after working on this device for ten years, you got on orbit and. . . we opened the payload bay doors for the first time towards the Earth. So all of a sudden, it was like you pulled the shades back on a bay window, and the Earth appeared. We got on orbit, and this thing worked. And I just couldn’t get over the fact that. . . people that I knew, that were friends, had built and conceived this whole thing, and it works. It’s just magic. It does all of these things that we dreamed of, but the visuals are better than the simu­lator now. So we just had a wonderful time of it.

Flying around the Earth is just so spectacular. I don’t care how long you’re up there, I can’t imagine anyone ever getting tired of it. It’s just beautiful, and the orbiter with these big windows, it is just wonderful. Hank would say, “You know, we probably ought to get some sleep here. ” I’d say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re right. We’ve got another day’s work tomorrow. ”. . . So all the kids are in bed, and now you can look out the window. I told the ground I went to sleep so they wont bother me, and I’d sit there, having a wonderful time.

When he finally got tired enough to stop looking out the window and try to get some sleep, Mattingly decided to see what it would be like to sleep freely, instead of hanging from a wall in his sleeping bag. Since Harts – field was sleeping on the mid-deck, Mattingly had the flight deck to him­self, and he decided to try just lying down on the floor.

I worked at getting all steady and not moving and stopped right behind the two seats that had a little space over the hatches that come up from the mid-deck and in between the aft control panel and the back of the ejection seats, which there’s a lot more room today since they took the ejection seats out. So it was a place probably two feet wide, maybe two and a half. I got all stable in there. “Ah, this is nice. Go to sleep." Well, the next thing I know, there’s something on my nose, and it’s a window, and god-dang I was sure I had gotten stable. So I went back and set up again, not moving, did it again, ended up with my nose in the window, in the overhead window. That bothered me. I finally put a Vel­cro strap over me just to keep me from floating up. I just thought that was really curious. So the next morning I was telling Hank about it, and he said, “Well, I didn’t have any trouble. I just was floating in the middle ofthe mid-deck. "Hmm.

Hartsfield pointed out that during the sleep shift the orbiter had been carrying out passive thermal control maneuvers. In order to better under­stand the thermal characteristics of the vehicle, flight controllers would change its orientation to expose different parts of it to sunlight for periods of time, taking advantage of instrumentation that wouldn’t be used after this last development flight.

“[Hartsfield] says, ‘You know, I was almost on the center of rotation, and you were up here. This is centrifugal force,’” Mattingly recalled.

I said, “Oh, come on, Hank. What was it,. .. five revolutions an hour, or some gosh-awful thing? . . . That cant be." He said, “Well, we’ve got another one scheduled for tonight. Let’s try it both ways. " We tried it, and sure enough, every time. If this thing was rotating at this really slow rate, there’s no other force; these little forces become important. And after we stopped, he says, “Try it again." I did, and sure enough, no problem. So this is kind of added to some ofthe little micro physics things that you see in space that are so interesting.

In addition to the standard tests of the orbiter systems, STS-4 was the first shuttle flight to include a classified military experiment. In order to preserve secrecy, the experiment had its own classified checklist with coded section names that could be discussed over the unsecure communications channel. The experiment itself was kept in a padlocked locker. While the shuttle was in orbit, the crew members could leave it unlocked, but once the experiment was completed, they had to stow it and lock it back up to keep it secure after landing. Hartsfield recalled that about thirty minutes after they finished the experiment and locked it away, they got a call from the military flight control for the experiment.

The CapCom came on, the military guy, and says he wanted me to do Tab November. Ken said, “What’s Tab November?" I said, “I ain’t got the foggiest idea. I’m going to have to get the checklist out to see." So I got the padlock off and got the drawer and dug down and got the checklist out and went to Tab November, and it says, “Put everything away and secure it." Ken and I real­ly laughed about it. It was just aggravating to have to undo all that, because that locker, the stuff we had just barely fit in there, so it was really a stowage issue here. If there’s one thing you learn in zero g—things are always neat­ly packed [before flight] and you get it up there, and once you pull it out, it doesn’t always go back in, because it expands or does something in zero g and it doesn’t fit very well.

Like the first three flights, sts-4 involved experiments to test the capa­bilities and tolerances of the orbiter. One particular experiment, testing the thermal tolerances of the payload bay doors, resulted in a tense moment for the crew. In the experiment, the orbiter was kept in a position to expose the doors to the sun for three days.

“After seventy-two hours to the sun, it came time to cycle the payload bay doors,” Hartsfield said.

We brought the port door down. We’re looking out, and the door comes down. And all of a sudden, the left collar of that thing hits the bulkhead and the door just warps. And by the time I got it stopped, it’s already done. And we tried to call the ground and say we’ve got a problem here, but about that time, we went los. [On the ground] they’re panicked. They see what’s happened, that the door is hung up on the bulkhead or something, and the door’s warped. And you know, [jsc director Chris] Kraft was not a flight director, but he sat in the back watching everything. “Tell ’em to open the door. Tell ’em to reopen the door! Tell ’em to open the goddamn door!" They tell me he was just getting fu­rious. . . . And they couldn’t get it to us. So Ken and I were saying, “Holy shit, that door is really bent."

Hartsfield and Mattingly wondered if the door was broken, which would create a catastrophic situation. During entry and landing, the structural in­tegrity of the orbiter required the doors to be closed and all but one set of the latches to be latched. “So we were wondering if we’d broken something and weren’t going to able to latch the doors back up to come home. Well, as soon as we got AOS again, they told us to open the door, and I started driv­ing it, and it all of a sudden—boing—the door vibrated and it went back to its normal shape. And we went, ‘Whew.’ . . . Thank God it’s a compos­ite material, so it does have some kind of resiliency to keep its shape once you take the load off of it.”

While earlier flights had landed in the dry lake bed at Edwards or at White Sands, STS-4 would be another stepping stone for the shuttle pro­gram by being the first to return from space on an aircraft runway, and Mattingly was hoping to avoid a repeat of Haise’s infamous bounce land­ing of Enterprise. “Our job, like Freddo’s, was to plan to make the first concrete runway landing. You know, as much as we trained for that thing, I just had this image of doing Freddo’s trick all over again. It was, you know, bad karma or something. Oh, that bothered me. I could think of nothing else.”

Mattingly had promised Hartsfield that he would let the pilot fly a part of the entry so that he could say he had actually flown the orbiter, normal­ly the sole privilege of the commander. “When we did come in and got out at Edwards and came around,” Mattingly said,

we got on the heading alignment circle and I was tracking it, and I turned to look at Hank, and I was about to say, “Well, okay, here, you take it for a bit now,". .. and all of a sudden my gyros tumbled and I just had one of the worse cases ofvertigo I’ve ever had…. It was just really overwhelming. I went back and started focusing on the eight ball and looking at the displays, and Hank says, “Are you going to let me fly?" And I said, “No, no. I can’t talk about it now." And we came around and did our thing, and I was still having this vestibular sensation that was unusual, but once we got on the glide slope it seemed like. . . normal.

As they neared the runway, Mattingly said because he felt a little off, they were a little slow going through procedures leading up to the flair point, and they ended up flying under the standard approach.

I knew we were under the standard final approach glide slope, but now I wanted to get down and try to make a good landing with it…. So he’s calling offairspeeds and altitude, and I’m just staring at the horizon and I’m hawking it, and I have no idea what it’s going to feel like to land. When I would shoot touch-and-gos in the [KC-135 aircraft], there was never any doubt when we landed. You could al­ways tell. So I was expecting bang, crash, squeak, something. Then nothing and nothing. Then finally Hank says, “You’d better put the nose down. ” “Oh, ” I said, “all right. ” So I put it down, and I was sure we were still in the air. I thought, “Oh, God, he’s right. We cant be very far off the ground. ” Sure enough, we were on the ground and neither one ofus knew it. I’ve never been able to do that again in any airplane. Never did it before. According to pictures, it looks like we must have landed at maybe 350 feet down the runway, and we didn’t mean to.

During planning for the flight, it was made very clear that even after the orbiter was safely stopped on the ground, there would still be one impor­tant mission objective for the astronauts—a proper patriotic performance. “We knew that they had hyped up the sts-4 mission so that they want­ed to make sure that we landed on the Fourth of July,” Mattingly noted.

It was no uncertain terms that we were going to land on the Fourth of July, no matter what day we took off Even if it was the fifth, we were going to land on the Fourth. That meant, if you didn’t do any of your test mission, that’s okay, as long as you just land on the Fourth, because the president is going to be there. . . . The administrator met us for lunch the day before flight, and as he walked out, he said, “Oh, by the way. . . you know, with the president going to be there and all, you might give a couple of minutes’ thought on something that’d be appropriate to say, like A small step for man, ’ or something like that, ” and he left. Hank and I looked at each other and he says, “He wants us to come up with this?” And we had a good time. We never came up with something we could say, but we came up with a whole lot of humor that we didn’t dare say.

After landing, the crew members prepared for their moment in the spot­light. Anticipating that the president might want to come aboard the shuttle, Mattingly recalled, they put up a handwritten sign that read, “Welcome to

Columbia. Thirty minutes ago, this was in space.” The astronauts took off their helmets and started to get out of their seats, a task Mattingly found surprisingly difficult after having adjusted to a microgravity environment.

I said, “I am not going to have somebody come up here and pull me out of this chair. . . . I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to give every ounce of strength I’ve got and get up under my own. ” So I. . . pushed, and I hit my head on the overhead so hard, the blood was coming out. Goddamn. It was terrible. Oh, did I have a headache. And Hank said something like, “That’s very graceful. ” So now I really did have something to worry about. . . . Hank’s got some of the funniest stories he could tell about this stuff. So we got ourselves down there, and we’re walking around, and Hank said, “Well, let’s see, if you do it like you did getting out of your chair, you’ll go down the stairs and you’re going to fall down, so you need to have something to say. ” He says, “Why don’t you just look up at the president and say, ‘Mr. President, those are beautiful shoes. ’ Think you can get that right?” He was merciless.

Open for Business

The demonstration missions were complete. The shuttle was considered operational. America’s new Space Transportation System was open for business, and one of its primary purposes would be the deployment of satellites.


Crew: Commander Vance Brand, Pilot Bob Overmyer, Mission Special­ists Joe Allen and Bill Lenoir Orbiter: Columbia Launched: 11 November 1982 Landed: 16 November 1982 Mission: Launch of two communications satellites

Satellite deployment was precisely the mission of the first operational mis­sion, sts-5. It was the first shuttle flight to deploy satellites into geosynchro­nous orbit, which is ideal for communications satellites because the satellite remains at roughly the same longitude as it orbits Earth. To achieve a geo­synchronous orbit, a satellite must reach an altitude around one hundred times higher than that at which the shuttle orbits. For the shuttle to launch such a satellite, the satellite was carried into low Earth orbit in the shuttle’s payload pay and then boosted into the higher orbit using a booster rocket.

sts-5 was a mission full of firsts. In addition to the satellite deploy­ments, sts-5’s four-man crew doubled the crew from the previous missions’ commander and pilot team to include the first two mission specialists to fly, Joe Allen and Bill Lenoir. Because of the deployments, STS-5 was also NASA’s first “commercial mission,” with the focus being on performing a service for paying customers.

Joe Allen had been selected as part of NASA’s second group of scientist – astronauts in 1967, and the move to larger crews had long been awaited by him

and his classmates. “The first assignment of mission specialists we knew was going to be [sts-]5, because the system was going to be declared operational after the first four test flights if nothing untoward happened,” Allen recalled.

We also knew that the next in line to be assigned were the scientists-astronauts. Those who had arrived [in the first of the two scientist-astronaut selections] had already flown, Jack Schmitt being the first to fly on the last Apollo, and then Joe Kerwin, Ed Gibson, and Owen K. Garriott had flown on the Skylab. So there were just now, I think, nine of us who would be considered. I guess I nev­er thought much about it, but I almost assumed that maybe they went alpha­betically, because they put myself and Bill Lenoir aboard that first operational flight. And I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled.

After having been assigned to the crew for just a few weeks, Allen de­cided he understood why he had been picked to be a part of that particular team, and he commented on it to George Abbey, who made crew assign­ments. “I was the impedance matching device between the two marine pi­lots and the mit engineer. ‘Impedance matching’ is an engineering term for getting very unlike electrical circuits to communicate, one with the other.”

Allen recalled that while he made the comment somewhat in jest, Abbey did not find it as amusing as he did. “I suspect that there were elements of truth in this, because I was very good at getting different groups of people to understand each other. With no scintilla of modesty at all, I would say that’s probably my strongest suit, understanding the way different individ­uals think about things and then enabling communication between them, in spite of their differences. I assert I was—I hope it’s not overblown—very successful in getting scientists to understand what flight-crew members need­ed, and getting flight-crew members to understand what scientists needed, even though neither group spoke the other’s language.”

Both groups had the same motivation—a successful mission—but each ap­proached the task in its own way. “You wanted the ultimate result to be a suc­cessful mission, and successful in later Space Shuttle flights and in the last Apol­lo flights meant scientifically rich in what was achieved. So I was the impedance matching device between Bill Lenoir, an extremely smart, very well disciplined, very tightly wound individual, and Vance Brand and Bob Overmyer, whose backgrounds were military, with a military way of thinking about things, and they had a much higher tolerance for people being not quite so intense.”

The addition of mission specialists, and the corresponding increase in crew size, resulted in a modification to the orbiter for this flight. Prior to the mission, the commander’s and pilot’s ejection seats were pinned to prevent them from being able to be used. In Space Shuttle “Columbia”: Her Missions and Crews, Ben Evans wrote that the crew cabin was not large enough to have ejection seats for every member of the crew, only the commander and pilot. The thought with STS-5 was that if all of the crew wouldn’t be able to eject in the event of a problem during launch, none of the crew should be able to do so. Allen recalled that he and Lenoir were opposed to the pin­ning, arguing that it would be better for two astronauts to survive than for none to, but Brand disagreed. “He said, ‘That’s not a choice.’ He later said to me, ‘Joe, this is not a selfless decision on my part; indeed, . . . it’s selfish, because I could not live the rest of my life knowing that I survived and you didn’t. I couldn’t do it. I don’t think Bob could either. . . . I have some his­torical evidence as to that being a true statement. I don’t just surmise it.’” Allen explained that Brand had been a test pilot in England for a while, and some of the English bombers enabled the pilots to get out, but not the gunners, so there was a small body of data from psychological studies done on individuals who had escaped but, in escaping, had left their shipmates to a certain death. “They had been definitely tormented, in terms of what the data showed, for the rest of their lives. So it was not a good solution. Vance was aware of that data, and he didn’t want to be another bit of sta­tistic in that database—a decision I thought was gracious. He said it was selfish; I didn’t think it was selfish at all.”

When launch day finally arrived, STS-5 added to its list of firsts by be­coming the first shuttle mission to launch right on time. “We didn’t have one hiccup, not one delay, no nothing, and we went. . . on time,” recalled Allen. “We were told the night before that a Russian spaceship had actually changed the timing of its orbit somewhat and would come right over the Cape at exactly that time. Because we did launch on time, I suspect there are some photographs that could be found in the archives of the Soviets of us coming off the ground. I have no idea, but clearly they intended to at least watch us do it with their own eyes.”

On the day before launch, however, Leonid Brezhnev, the premier of Russia, died, and newspapers around the world were filled with news of his death, not of the Americans’ space launch. “There was maybe a little blurb, a little photo of us in the lower corner of some newspapers, but we were pretty much second-page news, with the exception of my hometown, Crawfordsville, Indiana, where I was the front page,” Allen said.

That hometown front page was a major step forward for Allen. Years earlier, in August 1967, when he was selected as an astronaut, this same hometown newspaper ran a front-page account of the calf-judging contest at the county fair, with only a small article on the back page about the lo­cal native selected to be a nasa astronaut. “My mother knew the newspa­per editor very well, and she called him, quite upset,” Allen recalled. “She said to him, ‘Harold, you know my son Joe was selected as an astronaut. I think that’s very important news, and there’s practically nothing.’ And he said to her, ‘Harriet, you know perfectly well we’re a small town; we’re a very small newspaper. If you want a story about your son Joe in the pa­per, you’re going to have to write it yourself.’” By the time he actually flew into space, however, Allen merited front-page news without his mother having to write it.

The first priority of STS-5 was to successfully deploy the first hardware put into orbit by the Space Shuttle. Two commercial communications satellites were deployed, one for Canada and one for Satellite Business Systems. Al­len said the crew worked closely with the satellite developers to understand how the satellites were put together and what was needed for successful de­ployment. “The concept of the satellite in itself is simple,” Allen explained.

They are meant to be deployed spinning, and the way you do it is just put the satellite on a table that will spin, like you put a record onto a record player. .. . It’s mounted on the table prior to launch, then you go to orbit. . . . Once there, you cause the table to spin and you point the shuttle in exactly the right direc­tion, and then at precisely the right part of the orbit, you just release hold-down arms that are holding the satellite to the tabletop. When you release the arms, springs on which the satellite sits expand and just give it a very gentle push out, spinning very beautifully.

The second-highest-priority planned objective of STS-5 was the Space Shuttle’s first extravehicular activity, by Allen and Bill Lenoir. “Although we had other bits and pieces of experiments to do,” Allen recalled, “on the day before the spacewalk was to take place, we commented to ourselves that we really had just two important things left to do. One was the spacewalk

and then the second was the reentry and a safe landing. I made the obser­vation, ‘Vance, out of these two, if we have to make a choice, let’s choose the safe landing.’ And we all laughed about that.”

But what started as a joke quickly turned into reality when Allen en­countered a problem with his suit. “Just as the spacewalk was to begin my spacesuit failed,” Allen said.

It was an electrical failure in the spacesuit. When one is in a spacesuit, and you power it up, you hear a very high pitched hum there someplace in your ear, just a high-frequency hum. When I powered mine on, the hum started, but it didn’t sound like it was healthy. It sounded, indeed, more like an angry mosquito. It just changed its pitch. I’d never heard it before. Then I proceeded to make vari­ous electrical checks of the suit systems, and none passed the check. So we tried all sorts of things, powering it on and off and it was just not going to work, a very bitter disappointment to me, without any question. It was equally bitter to Bill, and the question now was, could he even do just a little part of a space – walk—a short solo, if you will. . . . But Mission Control said, “No buddy sys­tem, no spacewalk." Bill was really upset, obviously.

After the crew’s return to Earth, engineers analyzing the failure deter­mined that the suit had a serious electrical problem but one that could be easily repaired for future spacewalks. “The bad news was the spacesuit failed; the good news was we were not outside the ship when it failed,” Allen not­ed. “It would have been considerably more traumatic had it failed outside. It would not have been fatal to me, but it would have gotten my attention, for sure. I would have to scramble to get back in, button myself up, and get out of the suit before other parts of it started to fail.”

Brand recalled how, as commander, he made the call that cost his mission its place in history as the first shuttle with spacewalks: “I guess I was the bad guy. As much as I hated to, I recommended to the ground that we cancel the evas, because we had a unit in each spacesuit fail in the same way. . . . We could have taken a chance and. . . could have done it, the eva, but we didn’t. I’m not sure Bill Lenoir was ever very happy about that, because he and Joe, of course, wanted to go out and have that first eva.”

For the first four-person crew and the largest yet to inhabit the orbiter, living aboard the spacecraft for the duration of the five-day mission created interesting challenges when it came to sharing the small amount of habit­

able space. For example, there were no sleeping compartments, Brand said, so they had to be creative in each finding a place of his own for rest. “Since we didn’t have a sleep station, I just would take a string and tie it to my belt, and tied the other end to the wall. Tethered by the string, I’d put on a jacket and just fall asleep. It was great in weightlessness, and I slept well.” Bob Overmyer used the only sleeping bag and slept in the lower deck of the Space Shuttle, while Bill Lenoir slept in a corner on the upper deck. “I don’t know how he did it, but he didn’t float out of the corner, and he would sleep that way,” Brand said. “Joe Allen was the funniest. He would just free-float through the spacecraft the whole night, or what we called night. He moved gently, and the air currents would move him around. He might gently bump into a switch or something, but they were covered and he was hitting them so gently that there wasn’t really any concern about moving the switches. That was really humorous, seeing that.”

As with the demonstration flights, mission objectives included checking out the orbiter systems and determining their capabilities and tolerances. One such task, Brand explained, was to test the orbiter’s thermal toleranc­es by positioning the vehicle so that one side was fully in the sun and the other side was in shadow. “Sometimes after spending many tens of hours in one attitude, the shady side of the ship would get real cold,” Brand re­called. “Dew would form on the inside of the ship on the cool side. We had a treadmill in the mid-deck, and when people ran on the treadmill, it shook that dew loose and it would sort of rain inside the spacecraft.”

Allen, who would later publish a book featuring on-orbit photography, explained that NASA regulations almost prohibited him from taking a his­toric photo of the first time four Americans were together in space. In pre­paring for the mission, he discovered that the delayed shutter release but­ton on his camera had been removed.

I went back to the photo people and I said, “This is a defective camera. It’s been plugged. I want a real Nikon. ” Well, it had been modified, and the modification had cost tens ofthousands ofdollars in order to make it more astronaut-proof such that astronauts didn’t, by mistake, put the camera on delayed timing and thus mess up a picture. A couple of modifications had been done, none of which was necessary, all of which were costly, and I just was very upset with my colleagues. I said, “Cameras are amongst the best-tested of complicated tools that we have humans have. They’ve been tested in wars. They’ve been tested in violent storms. They’ve been tested at the bottoms of the oceans. They’ve been tested everywhere. Why are you making them better?" Well, it was an argument I did not win.

Not to be deterred, Allen was determined to find another solution to the issue.

Perhaps in spite of the rules and because I’ve been a little bit of a troublemak­er, but not serious trouble, I went to a camera store and was able to find a very old-fashioned shutter release mechanism…. I took this device aboard the space­ship without anybody really knowing it, and it came secretly off the spaceship on my person. This was against NASA regulations, and I will readily admit to it. But in the flight photos that came back, there were numbers of photos of us, the four crewmen. [One was] good enough to appear in Time magazine the next week. But this was with a camera that had no delayed shutter release! Not one NASA person said a word to me about it, but you knew that the people in the photo shops wondered how in the world those photographs were taken. A very nice man ran NASA Photo for many years; when he retired, I gave him that se­cret shutter release device—a flown object. . . . Because I knew he knew how I’d made that photo. He just had to know how I’d done it.

At last, it was time to return to Earth. Brand, who had previously expe­rienced reentry in an Apollo capsule at the end of his Apollo-Soyuz mis­sion, said his return to Earth on the shuttle was a very different experience.

There were very large windows, and you weren’t looking backwards at a donut of fire. You were able to see the fire all around you; you could look out the front. First the sky was black, because you were on the dark side of the Earth, but as this ion sheet began to heat up, you saw a rust color outside, then that rust col­or turned a little yellowish. Eventually, around Mach 20, you could see white beams or shockwaves coming off the nose. If you had a mirror—and I did on one of my flights—you could look up through the top window, which was a lit­tle behind the crew’s station, and see a pattern and the fire going over the top of the vehicle, vortices and that sort of thing.

The crew landed at Edwards Air Force Base at 6:33 on the morning of 16 November 1982. “We had an intentional max braking test and complete­ly ruined the brakes,” Brand said. “I had to stomp on them as hard as I could. . . . Even though it was billed as the first commercial flight, I think we had roughly fifty flight-test objectives. That braking test was just one of them. We ruined the brakes, completely ruined them, but it was a test to see how well they would hold together if you did that.”


Crew: Commander Paul Weitz, Pilot Bo Bobko, Mission Specialists Story Musgrave and Don Peterson

Orbiter: Challenger

Launched: 4 April 1983

Landed: 9 April 1983

Mission: Deployment of TDRS-г; first flight of Challenger; first shuttle spacewalk

Paul Weitz, Bo Bobko, Story Musgrave, and Don Peterson were not, at first, officially the crew of the sixth Space Shuttle mission. Like the mem­bers of the other early crews, they were given a letter designation, F, when they participated in the development of the Orbiter Flight-Test program. The crew members nicknamed themselves “F Troop,” a reference to a televi­sion comedy series featuring an Old West army troop. The crew even took an F Troop—themed crew photo. “We had on the little flight T-shirts and the flight pants,” sts-6 mission specialist Don Peterson recalled,

but we went out and bought cowboys hats. I had a sword that had once be­longed to some lieutenant in Napoleon’s army. We got a Winchester rifle, the lever-action rifle, and a bugle and a cavalry flag, and we posed for this pic­ture. Weitz, of course, is the commander, and he’s sitting there very stern look­ing, with the sword sticking in the floor. I had the rifle, and I think Story had the bugle. Anyway, we had that picture made, and we were passing them out, and nasa asked us not to do that. They thought that was not dignified, but I thought it was hilarious. I still have a bunch of them.

While the crew members embraced the F Troop nickname, there was an­other nickname used mainly behind their backs. “I didn’t hear ‘the Geritol bunch’ until, I guess, after the flight was over,” recalled sts-6 commander Weitz, who had been selected as a member of NASA’s fifth astronaut class seventeen years earlier. “Maybe that was something that everybody said about us when we weren’t around. We were on orbit and somebody was

talking about ‘how old you guys are.’ We had taken a bunch of pictures, and I couldn’t resist, I said, ‘You know, we’re not going to show the pictures to anybody under thirty-five when we come back. So some of you guys, some of you wiseasses, won’t see them.’”

sts-6 had three major mission objectives. It was the maiden launch of the second operational orbiter, ov-099, better known as Challenger, and so the crew would be making sure the new vehicle operated properly. The flight was to make the first deployment of a Tracking and Data Relay Sat­ellite, part of a new space-based communications system. And, after the problems with the spacesuits on STS-5, this flight would now be making the first shuttle-based spacewalk.

Peterson and Musgrave were responsible for the deployment of the TDRS – 1 satellite on the first day of the mission. “Story’s the kind of guy that he wants to throw the switches,” Peterson recalled, “so what I did was took the checklist. Story was not real good about following the checklist, and so you had to kind of say, ‘Wait, Story. Let’s go step-by-step here and make sure we get this right.’”

A few days before launch, while the crew was quarantined in the crew quarters at Cape Canaveral, Peterson and Musgrave were informed that changes had been made to the software they would use to deploy the satel­lite. “These two guys showed up and. . . said they were from Boeing. They had badges. . . . Story and I literally copied a bunch of stuff down with pen and ink and used that on orbit,” Peterson said. “And that’s really scary, be­cause, you know, you’re taking these guys’ words. You’ve never seen some of this stuff in the simulator. It’s, like, suppose what they’re telling us is not right, and we do something and we mess up the payload. Then they ain’t never going to find those two guys again. They’ll be gone, and it’ll be, like, ‘Why the hell didn’t you guys do it the way you were trained to do it?’”

The deployment went as planned, but after deployment, one of the two solid rockets in the booster that was to transport the satellite from the shut­tle’s orbit to its intended geosynchronous orbit failed. However, NASA was able to nudge the satellite into its proper orbit using extra fuel in the attitude control system that allowed the orientation of the satellite to be changed.

Bobko explained, “Luckily, they had planned to use the satellite for com­mercial purposes as well as NASA, and it was decided not to do that, but they didn’t make that decision in time to take off some of the extra fuel that

Open for Business

19. The deployment of the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, on sts-6- Courtesy nasa.

was required for using the satellite commercially. So that fuel was available, and, luckily, that was what saved the satellite.”

Musgrave and Peterson also were assigned to make the first shuttle – based spacewalks. “It’s kind of funny,” Peterson said – “George Abbey, I think, had some people already picked out that he wanted to have the honor of doing the first spacewalk, and when that canceled, he said, ‘Well, we’ll have to slip now. It’ll take months to get another crew ready.’ Jim Abrahamson, who’s an old friend of mine, was the [associate] adminis­trator. He called me on the phone and said, ‘Can you and Story do the spacewalk?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ So he said, ‘Okay. We’re going to do it on the next flight.’”

The late addition of the spacewalk didn’t give the astronauts much time to train. Peterson had very little experience in the extravehicular activity spacesuit, but Musgrave had represented the Astronaut Office in the suit’s development so he knew everything about the suit there was to know, Pe­terson said. “Story had spent, like, four hundred hours in the suit in the wa­ter tank, so he didn’t really have to be trained,” recalled Peterson. “Now, my training was pretty rushed, pretty hurried. I think I was in the water, I don’t know, fifteen, twenty times, but that’s really not enough to really know ev­erything you need to know. But all we were doing was testing the suit and testing the airlock, so we weren’t really doing anything that was critical to the survival of the vehicle. We were just testing equipment, and the deal was, if something went wrong, you’d just stop and come back inside. So the fact that I wasn’t highly skilled in the suit really didn’t matter that much.”

Back during the Gemini program, NASA had determined that the best way to prepare for spacewalks was to make suited dives in a water tank. The spacesuit is weighted to make it “neutrally buoyant,” such that it doesn’t sink to the bottom or float to the surface; it just hangs there. The simu­lation of weightlessness isn’t perfect—inside the suit, the astronaut’s body is not floating; it’s supported by the suit. So if the astronaut turns upside down in the water tank, the weight is on his or her head and shoulders.

In orbit, because of the difference between the pressure inside the shut­tle (approximately 15 pounds per inch) and the pressure inside the suit (4.3 pounds per inch), the spacewalkers needed to slowly adjust to the pres­sure in the suit to prevent them from getting what’s commonly called “the bends,” a condition caused by too much nitrogen in the blood. To purge their bodies of nitrogen, the astronauts breathed pure oxygen for approx­imately three and half hours. “While we were breathing oxygen for three and a half hours, you can’t really do anything,” said Peterson. “Story and I slept. I slept about two and a half hours, probably the best sleep I had on orbit, because you’ve got fresh oxygen coming in over your head, and it kind of makes a nice whishing sound, and there’s no other noise. . . . Peo­ple asked, ‘How in the world can you sleep just before you’re getting ready to go?’ I said, ‘Well, you know, you get tired enough, you can sleep almost anywhere.’”

After prebreathing was complete, the crew started pressure checking the suit, lowering the pressure in the airlock while the suit pressure regulator maintained 4.3 psi. Once it was demonstrated that suits were maintaining pressure properly, the hatch was opened and the spacewalkers went outside.

Peterson said that during the spacewalk his suit leaked pretty badly for about twenty seconds and then stopped. The ground didn’t know about the leak at the time or they would have stopped the eva, he said. “I was working with a ratchet wrench. We were just testing tools and stuff. We had launched a satellite out of a big collar that’s mounted in the back of the orbiter, and the collar. . . had to be tilted back down before we could close the payload bay doors and come home. So instead of driving it with the electric motors, they said, ‘Let’s go back and see if we can crank it down with a wrench, to simulate a failure. Suppose it failed, and we’ll see if we can do that.’”

Peterson chose not to use the foot restraints provided to help hold him in place, believing it took too long to set them up and move them around.

So I just held on with one hand, actually, to a piece of sheet metal, which is not the best way to hold on, and cranked the wrench with my other hand, and my legs floated out behind me. So as I cranked, my legs were flailing back and forth, like a swimmer, to react to the load on the wrench. The waist ring was rotating back and forth, and the seal in the waist ring popped out, and the suit leaked bad enough to set offthe alarms. We did not know what it was. I stopped and said, “I’ve got an alarm." Story stopped what he was doing and came over.

The seal popped back in place and the leak stopped, and the astronauts fin­ished the eva.

“In those days we didn’t have constant contact with the ground,” Peter­son added. “They didn’t see that. They weren’t watching at the time that that happened. They didn’t have any way to watch. By the time we dumped the data from the computer to the ground that showed that leak, we were already back inside the orbiter. Then they called up, and they were all up­set about what happened here and what was that. We said, ‘Well, we real­ly don’t know. We got an alarm. The alarm stayed on for about twenty sec­onds or so, and then it went off, and everything seemed okay. So we just finished what we were doing.’”

At the time, it wasn’t known what caused the alarm. The best guess after the mission was that Peterson had been working so hard that he had been breathing more heavily, forcing a higher oxygen feed level and setting off the alarm, an explanation Peterson found dubious. It wasn’t until two years later when a similar thing happened to astronaut Shannon Lucid during an eva training exercise that NASA figured out what really happened. Lu­cid was in her suit in a vacuum chamber walking on a treadmill when an alarm in her suit alerted that the oxygen flow rate was too high.

“That means that you’re pumping oxygen from the tank into the suit, but that also means the oxygen is going somewhere,” explained Peterson. “It’s going out of the suit somewhere. So they knew they had a leak in her case, and they could also see the oxygen coming into the vacuum chamber, because they were getting pressure inside the chamber.”

Lucid stopped walking, and when she stood still, the leak stopped. A tech­nician there recalled that something similar had happened on STS-6. “They went back and got the video of my flight and looked at it,” said Peterson.

He said—and this is kind of interesting—when Shannon Lucid was walking, since she’s a woman, her hips swivel, and her suit was actually rotating, and we’d never seen that with a guy because guys don’t walk that way. But he said, “That’s the same thing that happened to Peterson’s suit two years ago. ” So then they went in and changed the seals and all and fixed the problem. But it al­ways amazed me that those guys were dedicated enough to have that kind of memory fixed in their heads. . . . Of course, I got a lot of insulting calls from that guy, “You know, your hips move just like Shannon’s. ” I said, “Not for you. ”

The eva afforded the two spacewalkers an amazing opportunity to do some stargazing. While the Space Shuttle normally flies with the payload bay toward Earth all the time, Peterson and Musgrave thought it would be neat to look out at the night sky during one of the passes over the dark side of Earth. “We went to the flight control team and said, ‘Guys, when we get on the dark side, we’d like you to roll the vehicle over so we can look out,’” recalled Peterson.

Pete Frank said, “Oh, just for you guys’ amusement, you want us to roll the damned vehicle upside down?” And we said, “Yes, you know, wouldn’t that be great?” So what they did was even better than that. When they were on the day­light side at noon, they went into what I called the Ferris wheel mode. . . . We went around the Earth holding one [orientation, relative to the sun]. So we went around the Earth so that when we got on the dark side, we were faced ex­actly away. But because they did that, with the cameras running and all, we got some beautiful pictures of the Earth from a lot of different attitudes that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. So we got on the dark side, and Paul Weitz, the commander, said, “Okay, guys, you asked for this. Now stop whatever the hell you’re doing and look." So we did, and there’s lot of light in the payload bay, and the helmet’s got these big things. You couldn’t see anything. I mean, it was just too much glare. So we got over in one corner and kind of shielded our eyes, and you could see a little patch of sky, but that was about the best we could do.

Peterson was surprised that if he was in a place where sunlight shone into the helmet, he could feel the sunlight on his face. “The visor protects you from the ultraviolet and all that, but you could feel the heat as soon as the sun came in through the visor.”

While the views were interesting, Peterson described the eva spacesuit as extremely stiff and said the gloves were hard to work in.

eva would be fun if the suits weren’t so hard to work in. The suits are fairly un­comfortable. .. . They’re not pressurized like an automobile tire, but they’re pres­surized so they’re fairly rigid. The suit has a neutral position. If you just blow the suit up and nobody is in it, it goes to a certain position. If you move it away from that position, it tries to come back because the arms and all are very rigid and they’re under pressure. So anytime you’re doing anything in the suit, you’re typically fighting against the suit itself. The gloves are the same way. If you look at a lot of photography from spacewalks, you see people don’t grab something like [they would on Earth], because to do that, you’ve got to fight the glove. They wedge things between their fingers, and that way you don’t have to exert pressure.

The fit of the suit was very important. Because the body expands a little bit in zero g, the fit of the suit has to allow for a certain amount of expan­sion, and they really can’t replicate that expansion on the ground, mean­ing that the suits generally fit tightly. “When I stood up in it, I could plant my heels against the heels of the boot, and the shoulder harness was right against my shoulders, and the top of my head was right against the top of the helmet,” recalled Peterson.

The gloves have to be really close to your fingertips. If they’re more than about an eighth of an inch off you’ll lose your ability to feel things and to do precise move­ments. The problems we had had was, at least in some of the early programs, the gloves were too tight on the fingertips. What they’d do is they’dpinch your finger­nail. Several guys lost their fingernails; not while they were in orbit, but it pinched them so bad that it pulled the roots loose in the back. It’s very uncomfortable. I mean, it used to be a form [of] medieval torture once to hurt people’s fingernails.


Crew: Commander Bob Crippen, Pilot Rick Hauck, Mission Specialists John Fabian, Sally Ride, and Norm Thagard Orbiter: Challenger Launched: 18 June 1983 Landed: 24 June 1983

Mission: Deployment of two communications satellites

With the sixth shuttle mission completed, Bob Crippen, pilot of the first shuttle mission, was about to become the first astronaut to fly on the vehi­cle twice, this time as commander of STS-7. Historically, the commander had been the most prominent member of the crew, but that was certainly not the case with STS-7, a fate that Crippen had a hand in bringing upon himself. “I essentially helped pick the crew, with John [Young] and George [Abbey], so I would say I had a great deal of influence. And yes, the crew was ‘Sally Ride and the others,’ which was just right for us.”

Before Ride could become the first female NASA astronaut to fly in space, two important decisions had to be made. First was the decision as to wheth­er the time was right for the historic move of including a woman on a NASA spacecraft crew. That decision, Crippen said, was an easy one. The flight would be the first to be crewed by members of the TFNG class of astronauts. Since, of the twenty-one mission specialists in the class, six were female, it seemed appropriate to Crippen and his superiors that one of them should be chosen for the crew.

That decision was followed by another: who would be chosen for a place in the history books. “They were all good, and any of them could have been the first one,” Crippen said.

I thought Sally was the right person for that flight for a number of reasons. She was one of our experts on the remote manipulator system, which was critical to what we were doing on this mission. I liked her demeanor, the way she be­haved. She fit right in with everybody, as all of them did, but we just got along well, and I thought that’s really important when you’ve got a crew, because you’ve got to work together. I knew that she would integrate well with the other crew members that we were going to have on board, which initially was just going to be Rick Hauck and John Fabian and myself. We later added Norm Tha – gard to that flight as well. But she was just the right person to do it at the time.

Ride recalled being informed of her selection to the crew and the dis­tinction of being the first American woman in space.

I met alone with Mr. Abbey, which is a little bit unusual. The commander is the first to know about a flight assignment; Bob Crippen, who would be the com­mander of my crew, had already been told. But then usually the rest of the crew is told together; at least that was the way that it was done then. But in this case, Mr. Abbey told me first, before he called over the other members of the crew. Af­ter I met with him, he took me up to Dr. Kraft’s office and Dr. Kraft talked with me about the implications of being the first woman. He reminded me that I would get a lot of press attention and asked if I was ready for that. His message was just, “Let us know when you need help; we’re here to support you in any way and can offer whatever help you need." It was a very reassuring message, coming from the head of the space center. [My family] were pretty excited. They knew that this was something that I’d wanted to do for a long time. After all, I’d been in training for ^four years when I heard the news, so they’d been preparingfor this eventuality for four years. They were really excited when I got assigned to a flight.

Ride said nasa did a good job protecting her and the rest of the crew from too much media attention prior to the mission so the astronauts could focus on their mission objectives. “I did very few interviews from the time that we entered training until our crew press conference and the interviews afterward,” recalled Ride.

Then we did no more interviews until our preflight press conference about a month before the flight. Right after that press conference, we did a day of sol­id interviews. NASA protected me while we were in training, and even the day that we did all our interviews, we did them in pairs. I did most of my inter­views with Rick Hauck or Bob Crippen. NASA’s attitude was, “She’s going to get all the attention, and we need to help her." And they did. They did a real­ly good job shielding me from the media so that I could train with the rest of the crew and not be singled out. We also tried to get across that spaceflight re­ally is a team thing.

The training leading up to the flight was particularly intense. Only the commander, Bob Crippen, had flown before, which meant the four rook­ies had a lot to learn. “The training really accelerated and intensified during that two months before the flight,” recalled Ride. “I was spending virtually

Open for Business

20. Sally Ride on the flight deck during sTs-7. Courtesy nasa.

all my time trying to learn things, what I’d learned, practice and just stuff that one last fact into my brain. I was barely watching the news at night and really wasn’t aware of all the attention. Of course, I was a little bit aware of it—I couldn’t help but be—but it wasn’t impacting my training at all.” Ride’s inclusion on STS-7 created learning opportunities for ground sup­port teams accustomed to all-male astronaut crews. By that point, the jsc team had already been through any number of big-picture changes, such as the locker-room question. Now they were discovering all the little chang­es that went along with integrating shuttle crews. For example, every item astronauts would use in space had to be chosen and reviewed before flight. “The engineers at nasa, in their infinite wisdom, decided that women as­tronauts would want makeup,” Ride recalled.

So they designed a makeup kit. A makeup kit brought to you by NASA engi­neers. You can just imagine the discussions amongst the predominantly male engineers about what should go in a makeup kit. So they came to me, figuring that I could give them advice. It was about the last thing in the world that I wanted to be spending my time in training on. So I didn’t spend much time on it at all. But there were a couple of other female astronauts who were given the job of determining what should go in the makeup kit and how many tampons should fly as part of a flight kit. I remember the engineers trying to decide how many tampons should fly on a one-week flight. They asked, “Is one hundred the right number?” “No. That would not be the right number. ” They said, “Well, we want to be safe. ” I said, “Well, you can cut that in half with no problem at all. ” And there were probably some other, similar sorts of issues, just because they had never thought about what just kind of personal equipment a female astronaut would take. They knew that a man might want a shaving kit, but they didn’t know what a woman would carry.

Astronaut Rick Hauck recalled that Ride was very professional, very in­dustrious, was always thinking about the objectives for the flight, and was also a good teammate with a good sense of humor. Reporters at press confer­ences would focus most of their inquiries on the first flight of a U. S. wom­an, and that was just fine with Hauck. “I remember one press conference just before we flew,” he said. “Someone from Time magazine or something said, ‘Sally, do you think you’ll cry when you’re on orbit?’ And of course, she kind of gave him this ‘You got to be kiddin’ me’ kind of look and said, ‘Why doesn’t anyone ever ask Rick those questions?’”

Norm Thagard was a late addition to the crew, chosen in order to address a particular issue that had been plaguing NASA crews since Apollo 9, and particularly since the Skylab missions in 1973. “nasa was concerned about this ‘space adaptation syndrome,’ or upchucking in space, and we want­ed to learn more about it,” Crippen said. “We had some physicians in this thirty-five group, and we figured, ‘Well, we’ve only got four of us on board. There’s room for more. Why don’t we pick a doc, and let that individual go through and see if they can figure out this problem a little bit more?’”

Thagard was selected for the mission, and he and other physician-astronauts put together a series of experiments to determine the cause of space adap­tation syndrome. “He was wanting some of us to participate in the exper­

iments,” said Crippen. “When some of [us] weren’t really occupied with things, then we planned on going down there and seeing whether Norm could make us sick or not, which he worked very hard at.”

Hauck recalled being subjected to one of Thagard’s tests while in space.

As soon as we got on orbit, I got down into the middle deck, and Norm had these visual things that I had to watch, and they’re spinning, and, boy, I felt miser­able. I mean, they accomplished their purpose. At one point I said, “Hey, guys, I’ve had it. I’m going to go into the airlock," which was just a nice place to go hide. And I said, “I’m going to close my eyes, and please don’t bother me until I come out. " I didn’t know whether I was going to throw up. I just felt misera­ble. And I guess it was about four hours later I started to come out of that and that resolved itself.

While STS-7 was best known among the American public for the inclusion of Ride in the crew, the primary mission objectives were a bit more practi­cal. STS-7 would be the first shuttle flight to do “proximity operations,” to rendezvous with and capture another object in space. A Shuttle Pallet Satel­lite in the cargo bay of the shuttle was picked up with the remote manipu­lator system, taken out of the bay, released into space, and then recaptured.

Ride used the robotic arm to lift the small satellite out of the cargo bay and release it. Crippen then flew the shuttle approximately one thousand feet away from the satellite, circled around it, and rendezvoused, and Ride recaptured it with the robotic arm. “We were to evaluate how easy [or] how hard it was to maintain formation with the satellite,” said Hauck, who pi­loted the shuttle for the second set of rendezvous tests after Crippen flew the first set. “It was just wonderful to be the new guy on the block and be given this responsibility to do some of the flying around this satellite. It all went well, and we got a lot of good data and wrote up a good report on it.”

The proximity operations led to another historic moment for the Space Shuttle program: the first photo of the orbiter in space. Today, pictures of the orbiter in space are commonplace; the vehicle was imaged extensively during its rendezvous with the International Space Station. At the time of STS-7, however, that particular sight had never been seen. “While we were headed out, a guy by the name of Bill Green that works up at headquarters had come up with the idea of putting a camera on board this Shuttle Pal­let Satellite,” Crippen said. “So we actually remotely took pictures of the shuttle from the satellite when it was about a thousand feet away, which gave us some unique shots when we returned back.”

Images of the orbiter in space were scripted into the mission objectives, but what wasn’t officially planned was an iconic shot of the orbiter with the robotic arm in the shape of the number 7. “On our mission patch we had had the orbiter with the arm up in the shape of a seven, so we concluded that, hey, we might as well do that,” recalled Crippen. “We had practiced this on the ground by ourselves, and I think it was Sally who put the arm in that configuration. When we took the picture, it almost looked like the patch. However, Mission Control had not seen the arm go into this par­ticular position before, and they were worried that we were getting it into some limits that it shouldn’t be in. It wasn’t, but it did cause some conster­nation on the ground, I think.”

Fabian recalled planning the picture with Ride and Crippen.

We really worked hard on that, and we got a lot of help. We worked out the position, the arm in the shape of a seven for the seventh flight. And we didn’t tell anybody about this, of course. We had this on kind of a back-of-our-hand type of procedure, what angles each joint had to be in order for it to look like that. And then we had worked on the timing so that we could catch the Space Shuttle against that black sky with the horizon down below. That was the pic­ture we most wanted. We most wanted the shuttle against the black sky and the Earth’s horizon down below. I was real proud of that. I was real proud of the work that Sally and I and Crip had done on getting that ready to go. Because it gave you a really strong indication that, you know, this is a spaceship we’re talking about here.

The mission also included the deployment of two communications sat­ellites. Once in space, the astronauts opened the cargo bay doors and se­cured the Payload Assist Modules, which were the boosters used to move the satellites from the shuttle’s orbit to their higher destination orbit. “It was really important work, and we screwed it up a little bit,” Fabian said. “We threw the heater switches out of sequence, which in the simulations that we did would not have meant anything. But it turns out that those switch­es had been rewired to do a secondary function. It had nothing to do with the heaters. . . . It never got picked up by the trainers. It never got picked up by anyone that was associated with preparing us to go fly that there

Open for Business

21. Challenger in orbit on STS-7 with the remote manipulator system arm in the shape of the number 7. Courtesy nasa.

was something quite different about these switches and that if you throw them at the wrong time, then something unexpected is going to happen.” Unbeknownst to the astronauts, flipping the switches in the wrong order caused the early extraction of several pins on the rotation table that were keeping the satellites from rotating prior to their deployment. “We didn’t know anything at all was wrong until the ground told us that we had inad­vertently pulled the pins and that they were trying to find a work-around,” Fabian said. “They found a way to command from the ground to put the pins back in, fortunately. But this was one of those things; this is a very complex machine, and in spite of everybody’s best intentions, sometimes some things slip through the cracks. We had been through this thing in the simulator dozens, if not hundreds, of times, doing it precisely the way that we did it in orbit without it ever coming to anyone’s attention.”

With his promotion to commander on STS-7, Crippen was able to ac­complish a goal that he had set for the position during sts-1: “I was the commander now, so I was going to get to look out the window more.”

In fact, Crippen encouraged his crew members, on STS-7 and all of his flights, to take advantage of the unique opportunities spaceflight offers as much as possible. “Enjoy it,” he said. “Enjoy it. You never know whether you’re going to get a second flight or whatever, so take advantage of when you go up, to really savor it. I had ended up with four flights, and I still re­member them today, and every bit of it was enjoyable.”

During the mission, Ride talked to CapCom Mary Cleave, the first time a woman on the ground talked to a woman in space. Ride said it didn’t even cross her mind. “I don’t know whether it occurred to Mary either. I didn’t even think about it until after I landed and somebody pointed it out to me. And apparently the first time we talked we said something totally un­memorable. I don’t know what it was, but it was not particularly historic.” Cleave’s personal impression of the exchange from the ground was similar to Ride’s orbital experience, but she didn’t have to wait until after the flight to have it pointed out. “I didn’t even notice it. Here’s Sally and I, we didn’t even notice it. But I was on duty, and one female reporter, who will go un­named, afterwards said, ‘Mary, it was so disappointing.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You and Sally just had a normal conversation.’ ‘Yeah. We were working.’ ‘Well, you should have said something special for this mo­mentous occasion.’ ‘What momentous—?’ ‘First female-to-female commu­nication.’ And I went, ‘Oh, we didn’t notice.’ Sort of like, ‘Well, I’m sorry I disappointed you, but really we didn’t notice it.’”

One memorable event that occurred during the mission made a very lit­eral impact. “We were hit on the windshield by a small fleck of paint, and it made a hole about the size of a lima bean halfway through the outer of two panes of glass,” recalled Fabian.

We found out after the flight that it was one [layer] of paint the size of a pin­head that had hit us. And it hits you with such enormous velocity that the ki­netic energy associated with that small fleck of paint is enough to blast out that kind of a crater. Crippen decided not to tell the ground that we’d been hit, and it didn’t come up until after the flight. And his rationale for that, I assume, was that there wasn’t anything that the ground could do to help us. The event

had already occurred. We were perfectly safe. They would worry a lot. And so he elected not to say anything. I think after the flight someone said something about that, but I think it was the right decision.

Finally, the time for landing came, and went, and came again. STS-7 was to be the first shuttle flight to land at Kennedy Space Center, but weather was an issue. “John [Young] was the weather checker in our Shuttle Train­ing Aircraft at Kennedy, and he saw some weather, which it can develop very rapidly, which he and I both know,” Crippen recalled. “He properly waved us off on that first time, and we elected to wait another day and try it. . . . But truthfully, that extra day we got on orbit was a free day. There wasn’t any real work to be done, so all of us had an opportunity to sit back and enjoy, and maybe play a little bit while we were on orbit.”

To fill the time the astronauts held the first-ever Olympics in space. Accord­ing to Hauck, the crew was looking for ideas to kill time. “I forget which one of us said it—because this was near the Olympics—‘Let’s have a Space Olympics.’ Crip was a little wary of this, but he said, ‘Okay, what do you want to do?’” The rules were set. Each astronaut would start on the mid-deck, go through the portside access to the flight deck, across the flight deck to the starboard entryway, down and across the mid-deck, and back up to the top rung of the ladder to the flight deck. Speed was the goal.

“We gave out five awards,” Hauck said. “Sally won the fastest woman. John Fabian won the competitor that caused the most injuries. No one got hurt, but I think his leg hit Crip coming around at one point. I think Norm Thagard was the fastest man. Crip was the most injured, and I was the most something. I don’t know what it was.”

The next day it was time to try the landing again. Crippen’s promotion from pilot to commander meant that this time, as commander, he actu­ally got to pilot, but his opportunity to make the first shuttle landing at Kennedy wasn’t to be—bad weather in Florida continued that day as well, and the landing was moved to Edwards. The shift scuttled some planned encounters—not only the astronauts’ reunions with family members wait­ing in Florida, but also a chance to meet President Ronald Reagan, who had planned to be on hand to welcome the crew home.

After landing, Crippen said, came the satisfaction of a job well done. “Anytime you work hard to do something and it comes out well, you can’t help but feel good, and that’s the way I felt with this. I felt my crew had done a superb job. We had accomplished all the mission objectives. We’d made the proximity operations look good. We had deployed a couple of commu­nication satellites, and everything worked. So that gives you a nice high.”

After the flight, the attention returned to America’s first flown female astronaut. “I think that’s when all the attention really hit me,” Ride said.

While I was in training, I had been protected from it all. I had the world’s best excuse: “I’ve got to train, because I have this job to do." NASA was very, very supportive of that. So my training wasn’t affected at all. But the moment we landed, that protective shield was gone. I came face-to-face with a flurry of me­dia activity. There was a lot more attention on us than there was on previous crews, probably even more than the sts-i crew. I’d done my share of public ap­pearances and speeches before I’d gone into training, so I knew how to talk to the press and I knew how to go and show my slides and give a good speech. But just the sheer volume of it was something that was completely different for me, and people reacted much differently to me after my flight than they did before my flight. Everybody wanted a piece of me after the flight.

As commander of the mission, Crippen said he felt a responsibility to shield Ride from any unwanted attention. “She was a big hero as we went around, and everybody wanted to meet Sally. There were so many people trying to get after her or get to her, for whatever reason, that part of the commander’s job was to make sure that she was protected from that, without being overprotective; just whatever she wanted to make sure that she didn’t get overwhelmed by it.”


Crew: Commander Dick Truly, Pilot Dan Brandenstein, Mission
Specialists Dale Gardner, Guion Bluford, and Bill Thornton

Orbiter: Challenger

Launched: 30 August 1983

Landed: 5 September 1983

Mission: Launch of Indian satellite, microgravity research

While STS-7 marked the first flight of a female American astronaut, sts – 8 broadened the diversity of the astronaut corps further, with the launch of Guy Bluford, NASA’s first African American astronaut to fly. As with Ride’s flight, there was interest from the media and the public in the first African

American in space. Bluford became a role model for young African Ameri­cans. On the twentieth anniversary of his first flight, Bluford said in a nasa interview that it had never been his goal to be the first African American in space. “I recognized the importance of it, but I didn’t want to be a dis­traction for my crew. We were all contributing to history and to our con­tinued exploration of space. I felt I had to do the best job I could for peo­ple like the Tuskegee Airmen, who paved the way for me, but also to give other people the opportunity to follow in my footsteps.”

Again, as with Ride, nasa protected Bluford from too much media at­tention before the flight so he could focus on preparing for the mission. He was also spared somewhat because there was a lot of attention still on Ride, whose historic flight had occurred just two months prior.

The crew started out as a crew of four, but approximately five months before the flight Bill Thornton joined the crew to continue studies on space adaptation syndrome, just as Thagard had done on STS-7.

The primary task of the mission was the launch of the Indian insat – ib communications and weather satellite. “We were launching a satellite for India,” explained mission pilot Dan Brandenstein, “and to get it in the proper place, you kind of worked the problem backwards. Okay, they want the satellite up here, so then you’ve got to back down all your orbit­al mechanics and everything, and basically it meant we had to launch at night. The fact we launched at night meant that we would end up land­ing at night.”

This would be first time the shuttle would launch and land in the dark. Bluford said the crew trained for the nighttime launch and landing by turn­ing out the lights in the Space Shuttle simulator. “We learned to set our light levels low enough in the cockpit so that we could maintain our night vision, and I had a special lamp mounted on the back of my seat so that I could read the checklist in the dark,” recalled Bluford. “The only thing that wasn’t simulated in our launch simulations was the lighting associated with the solid rocket boosters’ ignition and the lighting associated with the firing of the pyros for srb and external tank separation. No one seemed to notice this omission until after we flew.”

That omission set the astronauts up for quite the surprise during the ac­tual launch. “We had darkened the cockpit to prepare for liftoff; howev­er, when the srbs ignited, they turned night into day inside the cockpit.

Open for Business

22. Guion Bluford exercises on the treadmill during sts-8. Courtesy nasa.

Whatever night vision we had hoped to maintain we lost right away at lift­off,” said Bluford.

Space Shuttle Challenger launched in the wee hours of the morning on 30 August 1983. “We were crossing Africa when I saw my first sunrise on orbit,” Brandenstein reflected, “and to this day, that is the ‘Wow!’ of my spaceflight career. Sunrises and sunsets from orbit are just phenomenal, and obviously the first one just knocked my socks off. It’s just so different. It happens rel­atively quickly because you’re going so fast, and you just get this vivid spec­trum forming at the horizon. When the sun finally pops up, it’s just so bright. It’s not attenuated by smog, clouds, or anything. It’s really quite something.”

Bluford also had fond memories of that first sunrise in space. “I still re­member seeing the African coast and the Sahara Desert coming up over the horizon. It was a beautiful sight. Once we completed our oms burns, I unstrapped from my seat and started floating on the top of the cockpit. I remember saying to myself, ‘Oh, my goodness, zero g.’ And like all the other astronauts before me, I fumbled around in zero g for quite a while before I got my space legs.”

It proved to be a good thing the sunrise was quick because the astronauts didn’t have time to enjoy the scenery. “After you’re on orbit, you’re floating around and that’s neat, and you’re getting to see the view and that’s neat,

but after you get up, you’ve got an awful lot to do in a very short time, get­ting the vehicle prepared to operate on orbit,” Brandenstein said. “There are checkpoints. If you don’t get things done or something doesn’t work right, you have to turn right around and come back, so you’re pretty much fo­cused for about the first four hours up there, of getting that all done. Once that was done, well, then you look out the window a little bit more. I re­member when the real work of the day was pretty much over and it was time to go to sleep, you didn’t. You looked out the window.”

The Next Steps

With each mission, the Space Transportation System continued to expand its operational functionality. The first four flights had demonstrated the system’s basic capabilities, and the next four had revealed its capabilities as a launch vehicle. After a brief change of pace on STS-9, during which the orbiter served as a space-based science laboratory, the shuttle resumed the expansion of its capabilities as a payload launch system.


Crew: Commander Vance Brand, Pilot Robert “Hoot” Gibson, Mission Specialists Bruce McCandless, Ron McNair, and Bob Stewart

Orbiter: Challenger

Launched: 3 February 1984

Landed: 11 February 1984

Mission: Launch of two communication satellites, first flight of the Manned Maneuvering Unit

The first nine Space Shuttle missions received relatively straightforward designations. Each was given a number, and that number was the order in which they flew. But beginning with STS-10 (which was cancelled and later flew as STS-51C) and STS-13, the agency decided there were problems with naming missions this way.

Bob Crippen was commander of the mission that would have been STS-13. “My friend Jim Beggs, who was the administrator of NASA, had triskaidekapho – bia (fear of the number 13), and he said, ‘There’s not going to be [another disas­ter like] Apollo 13, or a Shuttle 13, so come up with a new numbering system.’”

Astronaut Rick Hauck had a similar recollection, though he remembered the decision also being partly inspired by a desire to avoid confusion down the road. “It’s my sense that there was someone that decided, ‘We are not going to fly a mission called STS-13.’ Thirteen-phobic. So at some point,

they said, ‘Okay, we’re going to rename these missions.’ And [it was] also because you’d plan a mission, you’d get everybody started on it, and then something would cause that mission to slip past another mission, so that, in itself, was causing confusion. ‘We’re going to fly STS-12 before we fly STS – 11.’ So it’s easier if you don’t number them sequentially.”

The new system combined the last number of the fiscal year in which the mission was scheduled plus either a 1 or a 2 for the launch location—1 for Ken­nedy Space Center and 2 for the planned launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base—plus a letter to designate the planned order. This meant that the tenth Space Shuttle mission became 41B: 4 for 1984, 1 because it was launch­ing from Kennedy, and B because it would be the second mission that year.

Continuing the series of incremental firsts in the early shuttle program, 41B would mark the first use of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (mmu) “backpack” developed by the Martin Marietta Corporation. “It was sup­posed to be an early-day Buck Rogers flying belt, if you know what I mean, except it didn’t have the person zooming real fast,” recalled 41B command­er Vance Brand. “It was a huge device on your back that was very well de­signed and redundant so that it was very safe, but it moved along at about one to two or three miles per hour. It used cold nitrogen gas coming out in spurts to thrust you around. The trick was not to let the eva crewmen get too far out such that orbital mechanics would take over and separate us. We didn’t want them lost in space. We didn’t want to come back and face their wives if we lost either one of them up there.”

When McCandless first began using the mmu, he encountered a couple of problems. First was a slight offset in his center of mass. For the mmu to work properly, the thrust had to be delivered based on the center of mass of the mmu, its wearer, and the spacesuit. As long as those were proper­ly aligned, it would move properly. However, after McCandless found the mmu was not maneuvering quite the way he expected, it was discovered that in the microgravity environment a small offset, such as additional equip­ment being worn on one side that wasn’t factored in, could cause the mmu to move in unanticipated ways.

The other problem McCandless ran into was that the internal thermal control system for the spacesuit was configured assuming that the astronaut would be exerting effort that would cause him or her to generate heat. The idea was that an astronaut would be working up a sweat and the spacesuit

The Next Steps

23. Bruce McCandless using the Manned Maneuvering Unit, or mmu, to fly freely in space. Courtesy nasa.

would keep him or her comfortably cool. However, in reality, McCandless found himself cooled far past the point of comfort—it turned out that us­ing the mmu required far less effort than moving from place to place on a regular spacewalk and it resulted in a cooler environment.

“At one point I was actually shivering and my teeth were chattering, and that tends to detract from your overall performance,” McCandless said. “If you look at the front of the mmu you’ll see a big knob and some markings on the beta cloth running from C to H, which I naively thought meant cold and hot. It turns out that hot just means minimal cooling, and it was set up for somebody who was physically active, that is, with a reasonable met­abolic workload in a warm environment such as the payload bay, meaning something that was reflecting heat back and that nominally was maybe 0

[degrees] Fahrenheit but certainly not minus 190 like the effective temper­ature of deep space.”

Initially, when McCandless was maneuvering in the orbiter’s payload bay, he didn’t have problems. But once he got out away from the shuttle and wasn’t as physically active, he said, he got quite cold.

At the time the spacewalk rules precluded shutting off the cooling system, out of fears that, once it was turned off, it wouldn’t work if it were turned back on. However, McCandless got cold enough that something had to be done, so Mission Control gave him permission to turn off the cooling sys­tem and see what happened. “Well, predictably, after about ten to fifteen minutes it got warmer, pleasantly warm, and a little later it was getting hot so that Mission Control’s agreement was I turn it back on, and miracle of miracle[s], it just started right up. No trouble. Over the course of the space­walk I turned it off and then back on maybe three or four times, and every time it stopped perfectly and then started back up perfectly.”

During the flight, McCandless became the subject of one of the more fa­mous photographs in spaceflight history, showing him in the distance float­ing untethered above Earth. McCandless said that, decades later, having seen the picture countless times, it still connected him to the experience.

When I see it, I guess maybe a little bit of a tingle or goose bumps. It is extremely famous, and I think that perhaps one of the attributes of the photo that makes it so popular is that the sun visor is down so you can’t really see my face and it could be the face of anyone or the face of“mankind," whatever you want to call it. And in fact, at Space Center Houston—the tourist facility down there out­side of jsc—and a couple of other places, they have a full-size blowup of that with the faceplate cut out so people, mostly kids, could climb up a stepladder behind it and put their faces through it and get photographed.

The photographer was 41B pilot Hoot Gibson. “It’s customary during a shuttle mission to swap off or change off duties depending on the mission phase,” McCandless recalled, “and this particular phase of the mission, Hoot’s job was to use the Hasselblad camera to document the eva. I think it goes with­out saying that he did a spectacular job both from the technical standpoint and from the quasi or artistic standpoint of composition and selection of scenes.”

Astronaut Jerry Ross was the CapCom for each of the mmu tests. “Those lucky guys,” Ross said. “I knew that Bruce had waited a long time and worked many, many years here in the office to get a chance to fly, and so I was happy for him and Bob Stewart when they got a chance to go outside and do their thing.” Ross, who later went on to complete nine evas in orbit himself, said it was fun to talk to the crew during the mmu demonstrations, but he couldn’t help but be a little jealous. “You can imagine how envious I was getting, sitting there on the ground and watching all those guys go out there and have fun.” In addition to the test of the mmu, another of the mission objectives was to test out for the first time the shuttle computers’ rendezvous software. The shuttle’s first rendezvous target was a Mylar balloon, launched out of the shut­tle’s payload bay and away from the shuttle by a spring, said Brand. “When it got out a little ways, it timed out and it filled with gas. We were watching it go away from the spacecraft, and all of a sudden it exploded. Not that it was any danger to us, because it was away from the ship, and after all, it was only a balloon. It wasn’t like a stick of dynamite. But when this balloon exploded, I said, ‘It blew up.’ And on the ground they were wondering, ‘Does that mean it exploded, or does that mean it filled with gas, ‘blew up’?’ Well, it exploded.” The crew salvaged the test by tracking the biggest balloon fragment with radar and continuing with the test. “It was fun to do those early things,” Brand said. “Many things that are done on the shuttle today as very routine things, back then had to be checked out. The rendezvous system was one of them.” While the equipment test portions of the mission were successful, Brand said the satellite deployments didn’t work out so well. The crew deployed two satellites that were similar to the ones successfully deployed on STS-5. The pa – lapa-b 2 was for Indonesia, and the westar-6 was for Western Union. Each of the satellites deployed flawlessly, and both were supposed to wait half an hour to get some distance from the shuttle before starting the solid rocket motor burn that would lift them into geosynchronous orbit, twenty-three thousand miles above Earth. The engines started the burns but after about twenty sec­onds unexpectedly stopped. According to nasa, the culprit was the failure of the Payload Assist Module-D (pam-d) rocket motors. With nothing they could do about it, the crew abandoned the satellites in orbit and returned home.


Crew: Commander Bob Crippen, Pilot Dick Scobee, Mission Special­ists George “Pinky” Nelson, James “Ox” Van Hoften, and Terry Hart Orbiter: Challenger

Launched: 6 April 1984

Landed: 13 April 1984

Mission: Deployment of the Long Duration Exposure Facility, repair of the Solar Maximum satellite

Shortly after his return from STS-7, Bob Crippen was once again as­signed to command Challenger, a post he believes he was given to take spe­cific advantage of the experience he had gained on his last flight. “I think what they were trying to do was to build on the experience that I had from doing the proximity operations,” theorized Crippen. “The next, 41c, was going to do our first rendezvous. We had a satellite that was disabled that they needed repaired, so it was similar to what I’d done before, only an ex­tension of it. So maybe that’s why I got picked to fly it.”

The mission of 41c was to deploy the Long Duration Exposure Facility and to capture the Solar Max satellite that had been launched on a Delta launch vehicle in 1980.

According to astronaut Terry Hart, who operated the robotic arm for 41c, the skills Crippen picked up during years of experience in the astro­naut corps were obvious from the very beginning, including in some un­usual ways. “It’s funny,” Hart recalled,

I remember the day we posed for our crew picture. You all put your blue suits on and you bring the helmets in or something, and we took maybe twenty pic­tures, trying to get us all to have the right expressions on our face or whatever. And then the tradition is, you bring them back to the Astronaut Office and then you ask the secretaries to pick which one is best.

So Crippen and Scobee and Pinky and Ox and I are sitting around, looking at all these pictures. In one of them, one of us would be winking or our smile would be crooked or something like that. Every one of us had maybe a 50 per­cent hit rate on the pictures, having the right expression on our face. And we looked at Crippen. . . . Every photograph had the same expression on Bob Crip – pen’s face. He had it down pat. He knew exactly how to smile.

The mission marked the first time a shuttle flew a direct ascent trajectory, meaning that instead of launching into a low initial orbit and then using the Orbital Maneuvering System to raise it to an altitude of about three hun­dred kilometers, the shuttle used the oms during ascent to achieve a high

initial apogee and then used it again to round out the orbit at that level.

From the very beginning of the mission, Hart had difficulty adapting to weightlessness. Not one to have ever had issues with motion sickness on Earth, the space sickness caught him by surprise. “I wasn’t weightless for more than three minutes and I knew I was in trouble,” he said. “I just felt awful, and I was throwing up, mostly just dry heaves, every thirty minutes or so for a day.”

Despite feeling so bad, Hart said that he made sure to get on camera once that first day, just so those on the ground would know that he really was there. “I could barely force myself to get out of the corner of the cabin and get up on camera. There were some things I had to do that first day, but they were minimal. I just had to unstow the arm, and I barely made it through that. I really was totally incapacitated for the first day, and I tried the usual drugs that they give you to help, but I had it so bad, nothing helped at all.”

That night, Hart was exhausted and fell asleep fast. But his sleep didn’t last for long. “I started dreaming, and I dreamt that I was falling, which I was. I was falling. But I had like a visceral reaction to a fear of falling all of a sudden. I remember I was in the blue sleeping bag and I remember reaching to grab something as I came awake, to stop my falling, and I did it with such force that I ripped the bag that I was sleeping in. It was that violent. And I grabbed on to something, and then I realized where I was.”

In Hart’s opinion, the repair of the Solar Max satellite was the highlight of the mission. The solar observatory satellite had been in orbit since 1980, observing and studying the sun during the peak of the eleven-year solar cycle. But within a few months of its deployment the satellite had started popping fuses, Hart said. “There was a thermal problem, and some of the fuses got too hot. They had derated the fuses and that had caused them to pop, and the fuses were powering the attitude-control electronics on the satellite. So as a result, the satellite was spinning and they couldn’t control it. It was pointed at the sun, but it was wobbling so that it was not of any use to the scientists.”

The mission was to capture, repair, and re-release the satellite. It was to be the first on-orbit spacecraft repair, and Crippen and his crew were just the ones for the job. They even called themselves the Ace Satellite Repair Company.

“The Ace thing had come along earlier, actually prior to the shuttle fly­ing,” Crippen recalled. He and some friends in the corps helped the wife of a fallen pilot move, and the onetime gig turned into a regular service when other friends needed help moving. “We formed the Ace Moving Company, and our motto was, ‘We move single women anywhere and husbands out.’ It was mostly a social thing, but we started that and then sort of built on it. Prior to our flight—I believe it was STS-5—they also used the Ace Mov­ing Company sign, because they were deploying satellites. So it was sort of an extension of those earlier days to call ourselves the Ace Satellite Repair, because that was our job to go up and repair the satellite.”

Although the satellite was built and launched before the shuttle started flying, scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center had the forethought to design Solar Max with future in-space repairs in mind. Attached to the sat­ellite was a grapple fixture that would allow the rms to grab it.

The main challenge the crew faced in the task, according to Crippen, was that many of the rate gyros on board had been lost, so it was diffi­cult to stabilize the satellite. The repair required astronauts to undo small electrical connectors, which were difficult to handle while wearing large eva gloves.

“The other aspect was this was going to be a flight using maneuvering units [mmu] ,” said Crippen. “That had been done once before without a real task, and this one we wanted to have Pinky [Nelson] go out and actu­ally capture this satellite.”

Nelson recalled his excitement at learning that he had been selected for the duty:

I remember meeting with Crippen . . . in one of the little conference rooms over in Building 4, where he doled out the assignments. He assigned me the role of flying the mmu, which kind of made my year, because here was a mission with four military pilots on it, and Terry Hart and Ox van Hoften were both mis­sion specialists, engineer types, but they had also both been fighter pilots, and Scobee had flown everything that had wings, and Crip, this was his third flight already on the shuttle. And they decided to let me fly the maneuvering unit. I never asked why. I didn’t want them to think about it.

In orbit the eva didn’t go completely smoothly. Nelson was to fly up to the satellite in the mmu and hook on to the satellite to stop it from moving. Then Challenger could move in closer and Terry Hart would grab it with the robotic arm. “We had also practiced, in case something went wrong with that, having

The Next Steps

24. James van Hoften and George Nelson on a spacewalk to repair the Solar Max satellite.

Courtesy nasa.

Terry grab it while it was still rotating, which was a little bit of a challenge, but we had practiced it and thought we potentially could do that,” said Crippen.

“Turned out,” he continued, “when Pinky flew out about three hundred feet away from the orbiter, and he came up and did his task perfectly to grab this little fixture, it didn’t capture. He sort of bounced off. He tried again and bounced off. I think he hit it in all about three times. The satellite was rotating prior to this around its long axis, but then it started to tumble. So we backed Pinky off, and I was worried that we’d spent all this time train­ing for this, and we were just about to lose it.”

In all the preparations, Crippen said, the crew hadn’t factored in a tum­bling satellite, and they did their best to improvise in the unexpected situ­

ation. They considered attempting to go ahead and grab it with the robot arm but were concerned the tumbling would cause the satellite to strike the arm and damage something. They tried having Nelson grab one of the solar arrays by hand to try to stabilize it, but that didn’t work either. “We flailed around in there for a while, using up lots of gas, and then finally the ground told us they thought maybe they could stabilize it again with a slow rotation, so they asked us to back away.”

Crippen said those evas were some of the more worrisome moments of his commanding career: the shuttle was moving to keep a safe distance from the tumbling satellite, while Nelson was floating freely, independent­ly of either.

That’s where I got the headache. We knew that we had the digital autopilot set up [to keep a clear] area up above the payload bay. We weren’t going to im­pinge a jet on the satellite or anybody else that was in between there, so that re­ally wasn’t that much of a problem. But anytime you’ve got somebody out there free-flying, you don’t want to lose them. So the first thing I wanted to do when we decided we couldn’t do it with the tumbling thing was to get Pinky back.

Truthfully, at that time I thought we’d lost it. I could see myself spending the next six months in Washington explaining why we didn’t grab that satellite. But the ground had a trick up their sleeve that we weren’t aware of, the folks at Goddard did, and they were able to stabilize the satellite.

The next day the orbiter came in for another rendezvous, and it was just like how they’d trained in the simulator, said Crippen. “We went up, and Terry did a neat job of grabbing hold of it, so we captured it. Our fuel had gotten pretty low. . . but we had it. So then Ox and Pinky went out and did their thing of repairing the satellite; worked like champs. They did a couple of evas, and sure enough, the first day when they came back in and took their gloves off, all the tips of their fingers were bloody from having to go in and do that fine work.”

Once the satellite was in their literal grasp, Nelson said, the repair itself was easy. “It was so much easier to work in space than it is on the ground,” Nelson said. “It was a piece of cake. It was so much fun riding on the end of the arm, and just being out there was tons of fun.”

Hart, who was operating the robotic arm, said it was an incredible moment for him and the crew when they finally successfully grappled the satellite.

It was euphoric. I mean, we really felt that the mission was at risk, which it was, and we were really on a mission that was demonstrating the flexibility and the usefulness of the shuttle to do things like repair. We were afraid that we were disappointing a lot of people—the scientists, of course, wanting to put the science satellite back into service, but all the people at NASA that were showing what the shuttle could do. In reality, we demonstrated even more just the flex­ibility of human spaceflight, that you can adapt to things that are unexpected, like this pin and the problems that it caused us. So it was a good opportunity to show even better what the shuttle could do.

The other mission objective was the release of the Long Duration Expo­sure Facility. A project for nasa’s Langley Research Center, the facility was a twelve-sided cylinder that hosted fifty-seven individual scientific experi­ments. Hart deployed it using the robotic arm. The satellite was so large that it was a very tight fit in the orbiter’s payload bay, raising concerns that in deployment it could strike the orbiter, damaging the satellite, or worse.

“The concern there was that I was going to get it stuck, then we couldn’t close the payload bay doors, and then we couldn’t come home, so we had to be careful,” said Hart.

It all went pretty well. First I had to lift it out straight, and then the arm did everything it was supposed to do. And then I think I put it back in again just to make sure it would go back in before I lifted it out one more time to deploy it. We left it out on the arm and did some slow maneuvers to verify all the dy­namics and all the things that the engineers wanted to understand about lifting heavy objects out of the shuttle. And then we very carefully deployed it. It wasn’t detectable at all when I released it. I mean, it was just totally steady, and we very carefully backed away and got some great photographs of it as we backed away.

The 41c mission also carried an imax movie camera that was used to shoot footage for the movie The Dream Is Alive. Even though he liked that nasa had partnered with imax, Crippen said he worried a little about the size of the camera and he didn’t want its use to distract focus from the pri­mary mission objectives. “It was a little bit difficult working some of those things out, but it was a great camera.”

In addition to obtaining all the footage imax requested of the crew, Hart surprised one of the creators of imax, Graham Ferguson, with a spe­

cial, unplanned thirty-second spot. “We had six film canisters, and we had gone through all of them and we had gotten all the shots that they wanted us to get during the mission,” recalled Hart.

I figured I had at least thirty seconds left on the last roll. So I’m kind of, “What can I shoot?’ I just want to shoot some indoor thing. And we were in the night side, and Crippen said, “Well, the sun’s going to come up in about three min­utes here.” So I quickly put the camera up and focused on the Earth’s hori­zon just as the sun was starting to break through the horizon. And just as it started to glow a little bit, I ran the last thirty seconds off, and you could see the Earth’s limb all illuminated and you could see how thin the atmosphere is from that perspective. And just then the sun blossomed on the horizon, and I ran out of film. So in The Dream Is Alive, which was the feature they put to­gether from our mission and the two that followed us, there’s that sequence in there of the sunrise, where Walter Cronkite’s saying, “And here’s what an or­bital sunrise looks like. ” So it never occurred to them or us, for some reason, to shoot that particular kind of thing, but when we were up there, we knew that was a dramatic event. So as soon as it was coming, we captured it, fortunately.

Several weeks after returning home from their mission, crew members watched their imax footage in a private screening. “The imax people were there and they were all smiles,” remembered Hart. “They said, ‘You’re not going to believe what you did there.’ And then they showed the raw foot­age to us, and it was so vivid in our minds, just being five or six weeks from the mission, that it was almost like being there again, because the imax fills your entire field of view with the sensation of being in space.”

Despite the agency’s best efforts to avoid the number thirteen, the mis­sion didn’t escape it completely. Hart said that at the same time the crew designed its official 41c patch, it had also created an underground patch with a black cat and the number 13 on it.

We did our coffee mug with the headquarters-approved STS-41C patch on the front of the coffee cup, and on the back of the coffee cup we had the unapproved black cat with “STS-13” on it. . . . As it turned out, two of the missions in front of us, one mission was canceled, and one mission was delayed. So we ended up being the eleventh flight, as it turned out, anyways. But they also moved the date around. Since it was well before the launch, there was nothing forcing the date, but they just moved the date to get away from the Friday the thirteenth thing, because then it turned out we were going to go early. We were going to launch on the sixth of April and land on the twelfth, but we had a problem during our mission that delayed us one day. So we ended up landing on Friday the thirteenth. But we made it.


Crew: Commander Bob Crippen, Pilot Jon McBride, Mission Special­ists Kathy Sullivan, Sally Ride, and David Leestma, Payload Special­ists Marc Garneau (Canada) and Paul Scully-Power (Australia) Orbiter: Challenger Launched: 5 October 1984 Landed: 13 October 1984

Mission: Deployment of a satellite, testing of orbital refueling techniques

Just six months later, Bob Crippen once again served as commander, for 41G. The assignment was unusual; Abbey named Crippen as commander of his fourth spaceflight while he was still preparing for his third. Crippen was surprised to be given two overlapping assignments while there were so many others ready to fly, so he asked Abbey why it was being done that way. “He said he wanted to see how fast we could actually turn people around, so who am I to turn down a spaceflight? I said, ‘Sure, but, you know, I’m not going to get to spend as much time training with the crew, so I’d like to make sure I’ve got somebody there, especially for the ascent portion, that knows how I like to fly the missions.’”

Crippen requested Sally Ride be added to the crew for just that pur­pose. While Crippen was fulfilling his duties as commander of 41c, Ride and the crew started training for 41G. “I was the only one on the crew who had flown before; the rest were first-time flyers,” said Ride.

I was the one that had the experience, and I had also flown with Crip before, so I knew how he liked things done and I knew what his habits were. On launch and reentry I knew what he wanted to do, and what he wanted the pilot to do, and what he wanted the flight engineer to do. . . . Part of my job was to say, “This is the way Crip likes to handle this situation or this sort of problem, and this is how he would want us to work. " During the first couple of months, I tried to give the rest of the crew some indication of the way that Crip liked

to run a flight and run a crew. Then, thankfully, he launched and landed and came and joined us.

While Ride could play the role of commander in terms of planning train­ing activities, she was still a mission specialist astronaut, not a pilot astro­naut, meaning she wasn’t trained to front-seat the orbiter during simula­tions. Jon McBride would sit in his seat as pilot and other astronauts or trainers would fill in as guest commanders.

Originally the crew was scheduled to fly on Columbia, which was un­dergoing modifications after its return from the STS-9 science mission. Leestma was the crew’s liaison to follow the progress of the modifications. “It was progressing slowly, and there were a lot of tile modifications that had to be done to Columbia. There were a lot of upgrades to make it like the newer vehicles. They weren’t going as fast [as planned]. There’s always money problems. And so my reports coming back were probably a little bit more negative, only because Columbia’s not going make our flight time.”

NASA realized that Columbia wasn’t going to be ready in time, so they shuffled orbiters around and 41G was given Challenger and, with the new orbiter, a new payload, Shuttle Imaging Radar B, or sir-в. “That’s when it really got down to training and started getting really serious about it,” re­called Leestma. “It was nice to know that we had a payload and an orbiter that we were probably going to fly. At that time I think that Discovery and Challenger were just kind of flip-flopping all the way along, so it was pretty much a two-orbiter fleet at the time.”

Ride’s return to space received much less attention than her first flight, even though the crew included two female astronauts and a female NASA astronaut, Kathy Sullivan, conducted an eva for the first time. “It certain­ly didn’t have the media attention that STS-7 did,” commented Crippen.

Judy Resnik had also flown prior to that time, so we’d had a couple of women go fly. So I think the media is easily bored if it’s not something that’s brand-new. The new thing on this was there was going to be a woman do a spacewalk. What was unusual is, as soon as we named her to do it, the Russians put up a woman and had her do a spacewalk just so she could beat Kathy Sullivan, who was go­ing to do ours. But, in recollection, I don’t recall having to deal with anything like what we had seen on sts-j or sts-1.

Leestma, who hadn’t experienced anything like those two historic flights for comparison, had a different perspective:

The media made obviously a very big deal about that. Sally, being the very first American woman to fly; Kathy, now, on this flight, is going to become the first American woman to do an eva. Two women at one time, how is this going to work? They played it down very well. Both of them were very, very good about it. It was just, “Hey, we’re just part of the crew." And Jon and I could easily just stand in the background and just be one of the crew. It actually took a lot of the spotlight off of us, which was fine. Since Crip wasn’t there most of the time, it was mostly Sally and Kathy being the spokespeople for the crew, which was per­fectly okay. [Before launch], Jon McBride and I went offand sat inside and had a Coke and a candy bar and watched Sally, Kathy, and Crip all get interviewed all day long. And we were happy as clams about it; we thought this was great.

Author Henry S. F. Cooper Jr. wrote in Before Lift-Offthat 41G had “more anomalies, glitches, nits, and malfs [malfunctions] than almost any previous mission. It was reminiscent of a long film.” One of those was when a Sovi­et laser-testing station targeted Challenger with a low-power laser that tem­porarily blinded the crew and caused equipment not to function properly. The incident was alleged to be a “warning shot” in response to the United States’ planned Strategic Defense Initiative space-based missile shield and military use of the shuttle and was met by U. S. diplomatic protests.

Other problems, involving no international drama, were still challenges to resolve. Under normal circumstances, said robotic-arm-operator Ride, the Shuttle Imaging Radar (sir-в) would not have involved the robotic arm. sir-в was a radar antenna in the payload bay that was unfurled to make Earth obser­vations. It was then folded and stored for the return to Earth. “Because it was a radar, and because it took up a lot of the payload bay, before Kathy and Dave could go out on their spacewalk, we had to fold it back up again,” said Ride.

But we had trouble folding it. We couldn’t get it to come down all the way to latch. So we had to use the robot arm in a way that it hadn’t been intended to be used. We set the arm down on top of one of the leaves of the antenna and pushed down on it, trying to push it down far enough that a latch could grab it and latch it down. If we hadn’t been able to do that, the spacewalk might have been cancelled. But it worked quite well. It was pretty easy to push the top piece of the antenna down just far enough to get it to latch. The problem was solved relatively quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction, especially Kathy and Dave’s. They were afraid they weren’t going to get to go out on their spacewalk.

Innovative use of the arm saved the day on another occasion during the mission, too. On the first day in orbit, the mission was to deploy the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (erbs). erbs was designed to investigate how energy from the sun is absorbed and reradiated by Earth. It was to be de­ployed by the rms. Ride was to be the primary arm operator and Leestma trained as backup. “We trained a lot together, spent a lot of time in the sim­ulators and going to Canada and doing those kind of things,” said Leestma. “It becomes a little bit of a contest of who can do this quicker or better. All those competitive games were played in everything you do.”

When it came time to deploy the satellite, Ride let Leestma pull out the arm, do the checkout, and grapple the satellite. She then took over to pull the satellite out of the payload bay, set it up for deployment, and deploy it. Leestma would then stow the arm.

But during deployment, only one of the satellite’s two solar arrays would open. “The first solar array went up and we go, ‘Okay, we’re ready.’ And the ground says, ‘Okay. Deploy the second one.’ We hit the command and nothing happens. Uh-oh. So what do we do? So we wait, and the ground says, ‘Well, do the backup command.’ So we do the backup, or do it again, whatever it was, and nothing happens and it’s just locked in the side. And we’re going, ‘Oh, no. Now what do we do?,’” Leestma said.

Mission Control told the astronauts to point the satellite toward the sun to see if maybe it was frozen in place, but when they did that nothing hap­pened. The shuttle was about to fly over a dead zone, where they would have approximately twenty minutes of loss of signal with the ground, and the astronauts were plotting how to take advantage of that time. “This was a flight back before we had all the TDRS coverage,” Leestma explained, “so we went through long periods of time where we didn’t have to talk to the ground or they couldn’t see data. We were getting ready to come up over Australia and go through the Canberra site and talk to the ground, and then we would have about a fifteen – to twenty-minute period before we’d talk to anybody, before we’d come up over the States.”

Leestma said he and Ride looked at each other and had the same idea: shake it loose.

We said, “Crip, do you mind if we try to shake this thing loose?" And he said, “Go for it. Just don’t break it.” We go, “Okay. Were not going to break it.” So Sally took the arm and goes to the left as fast as she can and stops it and goes back the other way. The rates in the arm are really slow, but it’s putting some kind of force into it. She did this once and nothing happened. We did it, I think, twice, and the second time, I went, “Something’s moving. ” So she puts it up to the deployment position and we’re watching it, and it slowly moved a little bit, stopped, moved a little bit, stopped, and then it deployed. I went, “Whew!”

Ride quickly positioned the satellite for deployment just as the shuttle came up over the States and back in contact with Mission Control, Leest – ma explained. “The ground said, ‘Okay, we’re with you.’ And then we said, ‘Well, take a look at the satellite. See if we’re ready to go.’ I don’t remember the exact quote, but they came back up and they go, ‘What did you guys do?’ And we said, ‘We aren’t going to tell you, but just check it out, make sure that it’s ready to deploy.’ And they said, ‘Everything looks good.’ And so we made our deploy time and the satellite worked.”

erbs is one of the longest-running spacecraft missions. It was expected to have a two-year operational life, but the mission provided scientific data about Earth’s ozone layer until 2005, more than two decades after deploy­ment. Leestma recalled that improvised decision during the loss of signal as one of the more memorable moments of his spaceflight career.

It’s one of those things that you just kind of go, “Whew!” I don’t think we ever would have gotten permission to do what we did, except that we just decided to go do it. It was fun. That was an exciting time. And both of us looked at each other and we got these kind of sneaky grins on our faces as we’re looking, going, “They would never let us do this, but let’s go try it. ” And Crip let us do it, so that was pretty neat, too. We had a neat crew. The crew was really a lot offun, because we really melded and meshed well together.

Crippen recalled another highlight of the mission, an experiment to test the shuttle’s capability to refuel satellites in orbit, thus extending their lifes­pan. The test focused on hypergolic fuels, which are dangerous in multiple ways—volatile and toxic. Before the mission, discussions were held as to whether it would be better to perform the test with actual hypergolic fuels or with water, which would simulate many of the properties of the hyper –

golics without the danger. The plan was to conduct the experiment during an eva and have Leestma and Sullivan move the hoses, connect them, and transfer the fluid from one tank to another to see if it was feasible.

The commander, Crippen, was very much in the camp of preferring to err on the side of safety, noting that even a relatively minor problem, such as a leak in the payload bay resulting in hydrazine getting on a spacesuit, would mean the crew member could not come back into the cockpit.

Leestma, on the other hand, was one of the people making the argument that the test should be done with hydrazine instead of water. “Hydrazine is very much like water, but it’s got a lot of different properties, one of which is that it blows up if it’s not handled right. Crip and the safety folks were very, very concerned that we shouldn’t do this with hydrazine. We should just do it with water. The heat transfer properties of water and hydrazine are very, very similar, and that’s what we really wanted to know.”

But while Leestma agreed that using water would provide a great deal of the desired data, he also felt that using water wouldn’t really prove that they could do the transfer with hydrazine. In his opinion, the only way to prove you can refuel with hydrazine in space was to actually do it.

Crippen sent Leestma to White Sands Test Facility to learn all he could about the properties of hydrazine and the benefits and risks of doing the test with fuel or water. Leestma spent ten days at White Sands and came back to Crippen with his report. “I came back from there with a real ap­preciation for the capabilities of this deadly stuff,” he said.

Not only does it blow up, but it’s really nasty stuff. You can’t breathe it. If you get it on your skin, you can get poisoned. So there were lots of concerns that if we do hydrazine, but if it sprung a leak and even got on our spacesuits, how are we going to get back in the airlock? We don’t want to bring this stuff back in. We spent lots of time on how much bake-out time we’d have to do, how to get it off our suits. If you get in the sun, can you bake it out so that you don’t bring it in the airlock? And then if we do come back in the airlock, how can you test whether you brought any in with you? How do you get rid of it?

However, despite all those concerns, Leestma still believed the right course of action was to test in orbit using the actual fuels, making sure to estab­lish and use effective safety protocols. Leestma reported all the way up to Aaron Cohen, jsc director of engineering, briefing everyone on why the

mission should use hydrazine and not water. Cohen signed off on it, and Crippen finally did too. “Crip probably had the final say-so on that, and he agreed to have us do it with hydrazine, because he had watched me several times in the neutral buoyancy facility to do the whole procedure, and how careful we were, and we had triple containment of the liquids at all times.”

When it came time to do the eva, Leestma described feeling like he was on top of the world.

Going out the hatch and getting your entire faceplate filled with this Earth— which is just a spectacular sight—it’s emotional and spiritual. The Earth is an incredible creation. Your heart rate goes up and you’re going, “I cannot be­lieve I’m doing this." You’re going almost eighteen thousand miles an hour and you’re weightless. You’ve got this four-hundred-pound suit on, and yet you can move yourself with just a finger. Your faceplate is filled with all these clouds and ocean and ground and greens. It brings tears to your eyes. I actually had tears going on. And you don’t want to have tears in your eyes, because you can’t do anything about it inside the faceplate. So you’ve got all these things going on. “What’s going on here? Calm down, Dave. You’ve got a job to do." But it’s a very emotional rush.

Then it was Sullivan’s turn to exit the airlock as the first woman to do a spacewalk.

Kathy comes out, and you know what’s going through her. You don’t really com­municate that. And then she’s doing something that is historic. Man, you just go, “Wow! Why do I get to do this?" So then you go, “Well, okay. As long as it’s me, that’s great. Let’s press on." It’s an emotional thing. And then you’re going, at that same time, in the back of your mind, which is always the thought that astronauts have right from the time of launch, is, “Don’t screw this up." Make sure you do it by the book and you’re very careful and very meticulous, and you’re going, “Oh, don’t screw this up. "

I felt like it was five minutes, and then Crip or Jerry Ross, the CapCom, said, “Dave, it’s time to get back in the hatch and wash your hands for supper," or something like that. It didn’t last as long as you’d want to.

After weather had shifted his last two landings away from Kennedy Space Center, Crippen, on his fourth mission, finally got the chance to land in Florida. As the orbiter was coming in lower and lower and slowing down as it came, Crippen said he started to notice just how fast the aircraft was flying, something he said he didn’t notice as much while on orbit.

I’m not really sure why that is, but it seems like you’re going faster, when actu­ally you really are slowing down. I can remember I could see Jacksonville, Flor­ida, when we were over probably in Kansas-Missouri area. I could see the whole peninsula of Florida, and shortly after I picked up Jacksonville, I could see the Cape, because it’s very pronounced where it sticks out there where the Kenne­dy Space Center is. Then there’s the shuttle landing facility. Visually I think I picked up everything necessary to fly an entry much earlier than I did while we were coming in to California. Even though we were flying on the autopilot and doing very well, if there had been something wrong with the navigation, I felt like I had the capability to fly it on in and land.

Crippen had practiced a Kennedy landing hundreds of times in the Shuttle Training Aircraft, and the real thing seemed pretty much the same, he said. “I often joke that they’ve got a fifteen-thousand-foot run­way, but they built this moat around it and filled it full of alligators to give you an incentive to stay on the runway. But it worked out well. The landing was fine.”


Crew: Commander Rick Hauck, Pilot David Walker, Mission Special­ists Anna Fisher, Dale Gardner, and Joe Allen

Orbiter: Discovery

Launched: 8 November 1984

Landed: 16 November 1984

Mission: Launch of two communication satellites, retrieval of two com­munications satellites

“We were scheduled to launch on the seventh of November early in the morning, and we loaded into the spacecraft,” 51A mission specialist Joe Al­len recalled. “We unloaded from the spacecraft, in spite of the fact that it was a beautiful, crystal-clear day in Florida and in spite of the fact that the equipment seemed to be working properly.”

As perfect as both the visible weather and the spacecraft were that day, what the crew could not see was what was going on in the upper atmosphere— high wind shear levels.

Allen said that while the crew of the fourteenth shuttle flight was, of course, disappointed by the delay at the time, he later felt much better about the delay. “History now shows we were also possibly very lucky, be­cause both of the tragic accidents, that of the Challenger and that of Co­lumbia, involved launching through very high wind shear conditions, and there’s some thinking now that high wind shears and Space Shuttles do not safely go together.”

The mission was twofold: release two satellites—the Canadian commu­nications satellite TELESAT-H and the defense communications satellite syncom iv-1 (also known as leasat-i)—and retrieve the westar-6 and the palapa-B2 communication satellites, which were deployed on 41B but failed to achieve proper orbits.

While Allen described the mission as “fairly simple,” some members of the crew felt that people underestimated just how challenging the mission would be. “I got several somewhat rude notes from my fellow astronauts underscoring the fact that in delivering the two satellites to orbit and pick­ing two up, that neither Dale nor I was to get these satellites confused,” re­called Allen. “In other words, don’t bring home satellites that we’d just tak­en there. It’s very unkind from our fellow astronauts to point this out, but it was kind of funny.”

Allen recalled meeting several days before the scheduled launch with an associate administrator of NASA. According to Allen, this individual was the newly named head of the Public Affairs Office at NASA. No agen­da was given for the meeting, save that it was scheduled to last for about an hour and take place in a meeting room in the crew quarters at Kenne­dy Space Center.

We went into the meeting room in flight suits, we five crew members, and then in came the associate administrator. Very nice gentleman; introduced him­self, and I think one of his aides or deputies was with him. Introduced him­self all around. We sat down and Rick [Hauck] said, “Now, Mr.—————————————– ”—

it’s unimportant—“what’s the agenda for this meeting.?” Whereupon the naive individual—we didn’t know it at the time—said, “Well, no specific agenda. I just wanted to introduce myself and just say that if there’s anything I can do for you, I’m here to help and wish you good luck. ” We as individual crew members were all surprised, because this really was occupying a good chunk of our morn­ing, and time was very important to us right then. Not that it was discourte­ous of the individual, but it was unclear why this meeting was to take place.

A day earlier, a story had appeared in the Florida Today newspaper in which an unnamed NASA spokesperson quoted the crew as saying that the likelihood of capturing both satellites was very high. The crew members were very curious about the story and, in talking among themselves, deter­mined that none of them had given the quote. It seemed unlikely as well that a member of the support crew would describe the mission in that way. “We were fretful that those words had gone in, because we thought the task was going to be quite difficult,” Allen said.

We didn’t plan to do anything about it, because newspaper stories are newspa­per stories, and it was now water under the bridge. Something about the start of this meeting [with the associate administrator], though, got under Rick’s skin as the commander, and he said, “Mr. So-and-so, there is something that you can do." He then cited this newspaper article of two days ago, and he said, “I do not know who said that. I assure you that none of us said that, nor do we believe it. And I will personally tell you that my assessment is, if we successful­ly capture one satellite, it will be remarkable, and if we get both satellites, it will be a fucking miracle." And he went on to say, “You can quote me on that." Well, the man was shocked, properly so. We were as well. And then Rick said, “If you have no other business, I think this meeting is over. " We’re ten minutes into a one-hour meeting. He excuses himself, somewhat distressed, with prob­ably good reason, and leaves, and we go back, too, and we sort of said [sarcas­tically], “Boy, Rick, that was being very commander-like. But good for you."

While his crew members were somewhat surprised by their commander’s remarks, Hauck explained that he was livid over the comments in the article.

I thought, “Here we are, NASA is shooting themselves in the foot because we are implying that this is easy." And I had the opportunity to see this gentleman, and I said, “You have set NASA up for a humongous failure by the nature of this press release. . . . In my view, if we get one of these satellites back, it’ll be amaz­ing, and if we get both of them back, it’ll be a miracle. . . . You have not done NASA any favors. "There’s no sense in trying to tell the American people and the taxpayers that what you’re doing is easy, because it isn’t easy. It’s very hard, and any implication that it’s easy is a disservice to everybody.

Many parties had a vested interest in bringing the satellites back to Earth. NASA was still trying to prove the shuttle’s capabilities. The insurance com­panies that now owned the failed spacecraft wanted them returned. And McDonnell Douglas, who made the solid rocket motors that failed, was interested in studying what happened to cause the motors to fail. “You put those all together, and there was great motivation from all sides to mount a rescue mission to bring those satellites back,” said Hauck.

The opportunity to recover the satellites came with a great burden of re­sponsibility, even more than usual, Allen said, because of the insurance com­panies involved. The two insurance companies were Lloyd’s of London and International Technology Underwriters. He explained that while, for insur­ance companies in the United States, the potential for losses is mostly felt by the corporations, for Lloyd’s, one of the first insurers in the world market­place, there was a much higher level of personal risk for involved stakeholders. “We learned in a rather roundabout way that more than a few lives would be dramatically affected by our success or nonsuccess, lives of people whom we did not know on the ground, but. . . individuals who would lose [a] consid­erable amount of their personal wealth if the satellites were not recovered.”

Allen said he found it bizarre that the insurance industry was now in­volved in space exploration.

I remember hearing an insurance person from England describe the mission we were about to set offon as very unusual, to his way of thinking, because, he pointed out, he had spent a lifetime insuring things against fire or the chance they would explode, and he said, “With you chaps in the space business, you purposely set fire to a massive amount of explosives, and I find myself now bet­ting on whether you can control the explosion or not. ” And I thought that was a rather graphic way to describe a rocket launch. The more one thinks about it, though, it’s a very accurate way, and sadly, a year later, we saw an example of what happened when we chaps could not control the explosion, and we lost Challenger as a consequence, as a tragic consequence.

Capturing the satellites was not an easy assignment, Allen said. Those who built the satellites never envisioned they would be revisited, much less handled by astronauts. The satellites were supposed to be twenty-two thou­sand miles above the surface of Earth in geosynchronous orbit, far higher than the Space Shuttles could reach, but they had not achieved that orbit.

The only features of the satellites that it might be possible to use as a han­dle were microwave guides and antennae affixed to the top of the satellites, or possibly the engine nozzle at the bottom of the satellites that was used to reposition them from time to time.

nasa engineers came up with a very clever plan, Allen said. “We decid­ed the antennae would be too fragile to grapple, so they decided we would stab the satellite from the back, using a device that I later called a tribute to Rube Goldberg and Sigmund Freud, the device we called the Stinger.”

Allen said the device resembled a folded umbrella. During a spacewalk, the astronauts would put the Stinger inside the rocket and then open it so that the tines of the umbrella would stick against the sides. “When com­pletely suited in the spacesuit and in the mmu with the Stinger device af­fixed to our chest, we looked for all the world like a space-age medieval knight entering a jousting contest,” Allen said.

Allen was looking forward to the opportunity to finally don a spacesuit for the recovery operations, after having missed out on participating in the first shuttle spacewalk back on sts-5, due to a problem with the eva suit. He noted a bit of irony in the fact that, without the satellite recovery, he likely would not have had a spacewalk on this mission, either—on STS-5 he had lost out on performing a spacewalk because of one malfunction, and now, be­cause of a malfunction on a different mission, he was getting a second chance.

Allen and Dale Gardner were suited up with help from Pilot David Walk­er. Walker went to place Allen’s helmet on his head, but Allen said, “Stop.”

I said, “David, stop. I am so hungry. I really need a cookie or something to eat. ” He said, “Oh, Joe, how could you?”. . . I said, “David, I need a butter cook­ie. ” So he goes off into the food pantry, grabs things, throws it hither and yon, and comes back with a butter cookie. I open my mouth—keep in mind I can’t use my hands now—he puts the butter cookie into my mouth, the whole thing, and then he hits my jaw shut. He says, “Eat it, but don’t choke, you little ro­dent. ” I ate the butter cookie; felt better. David put the helmet onto me, popped it. We’re now sealed, and there unfolded a pressurizing and then a depressuriz­ing of the airlock, and the eva started.

Allen maneuvered himself in the mmu to the first satellite and success­fully grabbed hold of it. But he was facing the sun and was being blind­ed by its brightness. He radioed to his crew inside the orbiter, and Hauck moved the orbiter so that a shadow was cast on the satellite and Allen was no longer seeing the sun.

“It was beautiful, clever as could be,” said Allen. “I could then see the bull’s-eye, the center, the rocket engine, very easily, threaded it like I’d done it all my life, deployed the tines of the Stinger, tightened down the clamp, and voila, there it was. Anna [Fisher] grappled me with no problem at all; turned around, and Dale set about affixing the clamp to go to the top.”

However, the tool designed to fit on the top of the satellite did not fit. The problem, the crew later learned, was that the actual satellite was not built to the drawings the crew had used on the ground.

About the time we realized this was the case, Discovery came acquisition of signal, and we reported to the ground that the holding tool did not fit, and they said, “Roger that. We’ll get the back room working on it. What is your plan?” And we said, “We’re going to go to Plan B. ” “Roger that. See you next aos, ” and the ground was now out ofearshot again. David Walker, bless his heart, was the keeper ofall the Plan Bs that we as a crew, prior to the launch, had devised, and we’d written them down. What would we do in the event that “blank” failed? We had a Plan B for what we would do in the event that this clamp failed, and it was, sad to say, written on David’s piece of paper just as “Improvise. ” We re­ally did not know what we were going to do.

The crew discussed it and decided that improvisation would involve af­fixing a foot restraint on the orbiter into which Allen could maneuver the mmu with the satellite. There Fisher would help move the satellite so that Allen could hold the top of it, not with the arm’s grapple fixture, but just by getting a handhold. Gardner would then, by himself, attach the large clamp—normally a two-person job—to the bottom of the satellite. Allen and Gardner had successfully maneuvered the clamp with two people in the water tank at Johnson Space Center several times, and even with two people it hadn’t been easy.

Allen held the satellite for about two hours while Gardner single-handedly affixed the big clamp. “The fact he was able to do it still astonishes me, but he was,” said Allen.

He’s just persistent, the most persistent individual I’ve ever worked with, and one of the smartest, and he did the impossible. Ultimately the clamp was affixed. I later was given far too much credit for supporting a two-thousand-pound sat­ellite for one orbit of the Earth, and a political cartoon appeared in Canadian newspapers the next day showing a chunky little spacesuited crewman standing on the gunnel of an orbiter holding this satellite, and the caption was, “No­body kicks sand in this man’s face anymore, ” referring back to an old Charles Atlas ad of many, many decades earlier. Dale was not recognized in the paper for the heroic work he had done, but his fellow crew members knew of it and still know of it.

Two days later Allen and Gardner used the exact same procedure to re­cover the second satellite. Allen recalled,

We were los, loss ofsignal, and Rick, Anna, and Dave all were very pleased for us and said, “Congratulations, ” and Rick, as the commander, said, “Joe and Dale, when we come aos, I want you to report that both satellites are locked safely aboard. ” We looked at each other and kind of shook our heads outside, and almost together, we said, “Rick, that’s the commander’s job. When we come aos, you report that we have two satellites safely aboard, and you can also use the words fucking miracle. ’” We came aos, and Rick, in his Chuck Yeager—type relaxed drawl, said, “Houston, Roger. Discovery here. We have two satellites safely aboard. ” You could hear the Mission Control people cheering through the microphone of the CapCom. It was really quite fun.

Once both satellites were successfully retrieved and stowed in the pay­load bay, Allen took a photo of Gardner holding a For Sale sign in front of the satellites. “We had prepared in advance of the flight [a sign] that said ‘For Sale,’ because the satellites would be returned and would then be in the ownership and the possession of insurance companies, which had every intention of selling them as brand-new satellites,” Allen explained.

It’s a terrific photo, and one of the only photos I’ve ever taken that shows me as well, because I’m reflected in Dale’s helmet, holding my camera, and the pho­to shows part of the Earth, the blackness of space, Dale Gardner, the For Sale sign, and my likeness reflected in his helmet; a favorite photo of mine to this day.

When we returned, the For Sale photographs—and Rick and Anna and David had taken many from the flight deck as well—were an important part of the press package that went out, and they showed up in a number of maga­zines. I might say that the Lloyd’s of London and the International Technology

The Next Steps

25. Dale Gardner holding a For Sale sign after retrieving two malfunctioning satellites during sts-51A. Courtesy nasa.

Underwriters were very, very pleased with these photographs. NASA was not as pleased, and we were given somewhat curt—“reprimands ” is the wrong word— curt discussions from our headquarters bosses over what did we have in mind in doing that.

After a nearly eight-day mission, the crew landed with both satellites on board at Kennedy Space Center. Allen said two individuals from the U. S. Customs Department met them in crew quarters.

We were surprised by this, and they said they had forms for us to fill out, because we were bringing into the United States approximately $250 million worth of technical hardware, and there was a certain duty now due on this, because any­thing that’s imported into the United States over a certain value must be taxed, and the tax would be 10 percent of $250 million. How did we plan to pay for that? Fortunately, they also had an agreement between Customs and the NASA Office of General Counsel that waived this import duty, that the chief NASA lawyer, Neil Hosenball, had foreseen as a complication and had organized the waiver prior to the success of the mission. But we were to sign the Customs form, and for that they gave each of us a United States Customs hat.

Science on the Shuttle

As the nation’s Space Transportation System, the primary goal of the Space Shuttle was just that—to transport people and cargo back and forth be­tween the surface of Earth and orbit around the planet. However, it was quickly obvious that the shuttle had even greater potential.

In 1973 and ’74, the Skylab space station had demonstrated the value of conducting scientific research in Earth orbit. From the beginnings of the Space Shuttle program, plans had been that the vehicle would support a space station that would continue, and build further upon, the work done on Skylab. However, the realities of budgetary constraints meant that the two could not be developed at the same time and that the space station would have to wait.

In the meantime, though, the Space Shuttle itself would provide a stop­gap measure— a pressurized module placed inside the orbiter’s cargo bay could be roomy enough to serve as an effective orbital science laboratory.


Crew: Commander John Young, Pilot Brewster Shaw, Mission Special­ists Owen Garriott and Bob Parker, Payload Specialists Ulf Merbold (Germany) and Byron K. Lichtenberg

Orbiter: Columbia

Launched: 28 November 1983

Landed: 8 December 1983

Mission: First flight of the Spacelab laboratory module

Launched in November 1983, STS-9 marked a new step forward for the Space Shuttle program, while also hearkening back to the first four mis­sions. The first mission to fly the Spacelab science module, STS-9 was both a demonstration and an operational flight. The primary purpose was to make sure that the Spacelab module worked properly, but that was achieved

by conducting a full complement of scientific experiments. According to STS-9 mission specialist Owen Garriott, who was a member of nasa’s first group of scientist-astronauts and of the second crew of Skylab, the mission of Spacelab I included experiments in biomedicine, astronomy, fluid phys­ics, materials processing, and atmospheric sciences.

A rack of fluid physics equipment enabled the crew to inject liquids, shake them and rotate them, combine them and stretch them, in order to study the small forces associated with the surface tension and the even smaller forces that are associated with fluids that cannot be as easily demonstrated or measured in a one-g environment. An adjacent double rack was dedi­cated to materials science. The racks included furnaces in which material samples could be heated and resolidified. Other equipment focused light on a crystal, melted it, and then allowed it to solidify more carefully. Spec­trometers flown on the mission allowed the crew to conduct stellar astron­omy and air-glow research through the orbiter’s windows.

The variety of the experiments was what drew Garriott to the flight. Gar­riott, who spent more than fifty-nine days in space as a science pilot astro­naut aboard Skylab, explained that for a mission like Skylab or STS-9 that is focused on interdisciplinary scientific research, the ideal crew member is a scientific generalist, with interest and ability in multiple areas, rather than someone who specializes in one field. “My interest is interdisciplinary work, so I found [the mission] quite interesting, and I think it does relate to the fact that you need an interdisciplinary background to try to conduct experiments for all of these pis [principal investigators]. You obviously can’t have a representative for each pi there, and you need somebody who has got some degree of competency in all of the variety of areas.”

Before the flight assignment, during the period between Skylab and shut­tle, Garriott had gone into management, becoming director of science and applications at Johnson Space Center. He was still a member of the astro­naut corps but was no longer actively involved with the Astronaut Office.

I had my hands full two buildings away. I think I still talked to the folks in the Astronaut Office all the time. I was still flying airplanes. I might have been going over to those weekly meetings as well. But I did not have any act­ing role in the Astronaut Office from the standpoint of getting ready for shut­tle or anything else. I was expecting to stay in the Science and Applications

Science on the Shuttle

26. In the Spacelab on the first Spacelab mission are Robert Parker, Byron Lichtenberg, Owen Garriott, and Ulf Merbold. Courtesy nasa.

Directorate until another flight opportunity came along. I’d always intended to return to the Astronaut Office full time as soon as there was the first flight opportunity available.

Garriott started training for the shuttle in 1978, when nasa believed the mission was still only about three years away. “We had a lot of training to do,” Garriott recalled, “because there were something like sixty experiments on board, half from Europe, half from the U. S., roughly. And we visited almost every pi at their facilities and talked with them about how to oper­ate it and the hardware development.”

During that period the crew was very involved in the development of the Spacelab hardware, particularly the controls and displays the astronauts would use to interface with the equipment. “If you don’t understand how [something] works, if it’s not something that’s human friendly, you can waste a lot of time or make a lot of mistakes,” Garriott said. “That was the one thing that supposedly the crew members were more expert in, the in­terface between man and machine.”

Delays meant that Garriott did not make his second spaceflight until a full decade after his first, but he said it was worth it. “That ten-year delay is longer than I expected, but it’s a decision that I really made when I went

over to Science and Applications in the first place. I wanted to come back and fly again. And so I was just anxious to get back and fly again.”

The variety of the experiments meant that the crew members had to spend a substantial amount of time learning about the experiments and working on the ground with the principal investigators with whom they would be interacting from orbit. There had been fewer disciplines represent­ed on Skylab, Garriott recalled, so crew members did not have to travel as much or as far to talk with the principal investigators. “In fact, for most of the time, they came to jsc for our solar physics training and for our bio­medical training.” On Spacelab, the investigators were all over the world, with experiments from around the United States, from countries in Europe, and one from Japan. “We were very international and traveled all over the world in order to talk with the investigators about the conduct of their ex­periments. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to work in all of these different disciplines with the real world’s experts and to learn from them.”

Garriott also felt fortunate to work with the other astronauts on STS-9, including Commander John Young.

I’ve always gotten along extremely well with my fellow crewmates. John Young, who was the commander of Spacelab I, is not an Alan Bean [commander ofGar – riott’s Skylab crew]. He’s motivated differently, different personality, [a] standard sort ofaprototypical test pilot. I was a little concerned about that, since we were bringing in the first foreign international. How well is that going to work? It turns out it worked extremely well, for which I give John Young a lot ofcredit. I really enjoyed having John as the commander ofour flight. And I think after we came back he had no better friend on board our flight than Ulf Merbold. They still often talk. Whenever Ulf comes back, I think they get together for dinner.

While the commander’s primary responsibility in orbit was the operation of the vehicle and oversight of the crew, Garriott noted that Young made several other contributions to support the scientific portions of the mis­sion. For example, when the mounting apparatus for a camera used for a vestibular experiment broke, rather than allowing thousands of film frames to go to waste, Young took the camera and film to the flight deck and spent time taking Earth-observation photographs.

“John really jumped in and assisted in the conduct of the science,” Gar­riott commented. “Before flight there was some little concern about that,

that whether or not a standard prototypical test pilot would enjoy and par­ticipate. But we all really enjoyed having him on board. He did his share, as did the rest of us.”

sts-9 was the first nasa flight to include payload specialists, astronauts who were not career nasa employees. Ulf Merbold, the first internation­al astronaut to fly on the shuttle, was a West German astronaut from the European Space Agency, and Byron Lichtenberg was a researcher from the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology (mit).

Garriott described the feelings of the career astronauts toward the payload specialists as “uncertainty” and compared it to when his class of scientist – astronauts joined the all-pilot astronaut corps.

When we came into the Astronaut Office, I can imagine that the pilots were thinking, “Geez, these old fuzz-hair university types, can they hold their own here, do they know what’s going on?" In the same way, these [payload spe­cialists] are really university types here. Are they really motivated to fly, can they hold their own, and so forth? And I very quickly found out that yes, in­deed, they could. They were on par with all of us. We were very much of the same kind of breed, in my opinion. We got along extremely well. Everybody got along fine. And after thirty years, they’re still some of my best friends. So it was a very pleasant and positive experience for both ms and ps [mission spe­cialists and payload specialists] as far as Spacelab I is concerned. I think that is generally true for most of the flights, though not necessarily in each individ­ual case. When you get up to twenty, thirty people, you’re bound to find some rough corners somewhere. I can say on Spacelab I, it was a remarkably posi­tive experience for all of us.

While Garriott did not recall any resentment over payload specialists tak­ing slots that otherwise might have gone to career astronauts, he also not­ed that in the case of STS-9, the payload specialists had trained for as long as the newest nasa astronauts had been in the corps.

Brewster Shaw, the pilot for STS-9, said that, being in a crew that was mostly rookie space flyers, it was interesting working with veteran astro­nauts Garriott and Young.

John and Owen were the only two guys who had flown. [Robert] Parker had never flown. I’d never flown, and Ulf and Byron had never flown before. So John and

Owen were the experienced guys, and they kind of were the mentors of the rest of us. It was fun to watch Owen Garriott back in the module, because you could tell right from the beginning he’d been in space before, because he knew exactly how to handle himself how to keep himselfstill, how to move without banging all around the other place. And the rest of us, besides he and John, the rest of us were bouncing off the walls until we figured out how to operate. But Owen, it was just like, man, he was here yesterday, you know, and it really had been years and years.

Garriott was among the very small number of astronauts to have the experience of flying on both the Saturn IB rocket and the Space Shuttle. “The launch phase is remarkably similar, because both vehicles have a thrust

which is just a little bit more than the weight of the vehicle. You start out

at very low acceleration levels,” Garriott explained, comparing the g-forces of the vehicles’ initial accelerations to what one would experience in a car.

It keeps building up a little bit, but the important thing is it’s steady. When you accelerate in a car, you accelerate for three or four seconds and then you reach the speed you want to be at. Here, you keep on accelerating. So you keep up an acceleration which is increasing up to maybe three or four gs. But it takes about eight and a half minutes, nine minutes, to get to space on either one of the two vehicles. As you lift off there’s quite a bit of vibration with either vehicle. Once you get above about one hundred thousand feet, first ofall, you stage, you switch to a smaller engine on a second stage, and you’re above most of the atmosphere so the vibration diminishes. Then it just becomes a nice steady push, and you con­tinue that push at about three to four gs, all the rest of the way till you’re into orbit. All of a sudden you’re bouncing up against your straps. So the launch is remarkably the same, in my view, between a Saturn and a shuttle.

With the development, training, and launch complete, it was time for the real business of STS-9 to begin. The crew worked for twenty-four hours a day, divided into two shifts. The commander and pilot each were assigned one shift, and the scientists were split between them. Each crew member was on duty for about twelve hours, with a brief handoff between shifts. The astronauts then had twelve hours off duty, during which to sleep, eat, get ready, and enjoy the experience of being in space.

Shaw remembered that he and Young would spend the majority of their work shifts on the orbiter’s flight deck.

You didn’t want to leave the vehicle unattended very much, because this is still STS-9, fairly early in the program. We hadn’t worked out all the bugs and ev­erything, and neither John nor I felt too comfortable leaving the flight deck un­attended, so we spent most of our time there. We had a few maneuvers to do once in a while with the vehicle, and then the rest of the time you were moni­toring systems. After a few days of that, boy, it got pretty boring, quite frankly. You spent a lot of time looking out the window and taking pictures and all that. But there was nobody to talk to, because the other guys were back in the back end in the Spacelab working away, and, you know, you just had this, “Gosh, I wish I had something to do, " kind of feeling.

While he and Young were not heavily involved in the research part of the mission, Shaw did recall being part of one experiment, designed to study how humans adapted to working in space.

I did “Helen’s balls.". . . Helen was a principal investigator, and she had a bunch of little yellow balls that were different mass. . . . Since there’s no weight, there’s only mass, in zero g we had to try and differentiate between the mass of these balls. You would take a ball in your hand and you would shake it and you would feel the mass of it by the inertia and the momentum of the ball as you would start and stop the motion. Then you’d take another one and you’d try and differentiate between [them], and eventually you’d try and rank [the] order of the balls. . . . And, quite frankly, that’s the only experiment I remember doing.

Garriott used his second flight as an opportunity to make history in a way that had a lasting legacy for the space program. When Garriott was younger, his father took an amateur radio class with him, and the two became ham operators. After he was assigned to sts-9, Garriott got permission to take an amateur radio rig with him on Columbia and was able to make contact with people on the ground. “I’d say fifteen to twenty hours was reserved for use of the ham equipment. . . after the working day was over,” Garriott re­called. “I found that quite interesting and enjoyable, and it turned out to be a very positive thing from the standpoint of the ham radio community.”

While Garriott mostly talked with whomever he happened to get in con­tact with, he had prearranged a few conversations. “There were a few high – profile people that that’s the only way you’ll be able to get in touch with them. Normally, when you just want to talk to anybody, you use a call signal that’s called ‘cq.’ And if you call CQ from space, you’ll probably get a hun­dred answers, so you’re way overloaded. So if you want to [reach] one par­ticular person, you have to specify a time and frequency that’s kept private.” One of the preplanned calls was to Garriott’s hometown of Enid, Okla­homa. “I made arrangements to talk with them and my mother. . . with one of the local hams on the radio,” he said. “Another one was [Senator] Barry Goldwater, who is a very well-known ham in the Senate and always looked after amateur radio very well from that position. And another inter­nationally known, great enthusiast was King Hussein from Jordan.”

For the hundreds of other people Garriott talked to in addition to those preplanned calls, he used a tape recorder to log the contacts. “Everyone I could discern answering my call, I would repeat back their call sign, as many as possible. And then I listened to every one of those tapes. And I had an­other friend go through the whole list, and we responded to everyone whose call sign we could pick out of there. So there were, I don’t know, four or five hundred people that all received a card called a QSL, that’s another special symbol that’s used by hams as a symbol of a contact between two people.” Garriott’s initiative to use amateur radio on STS-9 created a lasting leg­acy. Almost thirty additional shuttle flights carried ham radio and used it to talk to schoolchildren and other groups, allowing students to ask ques­tions of astronauts in orbit during organized events. Years later, amateur ra­dio became a fixture on the International Space Station, with its first crew conducting a ham radio conversation with a school within weeks of board­ing the station. Thousands of students have had the chance to talk to orbit­ing astronauts as a result of the amateur radio contacts begun by Garriott.

That legacy paid off for Garriott himself in a very special way many years later. In 2008 Garriott’s son, Richard, became the first second-generation American space flyer as a spaceflight participant on a Russian Soyuz flight to the International Space Station. While there, Richard was able to use the equipment on the Space Station to talk to his father on the ground. As unique as that experience was, it had an even deeper personal significance for the elder Garriott. “My father and I got our ham licenses together back in 1945, and his call sign was W5KWQ. Mine was W5LNL. Now, normally, when a person dies, they reserve that for a little while, but then they’ll even­tually reissue the call sign. So after my father died, which would have been back in ’81, it hadn’t been reissued yet. So my son got his license [in 2006], and they allowed him to have his grandfather, my father’s, call sign again.” During his son’s flight, Garriott was able to respond to a contact from his father’s call sign, now used by his son.

Garriott recalled another amusing communications-related incident dur­ing the STS-9 flight. Given the historic nature of the first flight of an in­ternational astronaut, a video link was set up between the shuttle, Presi­dent Ronald Reagan, and West German chancellor Helmut Kohl. The link was to include Commander (and moonwalker) Young, German astronaut Merbold, and the U. S. payload specialist, Lichtenberg. In order to save the time of the three crew members to be featured, the two mission special­ists and the pilot were asked to help set up the link and then turn it over to the others. In response to being treated as second-class astronauts, the trio made a silent protest—when the link was established for testing, the video showed Garriott, Parker, and Shaw in a classic “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” pose, with one each covering his eyes, ears, and mouth. “What we were told was that was a hilarious, humorous scene in the con­trol room and that it got into Time magazine.”

While Garriott’s launch experiences were fairly similar between the Saturn IB and the Space Shuttle, his landing experiences were not. Initially, he ex­plained, the return to Earth begins similarly on both vehicles. A slight slow­ing causes the vehicle to dip into the atmosphere, creating an unforgettable glow as the air around the spacecraft heats up. “On the shuttle I happened to be sitting right beside the side window on the mid-deck, so you see all of the blue and yellow flames coming by. Then you get a little lower, it will turn to orange and reddish flames as the temperatures drop down a little bit.”

At that point, the differences between the two reentries begin to be obvious.

As you really get lower, on the command module you have to pop drogue chutes to orient your spacecraft. When you get down to about ten thousand feet, I believe it is, the main chutes come out, and then you finally get down to a big splash in the water. That’s quite different than coming down in a glider. You’ve been used to seeing the rate at which the Earth moves by [from space]. Once you get down to a lower altitude, the Earth starts moving by faster and faster, because you’re lower, you’re closer to it. So it’s interesting to see those two comparisons.

The landing of STS-9 was more than a little unusual. According to Shaw, “We had another lesson on the landing of STS-9, and the lesson was, never let them change the software in the flight control system without having adequate opportunity to train with it.”

The shuttle’s flight control software interprets what actions it needs to take based on the inputs the commander makes on the stick, and how it responds depends on what point it is at in the mission. The settings that Young and Shaw used during training were replaced for the actual flight, which changed how the vehicle handled.

“I don’t remember if we knew about that or didn’t know about that,” Shaw said,

but certainly when John started to de-rotate the vehicle, it responded different­ly than he had trained on. So here we are. John’s flying the vehicle. I’m giving him all the altitude and airspeed calls and everything, and you feel this nice main gear gently settling onto the lake bed. . . . There were only two of us on the flight deck, as I recall, because we still had the ejection seats in Columbia at that time. They hadn’t been taken out, so there was no room for another seat. So. .. the other four were on the mid-deck, and you hear this, “Yay!" and clap­ping when the main gear touched the ground very gently. Then John gets the thing de-rotated and we’re down to about 150 knots or so when the nose gear hits the ground, and it goes “smash!" So it changes from this “Yay! Yay!" to “Je­sus Christ! What was that?" That was just really funny, and I got all of that on tape, because I had a tape recorder going. And poor John, he was embarrassed because of this, the way the nose gear hit down, but it wasn’t his fault. They had changed this thing without him being able to practice using the new flight control system. So that was a good lesson.

The crew learned the next day that Columbia had also suffered yet an­other problem during the reentry and landing—a fire in the vehicle’s aux­iliary power units. “We had one apu shut down, and then when we shut the other two apus down, normally after landing, it turns out one of them was also on fire,” Shaw explained.

The reason the first one shut down was it was on fire. . . and it automatically shut itself down. . . . The next one didn’t shut down until we actually shut it down. But there were two of them that were burning. . . . So we had a fire out­side the APUs that when we shut them down and shut the ammonia off to them, the fires went out. So we had some damage back there, but the fires stopped.

But we didn’t know anything about that till the next day. I got this call and John says, “Hey, did you know that the apus were burning?" "No, I sure didn’t. ”

The flight also had two of the general-purpose computers (gpcs) fail. “That was an interesting thing, too,” Shaw recalled.

John and I were in the de-orbit prep, . . . and we were reconfiguring the GPCs and the flight control systems and the rcs [reaction control system] jets and stuff. . . . About the time that we were reconfiguring the computers, we had a couple of thruster ^firings, and the big jets in the front fired and it’s like these big cannons—boom! boom!—and it shocks the vehicle. You know, you really can feel it if you’re touching the structure. So we had one of these firings and we got the big “Xpole fail” on the CRT, meaning the computer had failed. This is the first computer failure we had on the program. Our eyes got about that big. So I get out the emergency procedure checklist and. . . we started going through the steps and everything. And in just a couple of minutes we had another one fail the same way. . . . So now we were really interested in what was going on. We ended up waiving off our de-orbit at that time. . . . The ground decided, no, we’re going to wait and try to figure out what’s going on with these computers.

When Young’s shift ended, with nothing more he could do to address the problem and wanting to be rested for the landing, he went down to the mid-deck to take a nap, leaving Shaw “babysitting” on the flight deck.

Well, during that timeframe, all of a sudden there starts this noise, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. The next thing, one ofour three imus [in­ertial measurement units] . . . failed and we couldn’t recover it. It turned out its gimbal was failing and it was beating itself to death against the gimbal stop, and that was the banging noise. After a few hours, John comes back upstairs and says, “You know, I really appreciate you guys making all that banging noise when I’m trying to sleep down there. ” I said, “Jeez, John, I’ve got some bad news. Man, we lost an imu. ” And John’s eyes get this big again, because we’ve had two gpc failures and now an imu failure. Anyhow, we got through all that and we entered and landed, and when the nose gear slapped down, one of the gpcs that had recovered failed again. One of them didn’t recover and we flew down with one less computer, but that computer failed again, and that’s why I reconfig­ured flight control systems, as I remember now, because of that computer failure.

Despite the drama of the landing, once Columbia was successfully and safely on the ground, Shaw and the agency were pleased with the results of the shuttle’s first dedicated scientific flight. “We learned a lot from that flight, a tremendous amount. Seventy-seven different investigations, as I recall, on that mission. It was a tremendous success.”


Crew: Commander Bob Overmyer, Pilot Fred Gregory, Mission Special­ists Don Lind, Norm Thagard, and Bill Thornton, Payload Specialists Lodewijk van den Berg and Taylor Wang Orbiter: Challenger Launched: 29 April 1985 Landed: 6 May 1985 Mission: Second Spacelab flight

The next Spacelab flight, 51B, came in April 1985. And there may have been no one more excited about it than astronaut Don Lind, who had been selected in NASA’s fifth group of astronauts in 1966. “I set a record. No one has waited for a spaceflight longer than I have,” Lind said. “I hope nobody ever has to do that. But with the six and a half years I spent in training for two flights that didn’t fly, and then the delays in getting the shuttle pro­gram going, and with the [Apollo i fire, there were long delays, and so it was nineteen years before I got to fly.”

For Fred Gregory, the pilot of the mission and one of the astronauts se­lected in the class of ’78, the wait wasn’t nearly so long, but it was none­theless a huge honor to finally be selected for a crew. “There was shifting of launch times, because we were on Spacelab III and I know we launched before Spacelab II and after Spacelab I. I think they had some payloads that they wanted to deploy quickly, and so the laboratory missions were kind of put in a kind of a second category for priority. But, you know, the date wasn’t important at the time.”

Gregory found it interesting that the overwhelming majority of his train­ing was for a very small part of the mission. Over three-fourths of his train­ing focused on the eight and a half minutes of launch and hour of entry, out of a week-long mission. While the proportions may have seemed odd, it was necessary to make sure the flight deck crew was ready to perfectly ex­ecute the tasks required of it no matter what happened.

It’s like a ballet, you know, without music: individual but coordinated activities that resulted in the successful accomplishments ofeach of these phases, regardless of the type offailure or series offailures that this training team would impose on you. So that’s what we trained for. There were two thousand or so switches and gauges and circuit breakers, any number of which we would involve ourselves with during these two phases, ascent and entry. So the intent was for us to learn this so well, understand the system so well, that we could brush through a failure scenario and safe the orbiter in the ascent such that we could get on orbit and then have time to discuss what the real problem was and then allow you to correct it.

Eventually, it was time to move from the simulations to the real thing. As with sts-9, two shifts worked around the clock. “While each shift worked, the other shift slept,” Gregory said.

We had enclosed bunks on the mid-deck of the orbiter, and that’s where the off shift would sleep, so we never saw them really…. Each shift had its own area of interest, so there was really no competition between the two of them. . . . There were really about four hours a day there was an interaction between the two. It would be the two-hour postsleep transition, when one is just waking up. A shift is waking up, and they are picking up the ball, so to speak, from the other shift. The other shift then prepares to go to bed.

As pilot, Gregory’s responsibilities in orbit mainly focused on the support systems that kept the orbiter functioning. He was technically in charge of one shift, but since the scientists were largely capable of carrying out their duties on their own, his support of them centered around maintaining the vehicle. “During that mission there were very few problems, and those that we had were very minor. So not only did I monitor the shuttle, but I also had a great deal of time to learn about the Earth, and then spent a lot of time looking into deep space. We were in a high-inclination orbit, 57D de­grees, and so it gave us an excellent view of a great part of the Earth.”

The crew was joined by some rather unusual travel mates, recalled Don Lind:

We had the first laboratory animals in space, and Bill Thornton had to wor­ry about them on one shift, and Norm would worry about them on the other shift. . . . We had two cute little squirrel monkeys and twenty-four less-than – cute laboratory rats.

Science on the Shuttle

27. The Spacelab in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle. Courtesy nasa.

The squirrel monkeys adapted very quickly. They had been on centrifuges. They had been on vibration tables. So they knew what the roar and the feeling of space was going to be like. Squirrel monkeys have a very long tail, and ifthey get excited, they wrap the tail around themselves and hang on to the tip of the tail. Ifthey get really excited, they chew on the end of their own tail. By the time we.. . activat­ed the laboratory, which was about three hours after liftoff they were now adjust­ed. They had, during liftoff apparently chewed off about a quarter of an inch of the end of their tails, but they were adjusted and just having a ball. I kept saying, “Let’s let one of them out." “No, no, cant do that. We’d never catch him again."

While the monkeys adapted quickly, the laboratory rats were somewhat slower. “The laboratory rats were not quite as savvy as the monkeys,” Lind said. “They had also been on vibration tables and acoustical chambers and that sort of thing, but they hadn’t learned that this was going to last awhile, and when

we got into the laboratory, they were hanging on to the edge of the cage and looking very apprehensive. After about the second day, they finally found out if they’d let go of the screen, they wouldn’t fall, and they probably enjoyed the rest of the mission. But they were slower in adapting. No big problem.”

Gregory noted that he and Overmyer had the “privilege” of helping with the monkeys at one point, doing cleanup work capturing debris from the food and waste escape in the holding facility.

These rhesus monkeys that we had were extremely spoiled. I think that the en­vironment that they had come from before they came on the orbiter was a place where they received a lot ofattention from the caregivers there. Norm and I would look back into the Spacelab, and we would see Bill Thornton attempting to get these monkeys to do things, like touch the little trigger that would release the food pellets. And I could tell. .. watching them that they expected Bill to do that for them. So we looked back there one time, and we could see that kind of the roles were reversed, that Bill was actually doing antics on the outside of the cage and the monkeys were watching. We almost joked sometimes that they started laugh­ing, and they went back and ate. It was an interesting dynamic to watch Bill Thornton wrestle with or react with the monkeys. It was quite an act back there.

Lind recalled that the substantial amount of automation involved in the Spacelab experiments provided him with a unique opportunity to do an ex­periment of his own. When he realized that a good bit of his duties would consist of regularly checking on automated equipment, he and a partner proposed an experiment to look at the aurora from space. Prior to his mis­sion, the aurora had been photographed from space by slow-scan photom­eters, which give a blurred picture. On Skylab, Owen Garriott had taken a limited number of photographs of the aurora on the horizon.

“There were a few pictures, but not many,” Lind explained.

So Tom and I started thinking about how we could do this. The first thing we wanted were high-time-resolution pictures of the aurora made with a TV cam­era. So we started looking around. What TV system could we get that would be sensitive enough in such a low light level? It turned out that the tv camera that was already on the Space Shuttle was as good as any TV camera we could have bought in the world. But we had to take off the color wheel and photograph in black and white instead of color. So we asked and got one of the TVs modi­fied. Because [we would be doing that only] in black and white, you want to take some still photographs in color to document what color the auroral light is, since that will identify what particles are emitting the light. So we started to look around for an appropriate camera and camera lens. It turned out that the camera that we already had on board and the lens we already had on board were, again, as good as we could have gotten anywhere. NASA only had to buy three rolls of film, special, sensitive color film. So this experiment cost NASA thirty-six dollars, and it’s the cheapest experiment that has ever gone into space. It was very satisfying to us that we made some discoveries on thirty-six dollars. We claimed that we could do more science per dollar per pound than anybody else in the space program.

The experiment proved to be not only cheap, but also effective, revealing a new component of aurora formation.

Despite the busy shift schedule and the additional experiment Lind had proposed to fill the extra time, he eventually found some time to appreci­ate the view from the orbiter’s flight deck windows.

It was like a Cinerama presentation. Both my wife and I are amateur oil paint­ers. … I thought, “Could I ever paint that?"The answer is absolutely not. Grum – bacher [art materials company] doesn’t make a blue that’s deep enough for the great ocean trenches. You look out tangentially through the Earth’s horizon, and you see—I was quite surprised—many different layers of intense blue colors, about twenty to twenty-two different layers of cobalt and cerulean and ultra­marine and other shades, and then the blackest, blackest space you can imag­ine. When you go over the archipelagoes and the atolls and islands in the Pa­cific and down in the Bermudas, you see the water coming up toward the shore from the deep trenches, and it appears as hundreds of shades of blue and blue green up to a little white line, which is the surf, and another little brown line, which is the beach. Nobody will ever paint that. It’s magnificent.

Lind was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the view that it brought tears to his eyes, which he discovered was also a very different experience in orbit.

In space, tears don’t trickle down your cheeks; that’s caused by gravity. In space the tears stay in the eye socket and get deeper and deeper, and after a minute or two I was looking through a half inch of salt water. I thought, “Ooh, this is like a guppy trying to see out of the top of the aquarium." Simultaneously with this, there’s this sense of incredible beauty. But then I had a spiritual feeling, be­cause several scriptures popped into my mind. You know, the nineteenth Psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God." One of the unique Mormon scriptures is, “If you’ve seen the corner of heaven, you’ve seen God moving in his majesty and power." In the book of Romans, it says that the righteous will be coinher­itors with Jesus Christ of all this. I thought, you know, “This must be the way the Lord looks down at the Earth." Because from space, you cant see any gar­bage along the highway. You cant hear any family fights. You see just the beau­ty of how the Lord created this Earth, and that was a very spiritual, moving experience, along with the aesthetics, the physical beauty. I’ll always remem­ber that special feeling, besides the technical satisfaction of a successful mission.


Crew: Commander Gordon Fullerton, Pilot Roy Bridges, Mission Spe­cialists Story Musgrave, Tony England, and Karl Henize, Payload Spe­cialists Loren Acton and John-David Bartoe

Orbiter: Challenger

Launched: 29 July 1985

Landed: 6 August 1985

Mission: Third flight of the Spacelab laboratory module

The third Spacelab flight, 51F, was commanded by Gordon Fullerton, marking his return to space after serving as pilot of the final demonstration flight, sts-4. “It was a great mission,” Fullerton commented.

It really was. Some of the missions were just going up and punching out a sat­ellite, and then they had three days with nothing to do and came back. We had a payload bay absolutely stuffed with telescopes and instruments. We had the instrument-pointing system that had never been flown. We had the idea of let­ting a satellite go and then flying this precise orbit around it and then going back and getting it. So, all kinds of new things, which took a lot of work to write the checklists for, write the flight plan, and so we spent a year and a halfdoing that.

After all the preparation, the mission had a rather inauspicious begin­ning. All three Space Shuttle main engines lit properly on schedule seconds before the scheduled launch, but then one failed before the solid rocket mo­tors were ignited, leading to a launchpad abort.

“Karl Henize was pounding on his leg, really mad because he didn’t get to go,” Fullerton recalled.

I turned around to Karl and said, “We don’t want to go, Karl. There’s some­thing wrong out there, you know. " We were worried then: is this going to. . . mess everything up? It did to some extent, but the ground worked overtime, be­cause everything was sequenced by time because it’s an astronomy thing. Wheth­er we’re on the dark side or the light side, all that had to be rewritten. And it all worked out great. We even made up for the fuel we’d had to dump because of the engine failure on the way up [on our second attempt] and eked out an extra day on it. We were scheduled for seven and made it eight.

Once on orbit, the crew followed the established Spacelab pattern of working twenty-four hours a day, in two, twelve-hour shifts. “I anchored my schedule to overlap transitions, so if something came up on one shift, I could learn about it and carry it over to the next shift, hopefully,” Ful­lerton recalled.

But I also had to stagger things so I got on the right shift for entry, so I was in some kind of reasonable shape at the end of the mission. At the beginning, too, we had the red team sleeping right up till launch time so that once we got on orbit, the red team was the first one up, and they’d go for it for twelve hours. So it was all that kind of thing, juggling around so that the right people that had to be alert for launch and entry were. We got into that circadian cycle prior to launch. So the last week they didn’t see the other team; I only saw part of one and part of the other myself.

Compared to his first mission on a two-person demonstration flight, the presence of a larger, seven-member crew this time around had down­sides as well as benefits.

The pressure is higher when you’re commander—the pressure of making sure that not only you, but somebody else, doesn’t throw the wrong switch. With Jack and I, it was just the two of us. He only had to worry about me, and I him. We could double-check each other. With seven people, there are many opportunities for somebody to blow it, not to say instant disaster, but to use too much fuel or to overheat some system or not have the right ones on and blow the chance to get this data. . . . That’s a lot of other people throwing switches, too.

In addition to the responsibility of supervising the crew’s actions, Fuller­ton found many other pressures involved in the role of commander.

During the entry, there was the pressure, [of] it’s your fault if this doesn’t come out right. When you’re in the [pilot’s] right seat, it’s not all your fault. The com­mander bears culpability even if you make a mistake. I’m dwelling on this pres­sure thing because that really is a strong part of the challenge. I mean, you’re really tired after spaceflight. I think you’re tired mostly because you elevate your­self to this mental high level of awareness that you’re maintaining. Even when you’re trying to sleep, you’re worried about this and that. So it’s not like you’re just lollygagging around and having a good time. You’re always thinking about what’s next and mostly clock watching. Flying in orbit is watching a clock. Every­thing’s keyed to time, and so you’re worried about missing something, being late.

The mission featured another historic footnote. In the mid-1980s the “Cola Wars” between competing soda brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola were in full swing, and on this mission the competition moved into space. Each company attempted to find a way to dispense its beverages in micro­gravity so that astronauts could drink them on the shuttle. Gravity plays an important role in the proper mix of carbonated sodas, and in microgravity the carbonation separates. The goal was to create a device that would en­sure the beverages were properly mixed as they were consumed. Ultimate­ly, however, the unique factors of the near-weightless environment limited the success of both attempts.

Astronaut Don Peterson, who had already left the astronaut corps at the time, recalled an incident during the 51F flight that demonstrated just how many people it took to make the shuttle successful, including a large number of people who never receive any recognition. “I remember, this. . . was one of the flights that Story Musgrave was on, because he and I were friends and I was kind ofwatching. During launch, they got an indication from instrumen­tation that one of the engines on the orbiter was overheating; . . . it was over­pressure or overheat, something, and they shut it down,” Peterson remembered.

They were far enough along in launch that they could still get to orbit. Well, then they got the same indication on the second engine. Now, if you shut down a second engine, you’re into an abort, and that’s a pretty messy operation. There was a young woman [who] looked at that. She was the booster control in the

Mission Control Center and this is happening in real time. You’ve [got] to re­alize, this sucker’s up there burning away and you’ve got people, human be­ings, on board and all that. She looked at that and said, “I don’t believe we’ve got two engine failures on the same flight. That’s highly improbable. I believe we’ve got an instrumentation failure. Don’t shut the engine down. " Now, in hindsight, that was a wonderful decision, but had she been wrong, the back end of the vehicle would have blown out and killed everybody on board and lost a shuttle.

While the woman’s decision saved the mission, she received little recogni­tion for her split-second call, outside of nasa insiders closest to the situation.

Of course, the flight crew and all us people thanked her profusely, and she was recognized, but I don’t think she ever really got any public recognition for that at all. But, I mean, that’s a life-or-death decision under tremendous pressure with. . . human beings and a two-and-a-half-billion-dollar vehicle. And you can’t get under much more pressure than that, and she called it right. What I did to her was terrible. I called her up later. I waited about a month and called her up and said, “I’m Robert Smith, and I’m a reporter with Life magazine. I understand that you’re the woman that saved Story Musgrave’s life." And there was this long, long silence. And finally she said, “Who the hell is this?" Story has a reputation as a lady’s man. So she kind of got a kick out of that, I think.


Crew: Commander Hank Hartsfield, Pilot Steven Nagel, Mission Spe­cialists Bonnie Dunbar, James Buchli, and Guion Bluford, Payload Specialists Reinhard Furrer, Ernst Messerschmid, and Wubbo Ockels Orbiter: Challenger Launched: 30 October 1985 Landed: 6 November 1985 Mission: German Spacelab laboratory flight

The fourth Spacelab flight, 61A, was yet another mission that introduced new elements to the shuttle program by building on its predecessors, par­ticularly the first Spacelab flight. STS-9 had been distinguished from previ­ous shuttle missions in part for carrying the first European crew member, West German astronaut Ulf Merbold. If STS-9 had been a further step to­ward international spaceflight, 6ia was a leap—a mission purchased by and dedicated to the work of a foreign country, West Germany.

Commander Hank Hartsfield recalled explaining to a West German reporter the circumstances of Germany paying to use the German-built Spacelab module. “He said he wants to know how much Germany has to pay the United States to use their Spacelab, because Spacelab was built in Germany. It was built in Bremen. They were very sensitive about it. I think Germany had paid eighty million dollars for that flight. But this report­er was taking a very nationalistic look at it: ‘We built it and now we have to pay to use it.’” Hartsfield explained that what the reporter failed to un­derstand was that, while West Germany had built the modules, it did not own them. The first Spacelab module West Germany built, lmi, was given to the United States in exchange for flying Payload Specialist Ulf Merbold and experiments, and the second, LM2, was purchased by nasa.

According to Hartsfield, working with the Germans in planning the mis­sion was an interesting process, filled with “delicate” negotiations. While he explained that he would stop short of describing nasa’s West German part­ners as “demanding,” they definitely had expectations for what they wanted out of the mission. “They pushed hard to get what they wanted out of the contract that they had signed with the U. S., and they took an approach where they would hang up on words, on what a word meant, in the agreement.”

For example, one of the biggest controversies Hartsfield remembered is what language would be used on the mission.

They wanted to use the German language and talk to the ground crews in Ger­many and speak German. I opposed that for safety reasons. We cant have things going on in which my part of the payload crew can’t understand what they’re getting ready to do. It was clearly up front, the operational language will be English. We fought that one hard. We finally cut a deal that in special cases, where there was real urgencies, that we could have another language used, but before any action is taken, it has to be translated into English so that the com­mander or my other shift operator lead and the payload crew can understand it. . . . There were several times we did use the language during the flight, they asked for German, and it all worked real well. In fact, one case, I think it was national pride. Somebody wanted to talk to Wubbo [Ockels]—he was from the Netherlands—and they wanted to speak Dutch. Somebody insisted they had this urgent thing, and a friend of mine that spoke Dutch said, “You know what the guy wanted to do? He wanted to say, ‘Hello, Wubbo, how’s it going?”’

Hartsfield recalled a conversation with West German mission manager Han – sulrich Steimle, whom he described as “a very interesting fellow” who “liked to philosophize.” During preparation for the mission, the two became friends and would discuss cultural differences between the two countries. “He says, ‘You know, in the United States, when a new policy comes down, the Americans, they look at this and say, ‘Okay, here’s what we’ve got to do,’ and they salute and go do it. He says, ‘In Germany, when a new policy comes down, we study it very carefully, and decide how we can continue to do what we’re doing un­der this new policy.’ I thought, ‘Boy, is that ever true.’ I know some people in the United States that do that, too, you know. I worked with some of them.”

The multinational nature of the crew popped up in various and inter­esting ways, from the larger issues that led to the “delicate negotiations” to more trivial and potentially amusing incidents, Hartsfield recalled.

We were training in Building 5 [at Johnson Space Center], and once we went into quarantine,… we had to use the back door, and they issued keys to us. The keys had two letters and a number on it that identified that particular key. . . . Well, when we issued the keys, Ernst [Messerschmid, one of the German astro­nauts] came to me, and he was pulling my chain, because he’s a wonderful per­sonality, he said, “Is there any significance to the fact that I got a key with ss on it?” [“ss ” was the abbreviation for the Schutzstaffel, an official Nazi paramil­itary organization during World War II.] So we got a big laugh out of it. He did. “No,” I said, “it’s the luck of the draw.”

The mission was the first to be partly directed from outside the Unit­ed States. Germany had built its own control center in Oberphaffenhofen, southwest of Munich. Yet another of the interesting cultural differences came to light during a visit by the crew to the control center during mission preparations. “They had an integrated sim, the first one they’d run, and the whole payload crew was over there working in the simulator and doing this sim to get their controllers up to speed,” Hartsfield recalled.

Well, they were also filming a documentary on how Germany was preparing for this thing, and so there were camera crews walking around in their control center taking pictures, and it got to be lunchtime. Things are different in Ger­many, you know, about drinking. To have wine and beer at lunch is a common thing. Well, in the basement of the control center, like in a lot of German busi­nesses, they’ve got machines like Coke machines, but it’s a beer machine. The flight controllers had all gone down and got a beer, and here is this crew, all of them got a beer, sitting on the console, and eating lunch. I called Hansulrich Steimle, and I said, “Hansulrich, I know how things are here in Germany, but you’re filming for posterity here. ” I said, “If this film goes outside of Germany, some people may not understand your flight controllers drinking on duty. ” Then I became very unpopular, because some of them knew that I had said something, because he made them put their beer away.

The cultural differences were particularly an issue during mission prep­arations for Bonnie Dunbar, the only female member of the crew. As the two nasa mission specialists, she and Guy Bluford were sent over early to begin training in West Germany.

When I showed up there was a lot of discussion about both of us, but, with re­spect to me, they were very concerned that I had been assigned to the flight, be­cause their medical experiment wasn’t intended to include female blood. They thought that would ruin their statistics. . . . I was actually told in front of my face—and I have to first of all qualify that I’ve become very good friends with all these people; but any time you’re at the point of the pathfinder, there’s going to be things happening—I was told that maybe NASA had done this intention­ally to offend the Germans by assigning a woman.

As they started to work through that, it came to light that some of the experiments on the mission, such as the vestibular sled experiment, did not fit her, and the Germans began saying they were going to need for her to be replaced. This was Dunbar’s first flight assignment, and she began to wor­ry that she would lose her seat. “At that time Dr. Joe Kerwin was head of Space and Life Sciences. . . . He actually wrote a memo for the record and to dfvlr [Deutsche Forschungs Versuchsanstat fur Luft und Raumfahrt, the German Aerospace Research Establishment] stating that all equipment should be designed to this percentile spread. So they stood by [me].”

However, Dunbar also had many positive experiences working with the West Germans in preparation for the mission and enjoyed their excitement about it. She began working with the Germans during preparations for the first Spacelab flight, and she said it was fun to see the atmosphere there dur­ing their entry into working with human-rated vehicles.

When I went over there, it was a very exciting time for them. The Bundestag had become involved in this, which is their legislative government. At that time the seat of government in [West] Germany was in Bonn, and were training in Bonn/Cologne. So it wasn’t unusual for our two German astronauts, Ernst Messerschmid and Reinhard Furrer, to have lunch with what we’d call a sena­tor. There was just a lot of interest. The mission manager at that time told me that they hoped to use this mission not only to advance their science and human spaceflight but to inspire a generation of young people in Germany that real­ly hadn’t had inspiration since the war, and they lost the war. So this had very much a political flavor to it, not just a scientific flavor to it.

According to Dunbar, the German astronauts were great to work with, and it was very interesting being around them in West Germany, where they had a respected, heroic status.

Actually, it was fun to talk to them, because in Germany they very much oc­cupied an Original [Mercury] Seven status, and so it was always interesting to hear from their perspective and see what they were doing, how the program was being received. It’s changing now, but there’s still a lot of dichotomy, even in Germany, about the value ofhuman spaceflight, even though they’re a major partner in esa [the European Space Agency] and in the Space Station, because there would be one or two ministers that would vocally try to kill the program, and so we were interested in working with them and helping them.

Hartsfield recalled several highlights of 61A once the preparations were complete and the flight was finally underway. “I would say it was probably the most diverse mission ever flown,” Hartsfield asserted.

We had a black, a woman, two Germans, a Dutchman, and a marine. I mean, how diverse can you get, you know? And there was some funny things hap­pened. We launched on October 30, and of course, October 31 was Halloween. So I took a back off one of the ascent checklists we weren’t going to use anymore, and I drew a face on it, cut out eyeholes, got some string, and I made myself a mask. I took one of the stowage bags and went trick-or-treating back in the lab. Of course, they don’t do Halloween in Germany, or Europe, so they didn’t know what I was up to. I decided not to pull any tricks on them, but I didn’t get much in my bag. But somebody took a picture. One of the guys took a pic­ture of me with that mask on, holding that bag, and somehow that picture got released back in the U. S. About a month after the flight, I got a letter from NASA headquarters. Actually, the letter had come from a congressman who had a complaint from one of his constituents about her tax money being spent to buy toys for astronauts. She was very upset. So it was sent to me to answer, and I had to explain, hey, nothing was done, and it was made in flight from mate­rial we didn’t need anymore. It was just fun. I never heard any more, so I think maybe that satisfied her. She had the notion that we had bought this mask and bag and stuff just to do Halloween.

Another amusing anecdote Hartsfield recalled involved Bluford.

Steve [Nagel] and I were up on the flight deck. All of a sudden, we heard this bang, bang, bang! It sounded like somebody was tearing up the mid-deck. We peeked our heads down in the hole on the side where the bunks were. About that time we saw the bottom bunk come open, and the top one. Bonnie is stick­ing her head out looking up and Ernst is looking down, and all this banging is going [on] in this little bunk. So they slide Guy’s door open to his bunk, and he kind of looks around, “Oh," and he pulls it back shut and goes back to sleep…. Apparently, he had awakened and didn’t know where he was. He had a little claustrophobia or something, and he was completely disoriented, you know. But when he finally saw where he was, he said, “Okay," and he went back to sleep.

Hartsfield also recalled the crew flying through a mysterious cloud of particles during orbit. “Steve was up on the flight deck with Buckley, and they yelled back at me, ‘Hey, Hank, get up on the flight deck.’ And I got up there and looked out the window, and there was these little light things, bouncing off the windscreen. At first I couldn’t tell how fast they were going. Zoom! Zoom! They looked like they were going real fast. And I said, well, it can’t be that fast, and couldn’t be massive, because they aren’t breaking the window or anything. We were down close to Antarctica, at the south­ernmost point of our orbit.”

For the duration of the mission, the crew had no idea what was causing the phenomenon. In fact, according to Hartsfield, answers didn’t come un­til after the landing, when engineers looked at the orbiter’s front windows. “When the solids [separated during launch], it would coat the windscreen. When those little things hit it, it was cleaning the windscreen. Those spots just took the grease right off of it. When we got back, we found out it was water. We had done a water dump on the previous rev. And we didn’t real­ize it, but all of that turned into ice particles. And then we flew through it. It was weird. We were looking at the window, zoom zoom zoom. It would hit the windows and bounce off, and you’re wondering what the hell it was.”

Secret Missions

From its payload-carrying capacity to the wings that provided its substan­tial cross-range, the Space Shuttle was heavily shaped by the role the U. S. Department of Defense played in its origins. After Congress essentially pit­ted nasa’s Skylab program and the air force’s Manned Orbiting Laborato­ry against each other for funding in the late 1960s, nasa decided to try to avoid such problems with its next vehicle by soliciting DoD involvement from the beginning. In several ways, the shuttle’s design and capabilities were influenced by uses the military had in mind for the vehicle.

Until early 1985, however, the military played only a limited role in the shuttle’s use. Beginning as early as STS-4, there had been flights with classi­fied military components, but there had yet to be a dedicated military clas­sified flight. That would change with 51c, in January 1985.


Crew: Commander T. K. Mattingly, Pilot Loren Shriver, Mission Special­ists Ellison Onizuka and James Buchli, Payload Specialist Gary Payton

Orbiter: Challenger

Launched: 24 January 1985

Landed: 27 January 1985

Mission: Launch of classified military intelligence satellite

T. K. Mattingly had dealt with classified elements previously, as com­mander of STS-4. After he returned from that mission, Deke Slayton asked him if he would be interested in staying in the astronaut corps and com­manding the first fully DoD-dedicated classified mission. Slayton told Mattingly that the mission should require only six months of training, which would be a very short turnaround compared to many flights. Mat­tingly recalled, “With all the training and all of the years we put into the program, the idea of turning around and going right away was very ap­

pealing, to get my money back for all that time. . . and so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that.’”

The pilot of 51c, Loren Shriver, said the rest of the crew was chosen to bridge the two worlds involved in the mission. Rounding out the crew were air force colonel Ellison Onizuka, marine corps colonel James Buch – li, and air force major Gary Payton. “We knew that STS-10 [as it was orig­inally called] was going to be DoD,” Shriver noted, “and when the crew was formed, it was all military guys that formed the crew. I think NASA be­lieved that it didn’t have to do that, but I think it also believed that things would probably go a lot smoother if they did. So they named an all-active – duty military crew.”

Although the promised quick turnaround had been the drawing card for the mission for Mattingly, problems with a solid-fuel engine used to deploy a payload on one of the shuttle’s first operational missions caused a delay for the mission, since the plan was for 51c to also use a solid-fuel booster to deploy its classified payload. The flight was grounded for more than a year.

During the delay, Shriver learned that being assigned to a crew could have a downside. Traditionally, being named to a crew had been one of the best things that could happen to astronauts—they knew they were going to fly, they knew what their mission was going to be, and they had some idea of roughly when they would fly. With STS-10, which was renamed 51c during the delay, the crew discovered that sometimes being part of a crew could actually keep you from flying. “I thought, ‘Well, maybe I never will fly.’” Shriver said. “It was the kind of situation where once you were identi­fied as the crew for that mission, then especially this one being a DoD mis­sion, you were kind of linked to it, as long as there was some thought that it was going to happen. And it never did completely go away. It just went kind of inactive for a while and then came back as 51c.”

The classified payload for the mission was reportedly the Magnum satel­lite, a National Security Agency satellite used to monitor military transmis­sions from the Soviet Union and China. While the mission was officially clas­sified, according to news reports at the time, information about the payload and its purpose is available in congressional testimony and technical journals.

Everything about the mission was classified, not just the payload. This included all details about training, astronaut travel, and even the launch date. “I couldn’t go home and tell my wife what we were doing, anything about the mission,” Mattingly said. “Everybody else’s mission, everybody in the world knew exactly what was going on; NASA’s system is so wide open. They could tell their wives about it, their family knew, everybody else in the world knew what was on those missions. We couldn’t talk about anything. We couldn’t say what we were doing, what we had, what we were not do­ing, anything that would imply the launch date, the launch time, the tra­jectory, the inclination, the altitude, anything about what we were doing in training. All that was classified. Couldn’t talk about anything.”

People ask questions all the time, Mattingly said, and they ask even more questions when they know that they can’t know the answer.

Then they just get even more adamant that you should tell them and try to dream up of more tricky ways to get you to say something—the media, of course, being number one in that game. . . . Everybody had an opinion as to what it was, and you’d just say, “Cannot confirm or deny," and that’s all that was nec­essary. . . . It was humorous, I guess, to listen to people out there trying to guess as to what it might be. You’d say, “Okay. Well, just let that churn around out there. I’m going to go do my training and not worry about it." And eventually you don’t think much about it. But it does require you, then, when you do go meet the press or you do go do public presentations, that you have to think a lit­tle bit harder about what you can say and not say.

As a result of the delay, Mattingly and crew spent a substantial amount of time preparing for the mission, in an unusual experience that blended the very different cultures of NASA and the military. “The interesting thing about the classified mission is JSC and the whole NASA team has worked so hard at building a system that insists on clear, timely communication,” Mattingly said. “The business is so complex that we can’t afford to have se­crets. We can’t afford to have people that might not know about something, even if it’s not an anomaly. For something that’s different, something un­usual, we try to make sure that it’s known in case it means something to somebody in this integrated vehicle.”

But for a classified military mission the number of people who could know and talk about the mission details was limited. “I had some apprehensions about could we keep the exchange of information timely and clear in this small community when everybody around us is telling anything they want, and we’re kind of keeping these secrets,” Mattingly explained. “Security was

the challenge of the mission. How do you plan for it? How do you protect things? We went around putting cipher locks on all the training facilities, but then you had to give the code to a thousand people so you could go to work.”

Shriver also recalled concerns that the requirement of classification of el­ements of the mission would interfere with the open communication that was a vital part of safety and mission assurance. “In the nasa system, ev­erything is completely open; . . . everybody is pretty well assured of having the information that they know they need. We were concerned that just the opposite was going to happen, that because of the classification surround­ing the mission, people were going to start keeping secrets from each other and that there was a potential that some important product or piece of in­formation might not get circulated as it should.”

In reality, Shriver opined, nasa and the DoD managed to find ways to make compromises that protected the information that needed to be pro­tected while allowing for sharing of information that needed to be shared.

The mission, yes, was classified. Certain descriptive details about what was go­ing on were always classified, but within that classification shell, so to speak, the system was able to find a way to operate and operate very efficiently, I thought. There were still some hiccoughs here and there about how data got passed back and forth, and who could be around for training and who couldn’t, and that sort of thing. But eventually all that got worked through fairly well, and I think the pathfinding we did on that mission helped some of the subsequent DoD – focused missions to be able to go a little bit smoother.

A special room for storing classified documents and having classified conversations was added to the Astronaut Office. The new ready room in­cluded a classified telephone line. “They said, ‘If certain people need to get hold of you, they’ll call this number,’” Mattingly recalled.

It’s not listed and it’s not in the telephone book or anything. It’s an unlisted num­ber, and this causes less attention. “You’ve got to keep this out of sight, don’t let anybody know you’ve got it, and this is how we’ll talk to you on very sensitive things." So we had a little desk in there, put it in a drawer, and closed it up. In the year we worked on that mission, we spent a lot of hours in this little room because it was the only place we could lay our stuff out; the phone rang once, and yes, they wanted to know if I’d like to buy mci [telephone] service.

Even if, by and large, the mission stakeholders did a good job making sure that the secrecy didn’t prevent needed information from being shared, there was at least one occasion when it went too far, Mattingly recalled. “My sec­retary came in one day, and she was getting used to the idea that there’s a lot of people we deal with that she doesn’t know. . . . She came in to me one day, and she says, ‘You just got an urgent call.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘Joe (or somebody) says call immediately.’ So, okay. ‘Joe who?’ She said, ‘He wouldn’t tell me. He said you’d know.’ We went in our little classified room and said, ‘Does anybody know a Joe?’ We never did figure out who it was, and he never called back.”

Preparing for a classified mission was quite the adjustment because of the differences between NASA and air force security systems and the many rules for how to deal with classified information. “In any bureaucracy we sometimes overdo things, but as much [as] we make fun of these folks, they convinced me that some of the precautions we were taking were, in fact, justified,” Mattingly stated.

I was a bit skeptical, but they showed me some things that at least I bought into. Whenever we traveled, they wanted to keep secret when was the launch time, and they certainly wanted to keep secret what the payload mission was. And to keep the payload mission secret, that meant whenever we went somewhere they wanted us to not make an easy trail when we’d go somewhere. To keep the launch time classified, they wanted us to make all our training as much in the daytime as at night, so that someone observing us wouldn’t be able to figure this out. They nev­er convinced me that anyone cared, but they did convince me that if you watch these signatures you could figure it out, and it is secret because we said it was.

The extra work to preserve secrecy, in Mattingly’s opinion, turned out to have some benefits, but also plenty of downsides to go along with them.

I didn’t mind the idea of flying equal [time in] day and night, because that meant I got to fly more, because I wasn’t about to split the time, we’ll just double it. So that was a good deal. But then they had this idea they wanted us, when­ever we went to a contractor that was associated with the payload or with the people we were working with, they didn’t want us to get in our airplane and fly to that location. They wanted us to file [flightplans] to go to Denver and then refile in flight and divert to a new place so that somebody who was track­ing our flight plans wouldn’t know. And when we’d get there, we could check in using our own names at the motel, but, you know, just Tom, Dick, and Harry. So, just keep a low profile.

Even so, the mission preparations did, at times, demonstrate the dif­ficulty of keeping secrets when too many people know the information.

We went out to Sunnyvale [California], and we were going to a series of class­es out there, and this was supposed to be one of these where you don’t tell any­body where you’re going, don’t tell your family where you’re going to be, just go. But the secretary got a room for us. So we went, landed at one place, went over to another place, landed out there at Ames, had this junky old car that could hardly run. El [Onizuka] was driving, and Loren and Jim [Buchli] and I were crammed in this little tiny thing, and we’re going down the road and looking for a motel. And we didn’t stay in the motel we normally would stay at. They put us up and tell us to go to some other place and they had given us a name. So we went to this other place, and it was very inconvenient and quite a ways out of the way. And as we drive up the road, Buchli looks out the window and he says, “Stop here. " So we pull over, and he says, “Now let’s go over [the security proce­dures] one more time. We made extra stops to make sure that we wouldn’t come here directly, and they cant trace our flight plan. And we didn’t tell our fami­lies, we didn’t tell anybody where we are. And we can’t tell anybody who we’re visiting." He says, “Look at that motel. What does that marquee say?" “Wel­come STS-51C astronauts, "andeverybody’s name is in it, andyou walk in and your pictures are on the wall. Says, “How’s that for security?"

Security lapses such as that proved frustrating for the crew, Mattingly re­called, when they themselves made great efforts to preserve secrecy only to watch the information get out anyway. “Those are dumb things, but they show that we went to extraordinary lengths trying to learn how to do some of these things. And the coup de grace came when, after, you know, ‘I’ll cut my tongue off if I ever tell anybody what this payload is,’ and some air force guy in the Pentagon decides to hold a briefing and tell them, before we launched, after we’d done all these crazy things. God knows how much money we spent on various security precautions and things.”

Even with the things that were revealed, the public face of the classi­fied mission was also unusual, Mattingly said, explaining that the pub­lic affairs people at Mission Control had an interesting time dealing with the media. “For the first time the mocr’s [Mission Operations Control Room] not going to be open for visitors, there’s nothing to say, nothing to do, you know. ‘They launched.’ ‘Yeah, we saw that.’ ‘Oh, they came back.’ ‘That’s good.’”

On launch day, those tuning in heard the usual launch discussions at launch control, but the communications between ground control and the astronauts were not broadcast, as they had been on all previous flights.

Shriver said that the secrecy had personal ramifications for the astro­nauts, who wanted to share with their friends and family their excitement about the flight—in Shriver’s case, his first.

The airforce did not even want the launch date released. They didn’t want the crew member names released. We weren’t going to be able to invite guests for the launch in the beginning. This is your lifetime dream and ambition. You’re finally an astronaut, and you’re going to go fly the Space Shuttle, and you can’t invite anybody to come watch. It was an interesting process. We finally got them talked into letting us invite [people]; I think each one of us could invite thirty people, and then maybe some other car-pass guests who could drive out on the causeway. But trying to decide who, among all of your relatives and your wife’s relatives, are going to be among the thirty who get to come see the launch, well, it’s a career-limiting kind of decision if you make the wrong decision.

All in all, Mattingly said, he considered the mission to be a success and was proud to be a part of it. He said the real contributors were the people who prepared the payloads but that it was an honor to have the opportu­nity to deliver them.

I still cant talk about what the missions were, but I can tell you that I’ve been around a lot of classified stuff and most of it is overclassified by lots. I think at best it’s classified to protect the owners, you know, it’s self-protection. What those programs did are spectacular, they are worth classifying, and when the books are written and somebody finally comes out and tells that chapter, everybody is go­ing to be proud. Now, all the things we did for security didn’t add one bit, not one bit. But the missions were worth doing, really were. The work was done by others, but just to know that you had a chance to participate in something that was that magnificent is really kind of interesting.


Crew: Commander Bo Bobko, Pilot Ron Grabe, Mission Specialists David Hilmers and Bob Stewart, Payload Specialist William Pailes

Orbiter: Atlantis

Launched: 3 October 1985

Landed: 7 October 1985

Mission: Deployment of two military communications satellites, first flight of Atlantis

Bo Bobko was assigned to command the next classified military mis­sion, 51j, which flew in October 1985. Like 51c, its crew also had a strong military presence: Pilot Ron Grabe of the U. S. Air Force, David Hilmers, U. S. Marines, Bob Stewart, U. S. Army, and Payload Specialist William Pailes, Air Force.

Despite the mission’s classified nature, Commander Bo Bobko described the mission as “pretty vanilla.” “I mean, we went on time and we landed according to the schedule,” Bobko said. “The fact that it was classified was a pain, but you lived with that. Somebody might be doing an experiment, and he could be working on the experiment out in the open as long as it was away from NASA, but having the experiment associated with that shut­tle flight was the classified part of it. So I couldn’t call a person, because as the commander, if I called them, it would give an indication that that ex­periment was on that shuttle flight.”

The 51J mission was the first flight of Atlantis. Bobko, who had also served on the maiden voyage of Challenger, said Atlantis flew well on its first flight.

NASA has subsequently released the information that the payload for the mission included a pair of Defense Satellite Communications System sat­ellites, part of a constellation of satellites placed in geosynchronous orbit to provide high-volume, secure voice and data communications. The sys­tem was a next-generation upgrade from a network the military originally began launching in 1966.

People and Payloads

In 1983 a new classification of astronauts had emerged, joining pilots and mission specialists: payload specialists. Until this point, being an astronaut was a full-time job, a career choice that people committed to for years. They were given broad training, which prepared them to carry out any variety of mission they might be assigned. Payload specialists, on the other hand, had other careers; flying in space, for them, was not their job, but a job duty. Payload specialists were just that—specialists from organizations, includ­ing universities, companies, and nations, responsible for a shuttle payload, who accompanied that payload during flight and helped with its operation.

On 28 November 1983 the sTs-9 mission, also known as Spacelab I, had launched into space the first payload specialists: Byron Lichtenberg, a biomedical engineer from the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology, and Ulf Merbold, a West German physicist representing the European Space Agency. Lichtenberg was the first American who was not a career astro­naut to fly in an orbiting U. S. spacecraft, carrying out an experiment in space that he helped design and that he would help analyze and interpret as a member of a research team. Before that, scientists had instructed and trained astronauts on how to do their experiments and astronauts did the work for them.


Crew: Commander Hank Hartsfield, Pilot Michael Coats, Mission Specialists Judy Resnik, Steven Hawley, and Mike Mullane,

Payload Specialist Charles Walker Orbiter: Discovery Launched: 30 August 1984 Landed: 5 September 1984 Mission: Deployment of three satellites

The year after Lichtenberg and Merbold’s flight, the first commercial payload specialist, Charlie Walker, flew as a member of the 41D crew. Com­manded by Hank Hartsfield, 41D deployed three satellites and tested the use of a giant solar wing. Walker was assigned to the flight to run the Con­tinuous Flow Electrophoresis System (cfes), an apparatus from the Mc­Donnell Douglas Corporation, for which Walker was a test engineer. The system used electrophoresis, which is the process of separating and purify­ing biological cells and proteins.

“What they were producing with that was erythropoietin,” Hartsfield recalled. “It’s a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells. Ortho Pharmaceuticals was the primary contractor with MacDac to build this thing. And cfes was kind of a test version of it. . . . The idea was, which was a good one, say you were going to have planned surgery, they could inject that hormone into you prior to the surgery, some time peri­od, I don’t know how long it would take, but your body would produce more red blood cells, and then you wouldn’t need transfusions. So it was a good idea.”

Prior to being assigned a flight of his own, Walker was responsible for training NASA astronaut crews in the operation of the cfes payload on the STS-4, sts-6, STS-7, and sts-8 shuttle flights during 1982 and 1983. He flew with the cfes equipment as a crew member on 41D, 51D, and 61B.

The initial agreement between McDonnell Douglas and NASA called for six proof-of-concept flights of the cfes device, which was originally to be flown aboard Spacelab. But according to Walker, slips in the launch of Spacelab caused McDonnell Douglas and NASA to renegotiate for six flights on board the Space Shuttle mid-deck.

The agreement was that NASA would provide the launch and McDon­nell Douglas would provide the equipment and testing processes. “nasa, in the body of the Marshall Space Flight Center Materials Lab folks, had the opportunity, at no expense to them other than the preparation of samples and then the collection and the analysis of it later in their own laboratories upon return home, to use a device produced at the expense of the private sector for private-sector research, but, again, allowing NASA the right to use it for up to a third of the time in orbit in exchange for the opportunity to have it there in orbit aboard shuttle,” Walker explained.

After the first flight of the cfes device, on STS-4, Walker said McDon­nell Douglas felt that it had demonstrated enough success in the proof of concept test to ask to fly its own astronaut to run its device. “From our standpoint, we had proven that we could predict adequately for produc­tion processing what we needed to know,” Walker said.

We briefed on that, and we advised the Space Shuttle program management what we wanted to do for the next flight; got that approved through appropri­ate processes, and at the same time—I can remember, I was in a meeting in which Jim Rose [McDonnell Douglas manager] and I briefed Glynn Lunney [shuttleprogram manager] in Glynn’s office in Building 1 [at jsc], and Jim told me, going down, he said, “I just want to tell you, as we walk into this meeting if I get an indication from Glynn that he’s happy with the results, too, from the NASA side, I’m going to ask for a payload specialist opportunity. ” He said, ”Are you okay with that?” And I said, “You know I’m okay with that. ”

That was exactly what happened, Walker recalled. Lunney indicated that nasa was pleased with the results, so Rose pressed ahead.

Jim Rose said, “We want to ask for the opportunity to negotiate for one more thing.” And basically it went something like, “You know, Glynn, the astro­nauts that were training, Hank’s a great individual, obviously a great test pi­lot, a good engineer, but Hank doesn’t know this electrophoresis stuff and the other astronauts, mission specialists that we’re going to train, they’re going to be able just to spend a little bit of their time working with our device. They’ve got lots of other things to do. That’s the mandate for the mission specialist. We really would learn the most we possibly can and more than we can do with a mission specialist if we get the opportunity to have a payload specialist devoted specifically to the electrophoresis device and its research and development activ­ities during a flight. ”

As I remember it, Glynn chewed on his cigar a little bit—that’s when you [could] smoke in the office—chewed on his cigar a little bit and said something like, “Well, we’ve been wanting to move into this payload specialist thing, so if you’ve got somebody that is qualified, can meet all the astronaut selection crite­ria, put in the application. Let’s do it. ”. . . I think Glynn said something like, “Do you have somebody in mind?” Jim turned to me and looked at me, and Jim said something like, “You’re looking at him.” Glynn said, “You, huh?” And I said, “Yes, it’s me. I’ll be the man. ”

Walker was added to the crew for 41D in late May 1983. Within a few days of being added, Walker, who was residing in St. Louis at the time, went down to Johnson Space Center to officially meet the crew, some of whom he knew from the training he had provided for previous missions, and to begin working out a training schedule. The training syllabus was based loosely on the training developed for science payload specialists on Spacelab missions and was to be a foundation for future commercial pay­load specialists. The training syllabus was the result of ongoing negotiations between Walker, his employers, and various stakeholders at nasa. Walk­er enjoyed the training and felt it was important. Unlike other astronauts, however, for whom mission training was their job, training took Walker away from his day-job duties in St. Louis, so while his employers wanted him trained, they also wanted him available there when it wasn’t necessary for him to be in Houston. NASA also wanted to make sure he received all the training needed to fly safely but didn’t want to invest unnecessary time and resources that were needed for career astronauts.

Walker explained that the payload specialist training was a shorter, con­densed version of the career astronaut training. Initially, he said, that con­densed training still involved at least an overview of a wide variety of sys­tems. “Hank Hartsfield had me operating the remote manipulator system, the rms, in the trainer, and that went on for a few weeks. I was training with the crew. I was working the rms in the simulator, and I knew the sys­tem, I knew how to work it, even though I was not in the flight plan to de­ploy any of the satellites or to have to use the rms, as might conditionally be the case. I don’t think on [41D] we had any required use of the rms, but we had as a contingent the operation of it.”

Later, however, management came back and decided that Walker didn’t need to be trained on equipment he wasn’t going to use. There was no need, they argued, to invest valuable time and resources training payload specialists on things they wouldn’t be doing. Walker said that regardless of the actual need for the additional training, he felt like it had substan­tial benefits for the mission. “My comments were that I think this is a good thing,” he said. “Let the payload specialist do some of this, too. He or she is going to feel like more of a cohesive part of the crew. It’s just a good psychological thing, even though you don’t need their hands to es­pecially do that.”

The most important and most time-consuming part of preparing for a mission was for payload specialists to gel with the crew, Walker said. “In other words, the crew’s getting to know me, and me getting to know my fellow crewmates for each flight, so that we knew, at least to a significant degree, each other’s characteristics, and we could work together and feel good working together and flying together as a team.”

Walker spent, on average, about two weeks each month training at jsc during the nine months leading up to the flight. He said Hartsfield wanted to integrate him with the crew as closely possible, and in addition to offi­cial training sessions, the commander included him in the occasional social event as well. “I was invited to more than one dinner or activity at Hank’s house and some of the other homes of the astronauts—the crew as well as others—but it wasn’t as close a relationship as was the case between the career astronauts and families down there that were obviously living and working at each other’s elbows day in and day out.”

Hartsfield said he felt so strongly that Walker should be an integral part of the crew that he requested Walker’s name be on the patch circle with the rest of the crew. “[Payload specialists’] flight assignments changed a lot,” Hartsfield said. “Some of the flights had as many as three different peo­ple assigned at one time or another, and they had to keep changing their patches. So to save money, they put a ribbon at the bottom with the pay­load specialist on it, so they wouldn’t have to change the whole patch. But when Charlie flew, I had sold George Abbey on this. ‘He’s part of the crew, you know. Put his name on the patch with the rest of us.’”

Admittedly prejudiced, Hartsfield described the 41D crew as one of the best crews ever put together. “As the commander, I just sort of had to stay out of their way,” he said. “I was reminded of that two-billed hat, you know, that says, ‘I’m their leader. Which way did they go?’”

The addition of payload specialists brought a new dynamic to space­flight and the astronaut corps. Walker’s crewmate Mike Mullane said sev­eral astronauts, including himself, had viewed payload specialists as out­siders and as competitors for flight assignments. “There was some friction there, I think, that we felt like, ‘Hey, why isn’t a mission specialist doing this experiment,’” said Mullane. “But I’m mature enough now, and par­ticularly after you get your one mission under the belt, you become a little more tolerant of the outsiders.”

People and Payloads

28. The crew of STS-4ID. Courtesy NASA.

Walker said there were only a few individuals in the agency from whom he got the impression that he and the other payload specialists were con­sidered outsiders. “I was there as a working passenger. I wasn’t a full-fledged crew member, and I knew that going in, and I took no real exception to that,” Walker said. “Occasionally there were circumstances in which it was made clear to me that ‘You’re not one of us. You’re along for the ride, and you’ve got a job to do.’ But it was only a few individuals, some in the As­tronaut Office, others outside the Astronaut Office, from whom I got that impression.”

One clear distinction between the career astronauts and the payload spe­cialists was the locations of their offices. At Johnson Space Center, the payload specialist office was in Building 39, and the Astronaut Office was in Build­ing 4. According to Walker, “It was made clear to us from the beginning that they didn’t expect to see us over on the fourth floor in Building 4 except for scheduled meetings. We were just outsiders who would become crew mem­bers for a short period of time and would train mostly on our own, but when there was necessary crew combined training, certainly we would be there.”

Walker said he was fine with that arrangement and was just grateful for the opportunity, both professionally and personally. “There was no belliger­ence, really, expressed openly, and no offense on my part taken,” Walker said.

I really saw my role and my place in this, this was a great adventure, and more than an adventure, it’s a great challenge, both to people as well as to technical systems. I think I know my limitations, and I know that I’m not nearly as quali­fied to make critical and rapid decisions in some of these flight environment cir­cumstances, as the men and women that have been selected by the agency through grueling processes, to do just exactly that. . . . I was getting a great opportunity, I felt, both for the company that was my employer, for the commercial as well as the prospective societal benefits from the work that we were proposing to do through and with the Space Shuttle. And certainly, certainly a tremendous per­sonal opportunity for me, and I was just happy to be there.

The crew went out to launch on 26 June 1984, and everything was going smoothly until the clock reached four seconds. “The engines had already start­ed to come up, and then they just shut down,” Hartsfield said. “We looked at the countdown clock on the onboard computer display, and it was stopped at four seconds. We were really checking to see if there was anything out of

the ordinary. We were going to make sure that things were still okay. There was a good moment of tension there, and Hawley broke the tension. As soon as we looked at everything and everything was okay, Steve said, ‘Gee, I kind of thought we’d be a little higher at meco [main engine cutoff].’”

As the Launch Control Center was trying to figure out the problem, a hy­drogen fire was noticed on the pad. “The trouble with a hydrogen fire is you can’t see it,” said Hartsfield. “Hydrogen and oxygen burn clear, and you can just see some heat ripples when you’re looking through it, but you can’t see the flame. I think one of the sensors picked it up, a uv sensor, which can see it.” When the fire was discovered, there was talk about having the crew leave the shuttle via the slide wire Emergency Egress System. No one had ever ridden the slide wire, Hartsfield said, and flight controllers were afraid to tell the crew to do it. “That bothered a lot of us in that they were concerned enough about the fire that they really wanted us to do an emergency egress from the pad area, but since the slide wire had never been ridden by a real live person—they’d thrown sandbags in it and let it go down—they were afraid to use it, which was a bad situation, really.”

Hawley remembered the crew members talking about whether or not they should get out of the orbiter and use the Emergency Egress System baskets. “I remember thinking, well, fire’s not too bad because then you’re sitting inside this structure that’s designed to take several thousand degrees during reentry. It’s well insulated. Then I got to thinking, on the other hand, it’s attached to millions of gallons of rocket fuel, so maybe that’s not so good. But eventually they came and got us.”

As a result of the pad abort, NASA revamped and tested the procedures for the Emergency Egress System and implemented new training for abort­ing and recycling launches.

Steve Hawley said Mullane was very concerned after the fire that the flight was going to be canceled. “I really didn’t think they would do that, but I remember him being very concerned about that, probably more con­cerned than [about] the incident itself. He was concerned about the effect it would have on his flight assignment.”

While the flight did get delayed for two months and its payloads were changed as a result, the mission did not get canceled entirely. Mullane said he found scrubs personally and emotionally draining. “There is nothing that is more exhausting than being pulled out of that cockpit and knowing you have to do it tomorrow,” he said. “It is the most emotionally draining expe­rience I ever had in my life of actually flying on the shuttle. I will admit that it is terrifying to launch. Once you get up there, it’s relaxing, but launch, it’s terrifying. And people assume that it gets easier. I tell people, no, it doesn’t. I was terrified my first launch. I was terrified my second launch. I was terri­fied my third launch. And if I flew a hundred, I’d be terrified on a hundred.”

Mullane said that before every launch he felt like he faced the possibil­ity of death, as if he were preparing to die. “I know it’s ridiculous to think you can predict your death,” Mullane said.

You could get in an auto accident driving out to get in the T-38, and that’s your death, and here you are thinking it’s going to be on a shuttle. But I certainly pre­pared for death in ways, in a formal way. I served in Vietnam, and there was certainly a sense of you might not come back from that. And I said my goodbyes to my parents and to my wife and young kids when I did that, but this time it was different because it’s such a discrete event. It’s not like in combat where in some missions you go off and fly and never see any enemy antiaircraft fire or anything. But this one you knew that it was going to be a very dangerous thing. And as a result, twenty-four hours before launch, you go to that beach house and you say goodbye to your family, to the wife, at least. That is incredibly emotion­al and draining, because the wife knows that it could be the last time she’s ever going to see you, and you know it’s the last time you might ever see her.

Weeks before launch, crew members and their families choose a fam­ily escort to help families with launch details and to be with them during launch. The family escort stands next to the family on top of the Launch Control Center during launch. Part of that role is simply helping the fam­ily get to where they need to be, making sure everything goes smoothly. However, in addition, the family escorts serve as casualty assistance officers in the event something unexpected happens.

Mullane recalled that his wife commented to him, “‘What I’m picking isn’t a family escort; it’s an escort into widowhood.’ You have this buildup, this incredible emotional investment in these launches that just ticks with that clock. Picking the astronaut escort. The goodbye on the beach house, at the beach house, that lonely beach out there. And now to go and get into the cockpit. Like I said, I thought a lot about death. I mean, I felt this was the most dangerous thing I would ever do in my life was ride this shuttle.”

Mullane opined that it was a mistake on NASA’s part to build the shuttle without an escape system. “I don’t know what the thought process was to think that we could build this rocket and not need an escape system, but it was the first high-performance vehicle I was ever going to fly on with no escape system,” said the three-time mission specialist.

If something went wrong, you were dead. So that was the sense of death that kind of rode along with you as you’re driving, preparing for this mission and driving out to the launchpad. You know it’s the most dangerous thing that you’ve ever done in your life. And to get strapped in and be waiting for that launch, and man, I’ll tell you, your heart is in your throat. I mean, after a launch abort, I swear, you could take a gun and point it right at somebody’s forehead, and they’re not even going to blink, because they don’t have any adrenaline left in them; it’s all been used up. To be strapped in out there and then to be told, “Oh, the weather’s bad. We got a mechanical problem, ” and to be pulled out of the cockpit, and now it’s all going to start over. Twenty-four hours you go back, you’re exhausted, you go back, have a shower, meet your wife, say goodbye again, and then start the process all over the next day. And you do that two or three times in a row, and you’re ready for the funny farm. It really is a very emotionally draining thing.

The 41D mission had a total of three scrubs—two in June and one more in August—and finally lifted off on 30 August 1984.

Once the crew was finally in orbit, Steve Hawley, for whom 41D was his first flight, said it took several days to adjust to microgravity, but the team didn’t have several days before starting to work. “It’s interesting because what we’ve always done. . . is plan the mission so that the most important things happen first,” Hawley said.

That goes back to the days when we’d not flown the shuttle before and every­body was concerned that it was going to fall out of the sky, and so if you got up there, you needed to get rid of the satellite or whatever it was right away, so that when a problem happened, you’d have the mission accomplished. But the shut­tle is very reliable, and so what you end up doing is doing the most important, most challenging, most difficult tasks when the crew is the least prepared to do it, because they’re inefficient and they haven’t adapted yet. . . . Back in those days, we were launching satellites five hours after we got on orbit, and we were still trying to figure out how to stay right side up.

The 41D mission deployed three satellites: two Payload Assist Modules and a syncom for the navy. It was the first time three satellites were launched on one flight. The mission also performed a demonstration of the Office ofApplication and Space Technology solar wing, referred to as oast-1. The 102-foot-tall, 13-foot-wide wing carried different types of solar cells. It dem­onstrated the use of large, lightweight solar arrays for future use in build­ing large facilities in space, such as a space station.

As part of the demonstration, oast-1 was extended to its full height several times, stretching out of a canister mounted on a truss in the pay­load bay. “When fully extended, it was 102 feet tall, and really spectacular to look at,” Hartsfield said.

The array did not have very many actual solar cells; instead, it was pri­marily a test structure to see how well the truss would extend. It featured three linear rods with cross-rods and cables, such that the rods were in com­pression and the cables were in tension. The structure collapsed into a cy­lindrical canister for launch. NASA engineers had predicted how rigid the structure would be based on models, and the orbital experiment would give them the opportunity to validate those predictions and models.

“Surprisingly, once the thing is deployed, it’s fairly rigid,” Hartsfield said. “What was interesting was the array was an order of magnitude stiffer than the engineers had predicted, which was a big surprise to them. In fact, by the time we got ready to fire the second set of firings, which was supposed to in­crease the motion, the thing had almost stopped completely, it was so stiff.” Walker’s Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System worked as planned, but postflight analysis showed that the samples had some biological con­tamination. “In other words, a little bit of bacteria had gotten into some of the fluids during preparation before flight, and the bacteria had grown dur­ing flight and contaminated what we intended to have as . . . biologically pure, uncontaminated by extraneous bacteria,” Walker said. “So the work that I had done had been, so to speak, technically productive. We learned new procedures. We validated the procedures. But the veracity of the bio­logical sample itself for the medical testing that we were going to do post­flight turned out to be a problem, turned out to be bad. So we were not a complete success in terms of our mission accomplishment because of that.” One of the more memorable episodes on the flight was the infamous “peecicle.” During flight, the crew had a problem with an icicle forming around the nozzle where they dumped wastewater, primarily urine and con­densation from the orbiter’s humidity control. There was a lot of concern about the icicle because when the orbiter started reentry the frozen water was in just about the right place to break off and hit the Orbital Maneuver­ing System, Hartsfield said. “If you hit the oms pod and broke those tiles, that’s a real high-heat area right on the front of that pod, you could burn through. And if you burned through, that’s where the propellant is for the oms engines, and that’s not a good thing to have happen.”

Hawley recalled that the ground called up and had the crew test the wastewater dump. “I think we didn’t know anything was unusual initial­ly,” Hawley said.

I think maybe the ground called us and told us to terminate the supply water dump because they had seen some temperature funnies. So we did, and then sometime later, I guess they got curious enough to use the cameras on the robot arm to see what was there. So we set the arm up, and yes, you could see this ici­cle there. For whatever reason subsequent to that, they decided that we ought to try a waste dump and watch it with the camera on the arm, and the icicle was still there. I remember, as we were doing it, watching the second icicle form. So we ended up stopping that dump, and now here we are with this icicle.

The ground crew started working to find possible solutions, one of which was to turn that side of the orbiter toward the sun and let the icicle melt. “After about three days we were convinced that the ice was not going to sublime off the orbiter,” Hartsfield said. “It reduced in size somewhat, but it was still there. I had people ask me, ‘Gee whiz, you got it right in the sun, why didn’t it melt?’ I said, ‘The same reason snow and ice don’t melt on a mountain. It’s in direct sunlight, but it doesn’t absorb much heat. It reflects most of it.’ That was the same thing as this icicle. It wasn’t going anywhere.”

The next option was to send astronauts on a spacewalk to break off the ice. Hawley and Mullane had trained as contingency eva crew members and were selected for the eva, if there was to be one. “I remember Mike was thrilled,” Hawley said,

because he was going to get to do a spacewalk, and I’m sitting there going, “This is not a good idea. I don’t know how in the world were going to get to it. ” I mean, it’s down on the side of the orbiter aft of the hatch, and there’s no trans­lation path down there. I guess they were talking about taking the cfes unit apart, using some of the poles that the cfes was constructed with to maybe grab one of us by the boots and hang him over the side and have him knock it off. That all sounded like a bad plan to me.

It was decided not to try an eva but to use the robotic arm to knock the ice off instead. “I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s a good plan,’” Hawley re­called, “and Mike was thinking, ‘Oh no, I’m not going to get to do an eva.’”

While mission controllers were trying to resolve how to get rid of the icicle, the crew faced another, more immediate issue inside the orbiter. To avoid making the icicle larger, the decision was made that the crew would not be able to dump the waste tank again. While there was still some room in the tank, calculations revealed that the condensation that would be col­lected during the rest of the mission would fill that volume. “What that meant practically to us,” Hawley explained, “was that we couldn’t use the toilet anymore, because there was no room in the waste tank for the liq­uid waste.”

The crew members collected their waste in plastic bags and stored the waste-filled bags on board. Walker said some of the bags were left over from the Apollo program. “I’m kind of an amateur historian,” Walker said, “so I felt a little bad at peeing in these historic bags, but we had to do what we had to do.”

In retrospect, Hartsfield said, the incident is funny, but it wasn’t funny at the time. “The problem was that in zero g, Newton’s third law is very apparent to you. If you just try to use a bag, when the urine hit the bot­tom of the bag, it turned around and came right back out, because there’s no gravity to keep it there. Didn’t take long to figure that wasn’t going to work.” The astronauts stuffed the bags with dirty underwear, socks, towels, and washcloths to absorb the urine.

Hartsfield decreed that the only female on the crew would continue to use the shuttle bathroom. “Judy, as you can imagine, had a hard time with the bag, so we had a little room in there. I said, ‘I don’t care what the ground says, you use the bathroom. The rest of us will do the bag trick.’”

The situation was messy, with all of the bags being stored in the waste stor­age tank under the floor. Hartsfield said there was at least one instance where a crew member was stuffing a urine bag into the tank and the bag ruptured.

Twice, Hartsfield said, Flight Director Randy Stone asked management if the crew could convert a water tank to a waste tank. It would have been an easy conversion, Hartsfield said, but at the time there was great concern about turning the orbiters around quickly for the next flights and the re­sponse was that using the water tank as a waste tank would add a week to the process of getting the orbiter ready to fly again.

“I sometimes think I made a mistake,” said Hartsfield.

I probably should have called for a private med conference and told Flight, “Hey, we’ve got a real problem up here.". . . I talked to the guy that headed that room up when we got back, and he apologized. They later found that it wouldn’t have impacted the flow at all. I said, “Joe, you just don’t know what we’re going through up there. " “Well, you should have told somebody. " “I don’t want to put that on the loop. " I mean, in fact, Gerry Griffin, the center direc­tor, when we got back, he expressed his thanks for not putting that on the open. The media would have had a ball with that.

[Initially] we were hoping to stay another day on orbit, because we had enough fuel to do it, but this was not a very good situation. By the time day six came, we were ready to come home.

For the second time, on board the shuttle was an imax camera. Haw­ley recalled that the imax camera pulled film so fast that in zero g it would torque the user like a gyroscope. The camera had a belt drive with a belt guard, but for this flight, it was decided the belt guard wasn’t needed. “I don’t know if we were trying to save weight or what, but we decided we didn’t need this belt guard.” Hawley said. “I’m up there doing something, and all of a sudden I hear this blood-curdling scream. I go floating upstairs to see what had happened, and Judy had gotten her hair caught in this belt for this imax camera, and there was film and hair all over the orbiter. It jammed the camera and the camera blew the circuit breaker that it was plugged into.”

Mullane said he, Resnik, and Hawley were filming the syncom launch when the incident happened. Mullane and Mike Coats cut Resnik’s hair to free her from the camera, and Coats then spent hours picking hair out of the camera gears in order to get the camera working again. The crew dealt with the problem on their own, without reporting it to the ground, con­cerned that if the public found out, the incident would provide fodder for those critical of NASA’s flying female astronauts.

People and Payloads

29. Judy Resnik with several cameras floating around her, including the imax camera in which her hair got tangled. Courtesy nasa.

Throughout the mission, each crew member went about his or her as­signed tasks with very few coordinated crew activities, Hartsfield said. As a result, he made sure that they ate dinner together every night. “You get a quick breakfast snack, and the first thing you know, you’re off on your daily do list,” Hartsfield said, describing a typical day during the mission. “You eat lunch, normally, on the run where you’ve got a lull in your activ­ities. But I had decreed that the evening meal we were all going to eat to­gether. I want one time for the crew to just get together and just chat and have a little fun and say, ‘Okay, where are we? What have we got to do to­morrow?’ and talk about things.”

One night during dinner as a crew, a rather strange thing happened. “We’d prepared our meals, and we were all floating around, holding down on the mid-deck, and all of sudden we heard this knocking noise, like somebody wanted in,” Hartsfield recalled.

It sounded like knocking. Holy crap, what is that? And then we had a traffic jam trying to get through the bulkhead to get up to the flight deck, because it was coming from up that way somewhere. So we got up there, and we were on the night side of the Earth, it was pitch black out there. Steve flipped on the pay­load bay lights. You know those housings take like five minutes. And we said,

“God, what is that!?" We could hear it, whatever it was, was on the starboard side. Steve was the first one to see it. He looked at the gimbal angles on the Ku- Band antenna, and it was banging back and forth. It was something where it was oscillating back and forth. He hit the power switch and turned it off and that did it. And we went, whew. And we told the ground later what had hap­pened, and it never did it anymore, whatever it did. Apparently it got into a range where it kept trying to swap or do something. I never did find out exactly what caused it, but it sure got our attention. Some alien wants in.

The mission lasted six days, and then it was time to come home. Walker said the reentry and landing on 41D was an emotional experience, drawing to a close what he thought at the time was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

At that point I didn’t know I was going to have any further flights. I thought that was probably it, and it was such an extraordinary experience, and now it was, for sure, over with. I came to sense a real defining moment, a physically and emotionally defining moment. This experience, this great thing called space­flight, . . . probably above everything else, it’s based upon velocity. It’s putting people and machinery at high speed at the right velocity, the right altitude, the right speed, around the Earth till you keep going, and you’re working in this high-velocity environment that we call orbital flight. When you want to come home, you just take out some of that velocity with some rocket energy again, and use the Earth’s atmosphere to slow you down the rest of the way until you come gliding in and lose the last part of the velocity by applying brakes on the runway until you come to a stop.

So I noted in my own mind two definitive points here that really, without debate, start and end this great experience. One is the high-energy event that we call launch, straight up when the rockets start; to the landing and wheels stop on the runway horizontal, and the brakes have taken hold, and the energy is gone, and the spaceship literally rolls to a stop.

With the end of the mission came the completion of the first flight of a commercial payload specialist and an opportunity to evaluate how the idea actually worked in reality. Hawley commented on how well the crew worked together and how well the crew got along with Walker. “It’s more impor­tant who you fly with than what your mission is, and we really had a good time,” Hawley said. “We all got along well. I thought we all had respect

for each other’s capabilities, and it was just a good mix. . . . Charlie was a good guy. He fit in very well. We enjoyed having him as part of the crew.” The flight marked the beginning of the process, over time, of the soft­ening of hard lines between the career astronauts and the payload special­ists. A major milestone, Walker said, was the decision to move the payload specialists into office space with the career astronauts. “Even while I was training for 61В, I had office space. It was, oh, by the way, catch it as you can, but you got office space over on the fourth floor, Building 4. You need a place to sit and work when you’re in town, come on over. Finally they moved the ps Office out of Building 39 over to Building 4 in that time pe­riod just before Challenger was lost.”

The integration of noncareer astronauts became even more complicated as nasa implemented plans to fly even more types of people on the Space Shuttle—academic and industrial payload specialists, U. S. politicians, in­ternational payload specialists, and the first “Teacher in Space” and “Jour­nalist in Space.”

“I think the clearest example as an indicator of how things transformed was to follow the Teacher in Space activity, because originally the Teacher in Space was to be a spaceflight participant/payload specialist, and I wit­nessed a lot of slicing and dicing of just what do you call Christa McAu – liffe,” Walker recalled. “Is she an astronaut? Well, most people at the time at jsc and certainly in the Astronaut Office were, ‘No, she is not an as­tronaut. We were selected by nasa to be astronauts. We’re the astronauts. She’s a payload specialist.’”


Crew: Commander Bo Bobko, Pilot Don Williams, Mission Specialists Rhea Seddon, Jeffrey Hoffman, and David Griggs, Payload Special­ists Charlie Walker and Senator Jake Garn Orbiter: Discovery Launched: 12 April 1985 Landed: 19 April 1985 Mission: Deployment of two satellites

Despite feeling like his first flight would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, eight months later Charlie Walker was back in space, this time on 51D. The mission deployed two satellites and carried into space several science experi­

ments and yet another payload specialist. This time, in addition to Walker, on the crew was Jake Garn, a U. S. senator from Utah and the first elected official to fly aboard the Space Shuttle.

Garn was added to the crew about two to three months before launch, recalled Commander Bo Bobko. “George Abbey said to me one day, he said, ‘What sort of training program would you have if you had a new pas­senger that was only going to have eight or twelve weeks?’” Bobko recalled. “I said, ‘Why are you asking me that question?’ He said, ‘Because you’ve got a new passenger, and you’ve only got—,’ I don’t know, ten or twelve weeks to flight.”

Walker said Garn had been lobbying for some time with the NASA ad­ministrator to get a chance to make a flight on the Space Shuttle. Garn was chairman of a NASA oversight body within the Appropriations Committee of the U. S. Senate. “Just part of his job; he needed to do it,” Walker said.

Of course, you look at Senator Garns history, and at that point he had some ten thousand hours logged in I don’t know how many different kinds ofaircraft, having learned to fly as a naval aviator, and had gone to the airforce when the navy tried to take his ticket away from him and wouldn’t let him fly again. . .. Jake was very aviation oriented and certainly enamored with the agency’s activi­ties and just wanted to take the opportunity if one could be found. So his lobby­ing paid off and he got the chance to fly. He was still in the Senate and would take the opportunity on weekends to come train down here; would take congres­sional recesses, and instead of going back to his home state, to Utah, he’d come down here to jsc. So he worked his training in and around Senate schedules.

Walker recalled hearing some negative talk around the Astronaut Office after Garn was added to the crew. “I do remember that there was at least hall talk around the Astronaut Office of, ‘Oh, my gosh, now what’s hap­pening here to us? What have we got to put up with now?’” Walker said.

But Jake, from my experience, and here is an outsider talking about another outsider, but I think Jake accommodated himself extraordinarily well in the circumstances. . . . What I saw was a Jake Garn that literally opened himself up to, “Hey, I know my place. I’m just a participant. Just tell me what to do, and I’ll be there when I need to be there, and I’ll do what I’ll [need to] do, and I’ll shut up when I need to shut up, ” And he did, so I think he worked out ex­traordinarily well, and quite frankly, I think the U. S. space program, NASA, has benefited a lot from both his experience and his firsthand relation of NASA and the program back on Capitol Hill. As a firsthand participant in the program, he brought tremendous credibility back to Capitol Hill, and that’s helped a lot. He’s always been a friend of the agency and its programs.

Bobko lauded Garn for knowing what it meant to be part of a crew. “I’d call him up and I’d say, ‘Jake, we need you down here.’ And he’d say, ‘Yes, sir,’ and he’d be down the next day for the sim,” Bobko said.

Garn’s only problem, added Bobko, was that he got very sick on orbit.

He was doing some of these medical experiments, and they find that one of the things that happens is that on orbit, if you get sick, your alimentary canal, your digestive system, seems to close down. So what they had were little microphones on a belt that Jake had strapped to him to see if they could detect the bowel sounds. So the story is—and I haven’t heard it myself-—they had me on the mi­crophone saying to Jake, “Jake, you’ve got to get upstairs and let them see you on TV. Otherwise, they’ll think you died and I threw you overboard. ”

According to Walker, he and Garn were the guinea pigs for quite a few of the experiments on the flight. One of the experiments was the first flight of a U. S. echocardiograph device. “Rhea [Seddon] was going to do echo­cardiography of the hearts of I think at least three of the crew members, and of course, Jake and I were the obvious subjects,” said Walker. “We re­ally didn’t have much of a choice in whether we were going to be subjects or not. ‘You’re a payload specialist; you’re going to be a subject.’”

While in the crew quarters prior to launch, Walker said, Garn was ask­ing him the typical rookie questions about what it’s going to be like and what to expect.

He says, “You’ve done this before. Tell me. Give me the real inside scoop. What’s this going to feel like? What’s it going to be like?” “It’s going to be great, Jake. It’s just going to be great. Just stay calm and enjoy it. ”. . . We got into orbit, and I can remember there was the usual over-the-intercom exuberant pronounce­ments, “Yee-ha, were in space, ” yadda, yadda, yadda.

I can remember shaking hands, my right hand probably with Jake’s left, gloves on, and “We’re here, ” and then Jake and I both kind of look at each other, and we’re both beginning to feel weightlessness.

The crew was originally assigned as 51E, but that mission was canceled and the payloads were remanifested as 51D. The mission deployed a commu­nications satellite and syncom iv-3 (also called leasat-3). But the space­craft sequencer on the syncom iv-3 failed to initiate after deployment. The mission was extended two days to make certain the sequencer start lever was in the proper position. Griggs and Hoffman performed a spacewalk to attach flyswatter-like devices to the remote manipulator system. Rhea Sed – don then used the shuttle’s remote manipulator system to engage the satel­lite lever, but the postdeployment sequence still did not start.

“Once it became clear that there was a problem, we got a little depressed,” Walker said. “You train for these things to happen. You know they’re real­ly important. Here’s hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of satellite out there. Your flight’s not that inexpensive, of course, to send people into space. So a lot of effort has gone into getting this thing up there and to launch­ing it and to turning it on and having it operate, in this case, for the Unit­ed States Navy. And here it didn’t happen, so you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’” The crew immediately began to think in terms of contingencies. Walker recalled a strong awareness of the nearness of the satellite. Despite the fact that it had failed, it was still there, floating not that far away. It was still reachable and could potentially be repaired or recovered.

Within a few days the ground came up with the suspected culprit—a mechanical switch, about the size of a finger, on the side of the satellite was supposed to have switched the timer on. The thought was that maybe that switch just needed to be flipped into the right position. If the shut­tle could rendezvous with the satellite, all that would be needed would be some way to flip the switch.

The ground crew instructed the flight crew to fashion two tools that Walker referred to as the “flyswatter” and the “lacrosse stick.” “The ground had faxed up to us some sketchy designs for these tools, and I think there were two tools that were made up. I can remember cutting up some plastic covers of some procedures books. We went around the cabin, all trying to find the piece parts, and the ground was helping us.”

Working together, the ground and the crew in space began an Apollo 13— like effort to improvise, using available materials to fashion a solution to the problem, Walker said. “The in-flight maintenance folks on the ground were, of course, very aware of what tools were on board, and they looked down the long list of everything that was manifest and tried to come up with a scheme of what pieces could be taken from here, there, and anywhere else on board, put together, and to make up these tools for swatting the satellite.”

The shuttle rendezvoused with the satellite, and Hoffman and Griggs exited the shuttle for the eva.

These guys go outside, and they’re oohing and aahing about the whole experience and doing great. . . . Rhea commands the remote manipulator system over to the side of the cargo bay. Literally with more duct tape and some cinching straps, they strap the flyswatter and the lacrosse stick on the end ofthe remote manipulator arm. Then they come back inside, and we make sure they’re okay, and they secure the suits. Bo and Don finish rendezvousing with the satellite, and Rhea very carefully moves the two tools on the end ofthe RMS right up against the edge ofthe satellite.

Walker noted that none of these procedures had been rehearsed on the ground; it was all improvised using the various skills the crew had picked up during their training. “This was all done just with the skills that the crew had been trained with generically, the generic operation of the remote manipulator system, the generic eva skills, and the generic piloting skills to rendezvous with another spacecraft,” Walker said. “And yet we pulled it off; the crew pulled it off expertly, did everything, including throwing the switch.”

Bobko said the crew had not done a rendezvous simulation or any ren­dezvous training in several months, and the books with rendezvous instruc­tions weren’t even on board. “So they sent us up this long teleprinted mes­sage, and I’ve got a picture of me at the teleprinter with just paper wound all around me floating there in orbit,” Bobko said. “It turned out to be a rather different mission. But, luckily, in training for the missions that had been scheduled before, we had learned all the skills that were required to do this. If we had just trained for this mission, we probably wouldn’t have ever trained to do a rendezvous or the other things that were required.”

Unfortunately, flipping the switch didn’t take care of the problem and there was nothing else the crew could do at that point. However, the ground was able to determine that the problem was with the electronics and the sat­ellite would need to be fixed on a subsequent flight. (It ultimately was re­paired on the 511 mission.) “We felt a little dismayed that the satellite failed on our watch and that we weren’t able to fix it on the same flight, but we felt gratified that we took one big step to finding out what the problem was, that eventually did lead to its successful deployment,” Walker said.

While the problems with the primary payload weren’t discovered un­til they got into the mission, another payload—Walker’s electrophoresis experiment—had encountered difficulties much earlier. About three days before launch, while the orbiter team was preparing Discovery for flight, Walker and several McDonnell Douglas folks were working with the cfes equipment when it started to leak. “My project folks were out there fill­ing it full of fluid, sterilizing it with a liquid sterilant, and then loading on board the sample material and then the several tens of liters of carrier fluid,” Walker said. “That electrophoresis device started leaking. Inside the orbiter, on the launchpad, it started leaking. Drip, drip, drip. Well, of course, that didn’t go over very well with anybody, and our folks diligently worked to resolve that. Right down to like twenty-four hours before flight or so, that thing was leaking out on the pad.”

Program managers began discussing whether the leak could be over­come so that the device could be loaded for operation. If not, the experi­ment could not be conducted during the mission. “The question became, ‘Well, maybe we don’t even fly Walker, if he doesn’t have a reason to fly,’” Walker recalled. “So there was active discussion until about a day before flight—this is all happening within about a twenty-four-hour period up till T minus twenty-four or thereabouts—as to whether I would fly or not, because maybe my device wasn’t going to be operational in flight and so I had nothing to do, so to speak. But it was resolved.”

The leak was fixed, the fluid was loaded, and the equipment—and Walker— were cleared for launch. In flight, the cfes worked well. And, in addition to running the cfes apparatus, during the mission Walker conducted the first protein crystal growth experiment in space, a major milestone in biotech­nology research. “This was the first flight of the U. S. protein crystal growth apparatus,” he said. “Actually, it was a small prototype that Dr. Charlie Bugg from the University of Alabama Birmingham and his then-associate, Larry DeLucas, had designed and had come to NASA, saying, ‘We’ve got this great idea for the rational design of proteins, but we need to crystallize these and bring the crystals back from space. We think they’ll crystallize much bet­ter in space, and we can do things up there we can’t do on Earth, etc., etc., but we need to fly it on board a Space Shuttle flight to see if it will work.’”

The flight was also the first for the NASA Education Toys in Space activ­ities, a study of the behavior of simple toys in a weightless environment. The project provided schoolchildren with a series of experiments they could do in their classrooms using a variety of toys that demonstrate the laws of physics. Astronauts conducted the experiments with the toys in orbit and videotaped their results. Students could then compare their results to what actually happened in space. The toys flown included gyroscopes, balls and jacks, yo-yos, paddle balls, Wheelos, and Hot Wheels cars and tracks. “I still to this day feel a little chagrined that I wasn’t offered a toy or the op­portunity,” Walker said. “Everybody else had a toy, but not me. . . . Even Jake Garn had paper airplanes.”

Walker may not have played with toys, but he played with liquids, con­ducting some fluid physics experiments with supplies on the orbiter.

Jeff Hoffman and I spent one hour preparing, at one point later in the mission, some drinking containers, one with strawberry drink and one with lemonade…. We would each squeeze out a sphere maybe about as big as a golf ball of liquid, floating in the cabin, and we actually played a little game in which we would put the spheres of liquid in free floating, oh, about a foot apart from each other, and Jeff and I would get on either side, and somebody would say, “Go." We’d start blowing at the spheres with our breath, just blowing on them, and we’d try to get them together and get them to merge, because it was really cool when they merged. One big sphere suddenly appears that’s half red and half green, and then the in­ternal fluid forces would start to mix them, and it’s really interesting to watch.

As the astronauts were blowing, their breath would actually move their bodies around. At the same time, the balls of liquid would start going in different directions, and the two together would make it increasingly dif­ficult to keep the liquid under control. “You’ve got to be quick,” Walker said, “and usually there’s got to be somebody with a towel standing by, be­cause either a wall or a floor or a person is going to end up probably get­ting some juice all over them.”

Walker said he felt more comfortable going in to his second flight than his first. “Not to say that I felt blase or ho-hum about it, by no means,” he said.

You just can’t go out and sit on a rocket and go into space and feel ho-hum about it, even after umpteen flights. It just isn’t going to happen. But a person can feel more comfortable. Some of the sharp edges, to put that term on it, of the un­known, of the tension, are just not there. I guess maybe a better way to put it, I would suggest, is now you really know when to be scared.

The second time around you’re not focusing on the same things. You’re now maybe a little less anticipatory of everything. You know [how] some things are going to be, so you can kind of sift those and put those aside in your mind and pay attention to other aspects. There were other things that I paid attention to, like I maybe was more observant of the Earth when I had a chance to look out the windows, more sensitive to the view.

Walker recalled Jeff Hoffman sharing with the crew his interest in as­tronomy, and in particular the crew trying to spot Halley’s Comet. “There was one or more nights, . . . in which we turned off all the lights in the cab­in and night-adapted our eyes. Everything was dark. . . . I can remember us trying to find the Halley’s Comet and never feeling like we succeeded at doing that. But, it was still so far away and so dim that it really probably wasn’t possible. But just looking at the sky along with an astronomer there was a great and tremendously interesting experience.”

Landing was delayed by a day, giving the crew an extra day in space, which Walker said he spent mostly looking out the window observing Earth. “I just never got bored at looking at the ever-changing world below,” Walker said. “You’re traveling over it at five miles per second, so you’re always see­ing a new or different part of the world, and even [as] days go by and you orbit over the same part of the world, the weather would be different, the lighting angles would be different over that part of the world. Just watch­ing the stars come up and set at the edge of the Earth through the atmo­sphere, watching thunderstorms.”

During the landing at Kennedy, Discovery blew a tire, resulting in exten­sive brake damage that prompted the landing of future flights at Edwards Air Force Base until the implementation of nose-wheel steering. Walker said the landing at first was just like the landing on his first mission. “Things were again just as they’d been before and as was planned and programmed, so no big surprises until those final few seconds when you expect to be thrown up against your straps by the end of the braking on the runway and the stop. Well, in our case, we’re rolling along about ready to stop, and then there’s a bang, and I can remember Rhea looking at me, and Jake saying, ‘What’s that?’”

Walker said one of the tires had locked up, skidded, and scuffed off a dozen layers of rubber and insulation and fiber until the tire pressure forced the tire to pop. “It ended up just a little bit off the center line of the run­way because of that, but we were going very slow, so there was no risk of running off the runway at that speed because of the tire blow. But certain­ly we heard it on board, and there was a thump, thump, thump, and we stop. We were going, like, ‘Well, what was that?’ I don’t know; in my own mind, I was thinking, ‘Did we run over an alligator? What happened here?’”


Crew: Commander Dan Brandenstein, Pilot John Creighton, Mission Specialists Shannon Lucid, John Fabian, and Steven Nagel, Payload Specialists Patrick Baudry (France) and Prince Sultan Salman Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia)

Orbiter: Discovery

Launched: 17 June 1985

Landed: 24 June 1985

Mission: Deployment of three communications satellites, test of spartan-i

Like so many missions before it, 51G succumbed to mission, crew, and payload shuffling. Commander Dan Brandenstein said shuffling like that was just how things were at this point in the shuttle program. There was a lot of scrambling around with missions for a variety of reasons, and the program was still relatively new, Brandenstein said.

That was early ’85. We had only been flying four years. The vehicle hadn’t ma­tured as you see it today. So they were flying technical problems on a vehicle and they’d have to pull one off the pad. That affected shuffling and payloads didn’t come along quite like they figured, and that affected shuffling. So it was sort of a variety of things. .. . Then we got canceled and picked up these four satellites. We had one for Mexico, one for the Arab Sat Consortium, one for AT&T, and then we had spartan, which was run out of Goddard. It was one that we de­ployed and then came back and recovered two days later. So it was a lot of mis­sion planning changed and we had a couple new crew people that we had to integrate into the crew and all that.

With three satellites to deploy into orbit, the 51G crew deployed one sat­ellite a day for the first three days on orbit. “Shannon and I had the lead on those deployments and J. O. Creighton was flying the orbiter, so he was pointing it in the right directions and so forth,” recalled Mission Specialist John Fabian. “Brandenstein was making sure that everybody was doing the right things. That’s what a commander is supposed to do. And Sultan was taking pictures for his satellite. I mean, it was a fairly routine operation.” The spartan proved to be a little more challenging. The spartan space­craft were a series of experiments carried up by the Space Shuttle. The pro­gram was based on the idea of a simple, low-cost platform that could be deployed from the Space Shuttle for a two – to three-day flight. The satel­lite would then be recovered and returned to Earth.

“It was a much simpler satellite,” Fabian said, “from the crew’s perspec­tive, than the SPAS-01 [a German satellite that Fabian released and recap­tured using the robotic arm on STS-7] because the SPAS-01, we could ma­neuver it. It had experiments on it that we could operate, had cameras on it that we could run. The spartan, which was a navy satellite, we simply released it, let it go about its business, and then later went back and got it.” Shannon Lucid did the release, and two days later Fabian did the recap­ture. Deployment was routine, Fabian said. “At least it appeared to be,” ex­plained Fabian. “When we left it, it was in the proper attitude. It was an x – ray astronomy telescope, and while we were gone, it took images of a black hole, which is kind of cool stuff. That’s kind of sexy.”

But when the orbiter came back to retrieve it, Fabian said, the satellite was out of attitude. The grapple fixture was in the wrong position for the shuttle’s arm to be able to easily grab it.

One idea was to fly an out-of-plane maneuver, flying the shuttle around the satellite, but the crew hadn’t practiced anything like that. Fabian noted,

Dan’s a very capable pilot, and I’m sure that he could have done that, but it turns out that perhaps an easier way would be to fly the satellite in much closer to the shuttle, get it essentially down almost into the cargo bay, and then reach over the top with the arm and grab it from the top, and that’s what we elected to do.

Of course, we told the ground what was going on, that it was out of atti­tude, and they worried, but there wasn’t much they could do—they couldn’t put it in attitude—so they concurred with the plan, and that’s what we executed.

Fabian said it felt good to benefit from all of the time spent in the simu­lators with the robotic arm. Training for contingency situations contribut­ed greatly to the crew’s knowledge of the arm’s capabilities and to the suc­cessful retrieval, he said.

The seven-person crew for this mission, including two payload specialists and representing three different nationalities, had a unique set of challeng­es because of those factors, said Fabian, but in general the crew got along well and had a positive experience.

We were told not to tell any camel jokes when Sultan showed up, and the first thing he did when he walked through the door was to say, “I left my camel out­side. ” So much for the public affairs part of the thing. These just were not issues. They really were not issues. Patrick flew a little bit ofFrench food and didn’t eat the same diet that we ate. Sultan did. Patrick flew some small bottles of wine that were never opened, but the press worried about whether or not they had been. Patrick flew as a Frenchman and enjoyed it, I think.

Fabian and Nagel were assigned to support Baudry and Sultan with any help they needed on their experiments. “Patrick was doing echocardio – graphs,” Fabian said, “and he did those on himself, and he did them on Sultan, and I think he did them on one or two of the nasa crew mem­bers, and frankly, I’ve forgotten whether he did one on me or not. But he was using a French instrument with a French protocol, and it was the principal thing that he was doing in flight, was to do these French medi­cal experiments.”

Sultan’s primary role was to observe, Fabian explained.

We were flying $130 million worth of satellites for the Arab League. But he also had some experiments, and he was tasked to take pictures, particularly over Sau­di Arabia, which of course would be very valuable when he got home. People would be very interested in seeing that. But they didn’t need a lot of support. They didn’t need a lot of help. We had to worry a bit about making sure that they were fed and making sure that they knew how to use the toilet and mak­ing sure that they understood the safety precautions that were there and so forth. And, you know, probably more than half of what our role and responsibility was with regard to the two. Other than that, it was to make sure they had film when they needed it in the cameras and help them for setup if they needed some setup for video or something of that type and to participate in their experiments to the degree that it was deemed necessary.

Even at this point, the payload specialist classification was still very new and crew members were still figuring out exactly how to act toward each oth­er, and that resulted in a change being made to the orbiter. “People weren’t really sure how these folks were going to react,” Fabian recalled. “We put a lock on the door of the side hatch. It was installed when we got into orbit so that the door could not be opened from the inside and commit hari-kari, kill the whole crew. That was not because of anybody we had on our flight but because of a concern about someone who had flown before.”

Fabian expressed concern over how the agency handled safety during this era of the shuttle program. On this flight, for example, Fabian said the arabsat never passed a safety review. “It failed every one of its safety re­views,” Fabian said.

The crew recommended that it not be flown, the flight controllers recommend­ed that it not be flown, and the safety office recommended that it not be flown, but NASA management decided to fly it. This was an unhealthy environment within the agency. We were taking risks that we shouldn’t have been taking. We were shoving people onto the crews late in the process so they were never fully integrated into the operation of the shuttle. And there was a mentality that we were simply filling another 747 with people and having it take off from Chica­go to Los Angeles, and this is not that kind of vehicle. But that’s the way it was being treated at that time.

It was very disappointing to a lot of people, a lot of people at the agency, to see management decide to fly this satellite. But if they hadn’t flown the satel­lite, you see, political embarrassment, what are we going to do with the Saudi prince, what about the French astronaut, what’s the French government going to have to say about us saying that we can’tfly their satellite on the shuttle, what will be the impact downstream of other commercial ventures that we want to do with the shuttle? Well, of course, after Challenger, the commercial all went away, and it was a dead-end street anyhow, but we didn’t know it at the time.

The Golden Age

How different it was in those early years of shuttle, when
we were going to fly once a month at least. That was going
to be routine, and we were going to revolutionize space and
discover these amazing things, and we still will, but we were
just naive, thinking it was going to happen the next year, and
not the next decade or the next generation. So there was a lot
of naivete, and maybe it was just us or maybe it was just me,
but that was the big change. It’s a little sad that that had to
happen, but that’s just maturing the industry, I guess.

—Astronaut Mike Lounge


Crew: Commander Joe Engle, Pilot Dick Covey, Mission Specialists Ox van Hoften, Mike Lounge, and Bill Fisher Orbiter: Discovery Launched: 27 August 1985 Landed: 3 September 1985

Mission: Deployment of three satellites; retrieval, repair, and redeploy­ment of syncom iv-3

Like the 51A mission, which recovered two satellites that had previously failed to deploy, 511 included the repair of a malfunctioning satellite from a previous mission, 51D. The satellite, syncom iv-3, had failed to activate properly after deployment. Mike Lounge recalled that he and fellow 511 mission specialist Ox van Hoften were together when they heard about the syncom failure. The sat­ellite was fine; the failure was a power switch on the computer. “We, essentially

on the back of an envelope, said, well, what’s the mass properties of this thing? Could it be handled by some sort of handling device by hand? Attached to the robot arm? And then if we had to push it away, what kind of forces would we have to push on it to make it stable, and is that a reasonable thing to do? So we calculated a twenty – or thirty-pound push would be enough.”

The calculations were right on. Lounge said computer simulations cal­culated a push of 27.36 pounds would be needed. Then the question was whether the rescue mission was even feasible. After looking into the chal­lenges further, Lounge and van Hoften believed it was and encouraged their commander to seek approval for his crew to do the job. Joe Engle shep­herded the request through center management and up to NASA headquar­ters and got the go-ahead for the recovery. Explained Lounge, “The key to the success of that mission and being able to do that was NASA was so busy flying shuttle missions that year that nobody was paying attention. If we’d had more attention, there’d have been a hundred people telling us why it wouldn’t work and it’s too much risk. But fortunately, there was a twelve­month period we flew ten missions; we were one of those.”

Discussions about the feasibility of the syncom recovery naturally led to comparisons with an earlier flight. One of the questions, recalled 511 pi­lot Dick Covey, was, would the astronauts be able to stop the rotation of the spacecraft? Covey said crewmate Ox van Hoften drew the solution on the back of a piece of paper.

He says, “It’s only going to take this much force to stop the rotation, so that’s not an issue. "Then [they] said, “Well, you know, does anybody think that we could have a person stop the rotation and do that?" Ox says, “Well, here. Here’s me," and he draws this big guy, and he says, “Here’s the syncom. " He draws a little guy, and he says, “Here’s Joe Allen, and there’s a palapa [satellite]. So if he can grab that one, then I can grab this one." We said, “Okay, yes." It was the “big astronaut, little astronaut" approach to things.

For Commander Engle, this mission would be very different from STS-2, on which he also served as commander. Engle described his second shuttle flight as less demanding than his first; the biggest difference between the two flights, he said, was that on his second mission—and NASA’s twentieth— there were more people there to help out.

We had only a crew of two on sts-2, and one of the lessons we learned from those first four orbital flight tests was that the shuttle—the orbiter itself—probably represents more of a workload than should be put onto a crew of two. It’s just too demanding as far as configuring all of the systems and switches, circuit break­ers. There are over fifteen hundred switches and circuit breakers that potentially have to be configured during flight, and some of those are in fairly time-critical times. . . . Some of them are on the mid-deck and some are on the flight deck, so you’re going back and forth and around. Having more people on board re­ally reduces the workload of actually flying the vehicle.

In flight, Engle discovered that having more crew to do the work meant more time personally to look out the window at Earth. “It’s a very, very in­spiring experience to see how thin, how delicate the atmosphere is, how beautiful the Earth is, really, what a beautiful piece of work it is, and to see the features go by,” Engle described.

Sultan Al-Saud was assigned to our crew initially, when one ofour payload sat­ellites was the arabsa T. [Al-Saud flew as part of the 51G crew.] He was assigned as a mission specialist on our crew, and when he eventually did fly, I think he said it better than anybody has. He said, “The first day or two in space, we were looking for our countries. Then the next day or two, we were looking at our continents. By about the fourth or fifth day, we were all looking at our world." Boy, it’s one of those things that I said, “God, I wish I’d have thought of that. I wish I’d have said that."

The crew made several launch attempts before finally getting off the ground on 27 August 1985. The first launch attempt, on 24 August, was scrubbed at T minus five minutes due to thunderstorms in the vicinity.

“When we got back in the crew quarters after that first scrub for weath­er,” recalled Covey,

[there was] John Young, who was the chief of the Astronaut Office at the time and also served as the airborne weather caller in the Shuttle Training Air­craft. . . . I was making some comments about, “I cant believe we scrubbed for those two little showers out there. Anybody with half a lick of sense would have said, ‘Let’s go. This could be a lot worse. ’"John Young came over and looked at me and he says, “The crew cannot make the call on the weather. They do not

know what’s going on. All they can see is out the window. That’s other people’s job. ” I said, “Yes, sir. Okay. ”

Launch was pushed to the next day, 25 August. Engle’s birthday was 26 Au­gust, and on board the shuttle was a cake that the crew was taking into orbit to celebrate. The launch scrubbed again on the twenty-fifth, this time because of a failure with one of the orbiter’s on-board computers, and was pushed to the twenty-seventh. Said Covey, “They wound up unstowing the birthday cake and taking it back to crew quarters, and we had it there instead of on orbit.”

Initially, things weren’t looking good for the third launch attempt, ei­ther, Engle said. It was raining so hard the crew wore big yellow rain slick­ers from the crew quarters to the Astrovan and up the elevator to the white room. Engle admitted that as the crew boarded, the astronauts “didn’t think there was a prayer” of actually flying that day. But they had only one more delay before they would have to detank and refuel the shuttle, which would delay the mission an additional two days, so the decision was made to get ready and see what happened.

We got in the bird and we strapped in and we started countdown. Ox van Hoften was in the number-four seat, over on the right-hand side aft, and Mike Lounge was in the center seat aft, and we were sitting there waiting, and launch con­trol had called several holds. Ox was so big that he hung out over the seats as he sat back, and he was very uncomfortable, and he talked Mike into unstrapping and going down to the mid-deck so that he could stretch across both those seats in the back of the flight deck. We were lying there waiting, and it was raining, and raining fairly good.

As the countdown clock ticked down nearer and nearer to the sched­uled launch time, the crew continued to believe that there was essentially no chance of a launch that day.

We got down to five minutes or six minutes, and. .. we got the call from launch control to start the apus. Dick Covey and I looked at each other kind ofincred – ulously and asked them to repeat. And they said, “Start the apus. We don’t have much time in the window here. ” So he started going through the procedures to start the apus, and they make kind of a whining noise as they come up to speed. The rest of the crew was asleep down in the mid-deck.

I think it was Fish [Bill Fisher] woke up and said, “What’s that noise? What’s going on?” We said, “We’re cranking apus. Let’s go,” or something like that. Dick was into the second apu, and they looked up and saw the rain coming down and they said, “Yeah, sure, we’re not going anywhere today. Why [are] you starting apus?” We didn’t have time to explain to them, because the sequence gets pretty rushed then. So we yelled to them, “Damn it, we’re going. Were going to launch. Get back in your seats and get strapped in. ” They woke up Ox and Mike, and they got back in their seats, and they had to strap themselves in. Normally you have a crew strap you in; they had to strap each other in. And Dick and I were busy getting systems up to speed and running, and all we could hear was Mike and Ox back there yelling at each other to, “Get that strap for me. Where’s my comm lead?” “Get it yourself. I cant find mine. ” And they were trying to strap them­selves in, and we were counting down to launch. They really didn’t believe we were going to launch because it was, in fact, raining, but they counted right down to the launch and we did go. It went right through a light rain, but it was raining.

Engle said that after the crew returned to Earth at the end of the mission he asked about the decision to launch through the rain. It turns out that the weather spotters were flying at the Shuttle Launch Facility at launch time, and it was clear there. “[They asked,] ‘Why didn’t you tell us it was raining [at the pad]?’ We used their rationale then. We said, ‘Our job is to be ready to fly. You guys tell us when the weather’s okay.’”

In addition to capturing and repairing the syncom that malfunctioned on 51D, the mission was to deploy three other satellites. One of those was another syncom, known as syncom iv-4 or leasat-4; the other two were Asc-i, launched for American Satellite Company, and the Australian com­munications satellite AussAT-i.

“We were supposed to do one the first day, one the second day, one the third day, and then the fourth and fifth days were repair days, and there was a day in between,” explained Lounge. But first, the crew was tasked with us­ing the camera to look at the payload bay and the sun shield to make sure everything was intact after launch. Lounge did just that.

Then I commanded the sun shield open, and I had failed to stow the camera. If it had been day two instead of day one, I’d have been more aware of it. On day one you’re just kind of overwhelmed and you’re just down doing the steps, and it’s not a good defense, but that was an example of why you don’t change things at the last minute and why you don’t do things you haven’t simulated, because we’d never simulated that. That was some engineer or program manager said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to add this camera task." Now I had a camera out of posi­tion, opened the sun shield against the camera, and it bent the sun shield and it got hung up on the top of the shuttle.

To address the problem, the crew did an earlier than planned checkout of the robotic arm and then used the arm to essentially bang against the sunshade, Lounge said. “[The sunshade was a] very flimsy structure with [an] aluminum tube frame and Mylar fabric, so not a lot to it, but it had to get out of the way.”

Lounge maneuvered the arm, but it wasn’t working right either.

The elbow joint had a problem that wouldn’t let the automatic control system operate the arm, so I had to command the arm single-joint mode, which means instead of some coordinated motion, command the tip to move in a certain tra­jectory, you just had to say, all right, elbow, move like this; wrist, move like this, rotate like this. So, a little awkward and took awhile, but I got the arm down there and banged on the solar array and got it down, and then we deployed that one [satellite]. . . . We deployed both of them on the same day, five or six hours after launch. So that was exciting, more exciting than it needed to be.

After the satellite deployments came the syncom repair attempt. The shuttle rendezvoused with the failed satellite, and robot arm operator Mike Lounge helped Bill Fisher and Ox van Hoften get ready for their eva. Once the eva began, van Hoften installed a foot platform on the end of the arm, and Lounge moved him toward the satellite so that he could grab it, just like in his napkin drawings months earlier.

The satellite, though, was in a tumble, so there were concerns about whether the capture could go as planned. As on earlier missions, the astro­nauts took advantage of the long periods of loss of signal and worked out a solution in real time.

“When we got up there and it was tumbling,” said Covey,

we were trying to relay back to the ground what was going on.. .. We were try­ing to figure out stuff. They were trying to figure out stuff. Finally we went LOS and Ox said, “Fly me up to it," and he went up and he just grabbed it. If the ground would have been watching, we wouldn’t have done that, I’m sure, like

that. But he grabs it and spins it, just with his hands on the edge, where they say, “Watch out for the sharp edges." And he spins it a little bit so that the fix­tures come around to him, and then he rotates it a little bit, and he gets that tool on, screws it down. We maneuver it down. We come aos. We say, “Well, we got it, Houston. "They didn’t ask why. They didn’t ask how.


Crew: Commander Brewster Shaw, Pilot Bryan O’Connor, Mission Spe­cialists Mary Cleave, Jerry Ross, and Sherwood Spring, Payload Spe­cialists Rodolfo Neri Vela (Mexico) and Charlie Walker

Orbiter: Atlantis

Launched: 26 November 1985

Landed: 3 December 1985

Mission: Deployment of three satellites, demonstration of space assem­bly techniques

As NASA worked to create a healthy manifest of shuttle flights, glitch­es with satellites’ inertial upper stages and with payloads themselves made for an ever-shifting manifest. “Continuously, we were juggling the mani­fest,” said astronaut Jerry Ross. “Crews were getting shifted from flight to flight. The payloads were getting shifted from flight to flight. And basical­ly, throughout 1985, our crew trained for every mission that flew that year except for military or Spacelab missions.”

At one point, Ross said, the 6ib crew was even assigned to 51L, the ill – fated final launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. After bouncing around to several different mission possibilities, the crew settled in on 6ib.

The mission included two payload specialists, Charlie Walker and Ro­dolfo Neri Vela of Mexico. Ross remembered that the agency was being pressured to fly civilians—teachers, politicians, and the like. “We were giving away seats, is the way we kind of saw it, to nonprofessional astro­nauts, when we thought that the astronauts could do the jobs if properly trained,” Ross said.

The flight was Walker’s third flight in fifteen months and it was the first flight for a payload specialist from Mexico. “The guys did a great job on or­bit,” Ross praised the mission’s two payload specialists. “They were always very helpful. They knew that if the operations on the flight deck were very hectic, they stayed out of the way, which is the right thing to do, frankly.

But at other times they would come up onto the flight deck and enjoy the view as well as any of the rest of the crew.”

The mission deployed three more communications satellites: one for Mexico, one for Australia, and one for rca Americom. All three satellites were deployed using Payload Assist Modules. Ross and Mission Specialist Sherwood Spring worked together on the deployments. The two also jour­neyed outside the shuttle on two spacewalks to experiment further with as­sembling erectable structures in space. The two experiments were the Ex­perimental Assembly of Structures in Extravehicular Activity (ease) and the Assembly Concept for Construction of Erectable Space Structure (access).

“I’ll remember the day forever, when I got to go do my first spacewalk,” recalled Ross, who throughout his career ventured out of his spacecraft for a total of nine evas. That first venture outside was something he had been looking forward to for quite some time.

I got a chance to do a lot of[support for] spacewalks as a CapCom on the ground, and I got a little bit more green with envy every time I did that, thinking about what those guys were doing, how much fun they were having. So when I ulti­mately got a chance to go outside for my first time, I was worried, because I was worried that the orbiter was going to have a problem, we were going to have to go home early, or one of the spacesuits wouldn’t check out and we wouldn’t be able to go out, and all those things.

I’ll never forget opening up the hatch and poking my head out the first time, and I literally had this very strong desire to let out this war whoop of glee and excitement. But I figured that if I did that, they’d say, “Okay, Ross has finally lost it. Let’s get his butt back inside, ” and that would have been it. But it felt totally natural, just totally natural to be outside in your own little cocoon, your own little spacecraft, and I felt basically instantly at home in terms of going to work.

ease and access were designed to test how easily—or not—astronauts could assemble or deploy components in orbit. The idea was to study the feasibility of packing space structure truss components in a low-volume manner for transport to orbit so that they could then be expanded by as­tronauts in space. The question was more than just hypothetical; planning was already underway to construct a space station.

The idea of a space station was an old one, and nasa had already built and flown one space station, Skylab. When the Space Shuttle was proposed

The Golden Age

30. Jerry Ross on a spacewalk demonstrating the first construction of large structures in weightlessness. Courtesy nasa.

in the late 1960s, nasa’s desire was to build both the shuttle and a space sta­tion as the first steps in developing an infrastructure for interplanetary ex­ploration. The administration of President Richard Nixon approved fund­ing only for the Space Shuttle, however. By 1984, Reagan believed that the Space Shuttle program was sufficiently mature to move ahead with a space station, and the Space Station Freedom project was born. The station had ambitious goals, with plans calling for it to be a microgravity science lab, a repair shop for satellites, an assembly port for deep-space vehicles, and a commercial microgravity factory. Unlike Skylab, which was launched ful­ly assembled atop a powerful Saturn V rocket, plans were for Freedom to be launched in multiple modules aboard the shuttle and assembled in or­bit. The 61B spacewalks to test ease and access were part of the prepara­

tions, designed to study how best to build components so that they could be flown compactly and easily assembled by astronauts in space.

“The second spacewalk, we worked off the end of the mechanical arm for a lot of the work,” Ross explained.

We did the assembly, the top bay of the A ccess truss off the end of the arm. We simulated the running of the electrical cable. We did the simulation of doing a repair of the truss by taking out and reinserting an element there. We removed the trusses off of the fixture and maneuvered them around to see how that would be in terms of assembling a larger structure. We also mounted a U. S. flag that we had modified onto the truss and took some great pictures of us saluting the flag on the end of the arm up there. We also made a flag that we took outside. We called ourselves the Ace Construction Company. There’s a series of Ace signs that were taken outside on various spacewalks. . . . Somehow we’ve lost some of that fun over the years. I’m not sure why.

For the access work, the rms arm, with the spacewalkers at its end, was operated by Mary Cleave, whose height, or lack thereof, required spe­cial accommodation for her to be able to perform the task, according to Commander Shaw.

In order for her to get up and be able to look out the window and operate the controls on the rms, we’d strung a bungee across the panel and she’d stick her legs in front of that bungee and it would hold her against the panel . . . so she could be high enough and see and be in the right position to operate the rms. I remember coming up behind Mary once when she was operating the rms and there was somebody on the end of the arm. I put my hand on her shoulder, and her whole body was quivering, because she was so intent on doing this job right and not hurting anybody, and so focused and so conscientious, not wanting to do anything wrong, because she knew she had somebody out there on the end of this arm, and she was just quivering, and that just impressed the hell out of me, because I thought, you know, what a challenge, what a task for her to buy into doing when it obviously stressed her so.

All in all, Ross said, the two experiments were successful in their goal of producing data about in-space construction. “It gave us quite a bit of un­derstanding and knowledge of what it would be like to assemble things in space,” Ross noted.

Ultimately, that’s not the way that we chose to build the station, because when you think about having to integrate all the electrical and fluid lines and every­thing else into the structure once you’ve assembled this open network of truss, it becomes harder to figure out how you’re going to do that and properly con­nect everything together and make sure it’s tested and works properly. But we did learn a lot about assembling things in space and proved that they are val­id things that you could anticipate doing, even on the current station, at some point, if you needed to add a new antenna or something like that.

One advancement that came out of the access and ease experiments wasn’t even in space but had a big impact down the road. nasa realized through training for the space assembly tests that the Weightless Environ­mental Training Facility, or wet-f, water tank where astronauts were train­ing for eva was not going to be large enough to train for construction of a large space station. “[In] the facility we had when we built the access truss, we could only build like one and a half bays before it started stick­ing out of the surface of the water,” recalled Ross. “And the ease experi­ment, when we did it, basically our backpacks of our suits when we were at the top of the structure were right at the surface of the water. So if you’re going to build anything that’s anywhere close to being big on orbit, that wasn’t going to get it.”

For the next ten years, Ross helped nasa campaign to Congress for funds for a new facility. Ross helped design the requirements for the facility and led the Operational Readiness Inspection Team that eventually certified the new Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at the Sonny Carter Training Facility.

During one of the two access/ease spacewalks, Ross recalled saying to Spring, “Let’s go build a space station.” Ross would later have the oppor­tunity to repeat that same phrase on his final spacewalk, on sTs-110 during actual assembly of the International Space Station in 2002.

The crew of 61B was the first to be on the shuttle in orbit on Thanks­giving Day, which meant, of course, that the astronauts needed a space – compatible Thanksgiving feast. Payload Specialist Charlie Walker recalled that the crew worked with jsc foods manager Rita Rapp on planning a spe­cial meal for the holiday. Rapp had been involved in space food develop­ment and astronaut menus since the early Mercury missions. Walker said the crew specifically requested pumpkin pie.

Of course, the menu had to be approved by NASA to withstand launch, and pumpkin pie didn’t make the cut. “Apparently somebody did the jiggle test, the vibration test, on the pumpkin pie, and what we were told later was, ‘Well, pumpkin pie does not make it to orbit. The center of the pumpkin pie turns back to liquid, so you won’t have pumpkin pie, you’ll have pumpkin slop in orbit, and you really don’t want that, so sorry, no pumpkin pie.’ So Rita said, All right, how about pumpkin bread? We can do that, and that will work, we know.’ So we had pumpkin bread on orbit for Thanksgiving.”

Thanksgiving was not the only interesting part of the mission from a culinary perspective. Being from Mexico, Payload Specialist Rodolfo Vela brought into space with him foods from home, one of which significantly changed the way astronauts would eat from that point forward. “Rodolfo had, of course, the desire, and probably the need, as it was perceived back home from Mexico, to be seen to be flying with some local Mexican cul­tural things, and so food was one of those,” Walker said.

One of the things that Rodolfo wanted to fly with, of course, was flour tortillas. In retrospect, I think that this amounted to something of a minor revolution in the U. S. manned space program, in that up to that time, of course, when crews wanted to have sandwiches in orbit, well, you went into the pantry, and you took out the sliced bread, sliced leavened bread that had been flown, for your sandwiches. Well, sliced bread, of course, always results in some degree of crumbs, and the crumbs don’t fall to the floor in the cabin in space. They are all around you, in your eyes, in your hair, and so it’s messy and just not that attractive. The crew saw Rodolfo flying with these flour tortillas and immedi­ately thought, “Ooh, this may be real good," and it was real good. It was tasty, after all, but when you took spread or anything that you wanted to make into a rolled sandwich and devoured it that way, but it was just no-muss, no-fuss kind of thing. I remember taking some sliced bread, but there may have been some sliced bread that even made it home, because we just found that the flour tortilla thing was well in advance of sliced bread, crumbly bread, for the prep­aration of sandwiches or just as a bread to go with your meal. The flour torti­llas worked well, much better than that.

Pilot Bryan O’Connor played a prank on Mission Specialist Spring. Spring was in the army—a West Point grad—and O’Connor was from the

Naval Academy. During the mission the two armed forces faced off in the annual Army-Navy Game. O’Connor’s prank centered around the rivalry between the two forces.

Each person was allowed to carry six audios, and NASA would help you record records or whatever you wanted onto these space-qualified audiotapes. Then we would carry them and a tape player on board with our equipment. Usu­ally what would happen is people would break those out when it was time for bed and listen to their favorite music at bedtime. . . . It was on day three that we turned off the lights and, I don’t know, it was about ten minutes after the lights were off, and I was borderline asleep, and I hear this loud cry from the other side of the mid-deck, where Woody [Spring] was hanging off the wall in his bed. He yells out, “O’Connor, you S. O.B.!" It woke me up with a start, and I had no idea what he was talking about. “What is it? What is it?" He says, “You know what it is."

And all of a sudden, it clicked with me. About a month before flight, when we were having the people transcribe music onto our tapes, I went over to the guy that was working on Woody’s tapes and I gave him a record with the Na­val Academy fight song on it and I said, “I want you to go right in the middle of his tape somewhere, just right in the middle, and superimpose the navy fight song somewhere on his tape." Well, it turned out it was his Peter, Paul, and Mary album, and it was right in the middle of “I’ve Got a Hammer." He’s lis­tening to “I’ve Got a Hammer" on his way to sleep and suddenly up comes this really loud navy fight song thing right in the middle of it. We still joke about that to this day. In fact, sometimes we go to one or the other house and watch the Army-Navy Game together, and we always remember that night on the At­lantis in the mid-deck.

The mission ended and the crew came in for landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Weather brought the crew in one orbit sooner than was originally planned. “We came to wheels stop, and everybody unbuckles, and they’re trying to get their land legs again,” said Walker.

Jerry [Ross] is over at the hatch real quickly and wants to pop the hatch open so that we’ve got that part of the job done. Well, Jerry pops the hatch open, but it literally pops open, because whomever had planned these things had forgotten about the altitude, pressure altitude difference, between sea level at the Cape and the probably three-thousand-, four-thousand-foot elevation at Edwards Air Force Base. So it’s a little bit less air pressure outside. Well, we’re still at sea-level pressure inside the ship. So he turns the crank on the side hatch, and the hatch goes, “Pow!" It flops down, and right away, I think Jerry said something about, “Oh, my God, I’m going to have to pay for a new hatch."


Crew: Commander Hoot Gibson, Pilot Charles Bolden, Mission Special­ists Franklin Chang-Diaz, Steven Hawley, and Pinky Nelson, Payload Specialists Robert Cenker and Congressman Bill Nelson

Orbiter: Columbia

Launched: 12 January 1986

Landed: 18 January 1986

Mission: Deployment of the rca satellite satcom ku-i, various oth­er experiments

The payload specialists on 61c were Robert Cenker of rca, who dur­ing the mission observed the deployment of the rca satellite, performed a variety of physiological tests, and operated an infrared imaging camera; and the second member of the U. S. Congress to fly, Bill Nelson, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Florida and its Space Coast, and chairman of the Space Subcommittee of the Science, Space, and Tech­nology Committee.

Pinky Nelson recalled that the payload specialists assigned to the mis­sion changed several times leading up to flight. “Our original payload spe­cialists were Bob Cenker and Greg Jarvis, so they were training with us,” Pinky said.

It was after Jake Garn flew, and then they decided they had to offer a flight to his counterpart in the House. Don Fuqua couldn’t fly for some reason, and so it filtered down to the chair of the subcommittee, Bill Nelson, and he jumped at the chance. Who could blame him? This was just months before the flight, in the fall or late fall, even. The flight was scheduled in December. So they bumped Greg and his little payload off the mission over onto Dick Scobee’s [51L Chal­lenge^ crew and added Bill to our crew. I think our attitude generally at that point was, “Well, that’s just the way the program’s going. Were flying payload specialists. We’ll make the best of it."

Pinky Nelson described Representative Nelson as a model payload spe­cialist, working very hard to contribute to the mission. “He had no experi­ence either in aviation or anything technical. He was a lawyer, so he had a huge learning curve, but that didn’t stop him from trying, and I think he knew where his limitations were,” Pinky said. “He wanted to jump in and help a lot of times, but just didn’t have the wherewithal to do it, but worked very hard and was incredibly enthusiastic.”

The launch of 61c was delayed seven times. Originally set for 18 Decem­ber 1985, the launch was delayed one day when additional time was need­ed to close out the orbiter’s aft compartment. On 19 December the launch scrubbed at T minus fourteen seconds due to a problem with the right sol­id rocket booster hydraulic power unit. “As it turned out,” Charlie Bolden said, “when we finally got out of the vehicle and they detanked and went in, they determined that there wasn’t really a problem. . . . It was a com­puter problem, not a physical problem with the hydraulic power unit at all, and it probably would have functioned perfectly normally, and we’d have had a great flight.”

The launch was pushed out eighteen days, to 6 January 1986. The third attempt stopped at T minus thirty-one seconds due to the accidental drain­ing of approximately four thousand pounds of liquid oxygen from the ex­ternal tank. The next day launch scrubbed at T minus nine minutes due to bad weather at both transoceanic abort landing sites.

Two days later, on 9 January, launch was delayed yet again, this time be­cause a launchpad liquid oxygen sensor broke off and lodged in the num­ber two main engine prevalve. “That time we got down to thirty-one sec­onds, and one more time things weren’t right,” Bolden said. “So we got out, and it was another main engine valve. This time they found it. There had actually been a probe, a temperature probe, that in the defueling, they had broken the temperature probe off, and it had lodged inside the valve, keeping the valve from closing fully. So that would have been a bad day. That would have been a catastrophic day, because the engine would have exploded had we launched.”

A 10 January launch was delayed two days due to heavy rains. After so many delays, despite the adverse weather conditions, the crew was still load­ed onto the vehicle, on the off chance that things would happen to clear up. “It was the worst thunderstorm I’d ever been in,” Bolden said.

We were really not happy about being there, because you could hear the light­ning. You could hear stuffcrackling in the headset. You know, you’re sitting out there on the top of two million pounds of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and two solid rocket boosters, and they told you about this umbrella that’s over the pad, that keeps lightning from getting down there, but we had seen light­ning actually hit the lightning-arrester system on sts-8, which was right there on the launchpad. So none of us were enamored with being out there, and we started talking about the fact that we really ought not be out here.

While some astronauts found multiple scrubs and launch attempts frus­trating, Steve Hawley said he wasn’t bothered by it. “My approach to that has always been, hey, you know, I’d go out to the launchpad every time ex­pecting not to launch,” Hawley said.

If you think about all the things that have to work, including the weather at several different locations around the world, in order to make a launch hap­pen, you would probably conclude, based on the numbers, that it’s not even worth trying. So I always figured that we’re going to turn around and come back. So I’m always surprised when we launch. So my mindset was always, you know, we’ll go out there and try and see what happens. So I never real­ly viewed it as a disappointment or anything. I always feel a little bad for, you know, maybe family and guests that may have come out to watch, that now they have to deal with the fact there’s a delay and whether they can stay, whether they have to leave, and that’s kind of a hassle for them, but it never bothered me particularly.

In those days, Hawley pointed out, the launch windows were much lon­ger than they were later in the program for International Space Station dock­ing missions. In the early days launch windows were two and a half hours, versus five to ten minutes for iss flights. The longer windows were advan­tageous in terms of probability of launch but could be adverse in terms of crew comfort. “You’re out there on your back for five or six hours, and that gets to be pretty long, day after day, but the fact that you didn’t launch nev­er bothered me particularly.”

Having been part of multiple scrubs on his earlier 41D mission, Haw­ley had a reputation for not being able to launch. “I don’t remember how we came up with the specifics of the disguise, but I decided that if it didn’t

know it was me, then maybe we’d launch, and so I taped over my name tag with gray tape and had the glasses-nose-mustache disguise and wore that into the [white] room. I had the commander’s permission, but I don’t re­member if we had told anybody else we were going to do that. . . . Evident­ly it worked, because we did launch that day.”

So finally, on 12 January 1986 the mission made it off the ground. By this time the crew members were wondering if they’d ever really go. “We did all kinds of crazy stuff,” Bolden said, “fully expecting that we wouldn’t launch, because I think the weatherman had given us a less than 50 percent chance that the winds were going to be good or something, so we went out and we were about as loose as you could be that morning. And they went through the countdown, came out of the holds and nothing happened. ‘Ten, nine, eight, seven, six.’ And we looked at each other and went, ‘Holy—we’re re­ally going to go. We’d better get ready.’ And the vehicle started shaking and stuff, and we were gone.”

Within seconds of lifting off, an alarm sounded. “I looked down at what I could see, with everything shaking and vibrating, and we had an indica­tion that we had a helium leak in—I think it was the right-hand main en­gine,” Pilot Bolden recalled. “Had it been true, it was going to be a bad day. . . . We didn’t have a real problem. We had a problem, but it was an instrumentation problem.”

With the determination made that the indicator was giving a false read­ing, the crew continued on into space. “We got on orbit and it was awe­some,” said Bolden of his first spaceflight. “It was unlike anything I’d ex­pected. Technically, we were fully qualified, fully ready, and everything. Emotionally, I wasn’t even close. I started crying. Not bawling or anything, but just kind of tears rolling down my cheek when I looked out the win­dow and saw the continent of Africa coming up. It looked like a big island. Just awesome, unlike anything I’d ever imagined.”

Pinky Nelson said he found the entire mission rather frustrating, de­scribing the mission as trivial. “We launched one satellite, and we did this silly material science experiment out in the payload bay which didn’t work. I knew it wasn’t going to work when we launched. Halley’s Com­et was up at the time and we had this little astronomy thing to look at Halley’s Comet, and it was launched broken, so it never worked. So the mission itself, to say what we did, I don’t know. I deployed a satellite.

Steve deployed a satellite. We threw a bunch of switches, took a bunch of pictures.”

According to Bolden, the crew referred to its mission as an end-of-year – clearance flight. “We had picked up just tons of payload, science payloads that Marshall [Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Alabama] had been trying to fly for years, and some of the Spacelab experiments and stuff that they couldn’t get flown,” Bolden said. “So we had Congressman Nelson and ev­ery experiment known to man that they couldn’t get in. There was nothing spectacular about our mission. It was almost like a year-end clearance sale.”

Hawley said there was a general feeling at the time that without Nelson on the flight the mission might have been canceled. “We all suspected, al­though no one ever said, that because of the delays that we got into and the fact that, frankly, our payload wasn’t very robust, that were it not for his presence on the flight, we might have been canceled. . . . We wondered about that and always thought, without knowing for sure, that that might have happened if we hadn’t had a congressman, but this was his flight, and so we had some guarantee that it would happen.”

In addition to launching the rca satellite satcom ku-i, the mission was assigned the Comet Halley Active Monitoring Program (champ) ex­periment, which was a 35 mm camera that was to be used to photograph Halley’s Comet. But the camera didn’t work properly due to battery prob­lems. Science experiments on board were the Materials Science Laborato­ry-2, Hitchhiker g-i, Infrared Imaging experiment, Initial Blood Storage experiment, Handheld Protein Crystal Growth experiment, three Shuttle Student Involvement Program experiments, and thirteen Getaway Specials.

“The big challenge,” Bolden said,

was arguing with the ground about how we should do some of the experiments. There were some that we could see were not going exactly right. I didn’t have the problem as much as Pinky. Pinky was the big person working a lot of the material sciences experiments. And while we had very little insight into what was going on inside the box, we could tell that because of the data that we were seeing on board, we could tell that if we were just given an opportunity to reenergize an experiment, or to turn the orbiter a different way, or do some­thing, we might be able to get some more data for the principal investigators. The principal investigators agreed, but the flight control crew on the ground [said] that wasn’t in the plan. They weren’t interested in ad-libbing. They had a flight to fly and a plan to fly, and so forget about these doggone experiments.

Bolden said there was generally always a power struggle between the flight director on the ground and the commander of the shuttle in space, an issue that dated back to the earliest U. S. spaceflights.

There’s always a pull and tug between the flight director, who is in charge— nobody argues that point—and the crew commander, who, by the General Pru­dential Rule ofSeamanship of navigation at sea, has ultimate responsibility for the safety of the crew and vessel. If there’s a disagreement between the command­er and the flight director—and that’s happened on very, very few occasions, but every once in a while it happens—the commander can do what he or she thinks is the right thing to do and is justified in doing that by the General Prudential Rule. And even NASA recognizes that. Now, you could be in deep yogurt when you come back, ifsomethinggoes wrong. But you have the right to countermand the direction of the flight director. Almost never happens.

Bolden recalled that because the agency wanted to get Challenger and the Teacher in Space mission off the ground, 61c was cut from six days to four. The flight was scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center—which would have made it the first flight to land there since the blown-tire incident on 51D—but the weather in Florida once again didn’t cooperate.

“They kept waving us off and making us wait another day to try to get back into Ksc,” Hawley recalled. “What I remember is that by the third day we had sort of run out of most everything, including film, and part of our training had been to look for spiral eddies near the equator, because the theory was, for whatever reason, you didn’t see them near the equa­tor, and Charlie was looking out the window and claimed to see one, and I told him, ‘Well, you’d better draw a picture of it, because we don’t have any film.’ So we couldn’t take a photograph.”

After two days of bad weather preventing the shuttle from landing in Florida, it was decided to send Columbia to Edwards Air Force Base. “The first attempt at Edwards was waved off because the weather there was bad,” Bolden said. “Finally, on our fifth attempted landing. . . in the middle of the night on 18 January, we landed at Edwards Air Force Base, which was inter­esting because with a daytime scheduled landing, you would have thought that we wouldn’t have been ready for that. And Hoot, in his infinite wis­dom, had decided that half of our landing training was going to be night­time, because you needed to be prepared for anything. And so we were as ready for a night landing as we could have been for anything.”

The landing was smooth, but Bolden said Congressman Nelson was dis­appointed not to have landed in his home state. “He really had these visions of landing in Florida and taking a Florida orange or something, and boy, the crew that picked us up was unmerciful, because they came out with a big—it wasn’t a bushel basket, it was a peck—basket of California orang­es and grapefruits. And even having come from space, he was just not in a good mood. So that was a joke that he really did not appreciate.”

Pinky Nelson recalled that Bill Nelson was struggling with not feeling well after landing but kept going anyway. “Most people don’t feel very good their first day or two in space, but don’t have too much trouble when they get back on the ground,” Pinky said. “Bill had a really hard time for a few hours after we landed, but boy, he was a trooper. He was suffering, but he— you know, good politician—put on a good face, and we had to do our lit­tle thing out at Edwards and all that and get back on the plane. He really sucked it up and hung in there, even though he was barely standing. And the rest of us, of course, cut him no slack at all.”

Bolden described being in awe of Gibson’s skills as a pilot and told how the five-time shuttle veteran took Bolden under his wing. “The way that I was trained with Hoot was you don’t ever wing anything,” Bolden said.

I credit him with my technique as a commander. He preached from day one, “We don’t ever do anything from memory. We don’t ever wing it. If something’s going to happen, there is a procedure for it. And if there’s not a procedure for it, then we’re going to ask somebody, because somebody should have thought about it." And so what we did was we trained ourselves just to know where to go in the book. And hopefully, crews still train like that, although I always flew with people who would invariably want to wing it, because they prided themselves in having photographic memories or stuff like that. The orbiter and just space­flight is too critical to rely on memory, when you’ve got all of these procedures that you can use, and the ground to talk to.

Gibson taught him what Bolden referred to as Hoot’s Law, a piece of wisdom that has stayed with him ever since. “We were in the simulator one day,” Bolden said, “in the sms [Shuttle Motion Simulator], and I was still struggling. It was in my struggling phase. And I really wanted to impress everybody on the crew and the training team. We had an engine go out, boom, like that, right on liftoff.”

During training, Bolden explained, the sim crew would introduce some errors to see how the astronauts would respond to them, but then at other times, they introduced abnormalities simply to try to distract the astronauts from the important things. “There is probably one criti­cal thing that you really need to focus on, and the rest of it doesn’t make any difference. If you don’t work on it, you get to orbit and you don’t even know it was there. But if you notice it and start thinking about it or start working on it, you can get yourself in all kinds of trouble. They love doing that with electrical systems, so they would give you an elec­trical failure of some type.”

Bolden recalled that on this particular occasion he was working an en­gine issue, and the sim team introduced a minor electrical problem. He first made the mistake of trying to work the corrective procedure on the wrong electrical bus, one of multiple duplicate systems on the shuttle.

The training team intended it this way. You learn a lesson from it. So I started working this procedure and what I did in safeing the bus was I shut down the bus for an operating engine. When I did that, the engine lost power and it got real qui­et. So we went from having one engine down in the orbiter, which we could have gotten out of to having two engines down, and we were in the water, dead. Here I went from I was going to feel real good about myselfbecause I’d impress my crew to feeling just horrible because I had killed us all. And Hoot kind ofreached over and patted me on the shoulder. He said, "Charles, let me tell you about Hoot’s Law. ” That’s the way he used to do stuff sometimes. And I said, “What’s Hoot’s Law?” And he said, “No matter how bad things get, you can always make them worse. ”

And I remembered Hoot’s Law from that day. That was probably 1984, or 1985 at the latest, early in my training. But I remembered Hoot’s Law every day. I have remembered Hoot’s Law every day of my life since then. And I’ve had some bad things go wrong with me in airplanes and other places, but Hoot’s Law has always caused me to take a deep breath and wait and think about it and then make sure that somebody else sees the same thing I did. And that’s the way I trained my crews, but that was because of that experience I had with Hoot.


Crew: Commander Bob Crippen, Pilot Guy Gardner, Mission Special­ists Dale Gardner, Jerry Ross, and Mike Mullane, Payload Specialists Brett Watterson and Pete Aldridge

Orbiter: Discovery

Launched: N/A

Landed: N/A

Mission: Deployment of reconnaissance satellite, first launch from Van – denberg

As 1985 wrapped up and 1986 began, the Space Shuttle was beginning to realize its promised potential. The early flights had hinted at that prom­ise, but in 1985, with the orbiter’s high flight rate, variety of payloads, and distinguished payloads, the nation was beginning to see that potential be­come reality. And as those flights were taking place, work on the ground was foreshadowing even greater times ahead—an even greater flight rate, a teacher and journalist flying into space, the imminent launch of the Hub­ble Space Telescope, and entirely new classes of missions in planning that would mark even broader utilization for America’s versatile Space Trans­portation System.

After his completion of mission 41G, Bob Crippen sought and was giv­en command of a groundbreaking mission, 62A. The mission was the first time that the “2” was used in a designation, indicating that the launch was to take place not out of Kennedy Space Center but rather out of Vanden – berg Air Force Base in California.

“The air force built the launch site out there to do military missions which required a polar orbit, and it was a flight I wanted a lot,” said Crippen, who explained that the assignment was a homecoming of sorts for him. During the 1960s, before his transfer to NASA, Crippen had been a part of the air force astronaut corps, based at Vandenberg and assigned to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory space station program. The mol launches would have used Space Launch Complex 6 (slc-6) at Vandenberg, and now SLC-6 had been modified to support Space Shuttle launches.

“I felt like I’d come full circle, and I really wanted that polar flight,” Crip­pen said. “I lobbied for it and ended up being selected, although not with­out some consternation. I think since this was primarily an air force mis­

sion, there was a big push by the air force to have an air force commander on the flight. But the powers that be ended up discussing it a lot and let­ting me take the lead on it.”

The crew, which included U. S. undersecretary of the air force Pete Aldridge, spent a lot of time at Vandenberg, Crippen said, making sure the launch com­plex was acceptable. “We actually took the Enterprise out there and used it to run through where they had to move it to stack it, and they actually had an external tank and some not-real solid rockets out there. . . . So we mounted it all up, and I’ve got pictures of the vehicle sitting on the launchpad like it’s ready to fly, but it was the Enterprise, as opposed to the Discovery.”

Jerry Ross recalled that a key difference between Kennedy and Vanden­berg was that the shuttle stack was going to be assembled on the launchpad itself. At Kennedy, the orbiter, srbs, and external tank were stacked inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building and then moved to the launchpad on the crawler. “The solid rocket motors were going to be stacked up out on the pad. The external tank would be mounted to those out at the pad, and then the shuttle [orbiter] would be brought out on this multitiered carrier from its processing facility several miles away and taken out to the launch – pad and put in place once everything else was ready,” said Ross. “The en­tire launch stack could be enclosed in basically a rollaway hangar type of facility, and also the Launch Control Center was basically underneath the pad. It was buried in the concrete, not directly underneath, but still right there contiguous to the launchpad itself. That should have been a fairly noisy place to operate out of.”

Ross learned that he had been assigned to 62A while still in training for 6ib. “I was assigned to a second flight before I flew the first one,” he said.

I was very excited about that, and the fact that you’re going to get to do some­thing so unique like that for the very first time was fascinating to me. When I launched in November of’85, I was supposed to fly again in January of’86, out of Vandenberg. Of course, everybody knew that date was not realistic at that point. But while I was on orbit, that date had been slipped out to July of ’86, and most people thought that that was a fairly realistic date. So that would have been very close, two flights within six, seven months of each other.

Training for 6ib kept him quite busy, but Ross managed to squeeze out a little extra time to also train with the 62A crew at Vandenberg. “I was wor­

ried with the flights getting so close together that maybe they were going to replace me,” Ross admitted. “I talked to Crip a couple of times about that, and he said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you.’”

The planned launch, Ross said, would have been a fascinating ride. “We were going to go into a 72И degree inclination orbit. . . . It would have been awesome. We’d have basically seen all the land masses of the world, so it would have been neat.”

Fellow 62A crew member Mike Mullane agreed. “The idea of flying into polar orbit, oh, man, I was just looking forward to that so much. You’re ba­sically going to see the whole world. In an equatorial orbit like we were fly­ing, or a low-inclination orbit like we were flying on the first mission, you don’t get to see lot of the world. So I was really looking forward to that.” As with other DoD missions the shuttle had flown, preparations for 62A involved a high amount of secrecy, with astronauts required to not even tell their wives what they were doing. However, Mullane said he enjoyed working on military missions; his next two shuttle missions were also mili­tary missions. “You had a sense of this national security involved about it, which made you feel a little bit more pride, I guess, in what you were do­ing and importance in what you were doing.”

Ross said the original flight plan had included twenty-four-hour-a-day operations by two air force payload specialists—Brett Watterson and Ran­dy Odle—but Odle was bumped in favor of Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of the air force. “That would have been some pretty high-power folks fly­ing with us on the flight.”

The mission was assigned two main payloads: an experimental infrared telescope called Cirris and a prototype satellite, p-8888, called Teal Ruby. “My understanding was [Teal Ruby] was a staring mosaic infrared sensor satellite that was trying to be able to detect low-flying air-breathing vehicles, things like cruise missiles, and a way to try to detect those approaching U. S. territories.” Mullane said he had no additional concern at the prospect of launching from a previously unused launch complex. “Not any more beyond a natu­ral terror of riding a rocket,” said Mullane.

I don’t care where it was launching from; I didn’t personally have any fear about it being a new launchpad and therefore more danger associated with it. It’s just that on launch on a shuttle, you fly with no escape system: no ejection seat, no pod, no parachute of any form. You fly in a rocket that has a flight-destruct sys­tem aboard it, so it can be blown up in case something goes wrong. Those are reasons why you’re terrified. It’s not where you’re launchingfrom, in my opinion; it’s [that] the inherent act of flying one of these rockets is dangerous.


Crew: Commander Rick Hauck, Pilot Roy Bridges, Mission Specialists Mike Lounge and David Hilmers

Orbiter: Challenger

Launched: N/A

Landed: N/A

Mission: Launch of the Ulysses space probe

While Crippen and his crew were getting ready for 62A, Rick Hauck was preparing for his own first-of-its-kind Space Shuttle mission. He was the astronaut project officer for the Centaur cryogenically fueled upper stage, which nasa was planning to use on the shuttle as a platform for launch­ing satellites.

The Centaur upper stage rocket had a thin aluminum skin and was pres­sure stabilized, such that if it wasn’t pressurized, it would collapse under its own weight, like the Atlas missiles used to launch the orbital Mercury missions. “If it were not pressurized but suspended and you pushed on it with your finger, the tank walls would give and you’d see that you’re flex­ing the metal,” said Hauck. “Its advantage was that it carried liquid oxy­gen and liquid hydrogen, which, pound for pound, give better propulsion than a solid rocket motor [like NASA had been using on previous missions to boost satellites].”

Preparations were being made for the Centaur to launch two interplan­etary probes—the Ulysses probe and the Galileo probe—which needed the powerful rockets available to be launched into deep space from the shuttle.

“At some point,” Hauck said, “the decision was made, well, we’ve got to use the Centaur, which was never meant to be involved in human space­flight.” The origins of Centaur are older than NASA itself; it began as a project of the air force in 1957. Throughout its history it has been useful as an upper stage on expendable launch vehicles for launching satellites and probes to the moon and to planets other than Earth. But there was a high level of danger involved in pairing the highly volatile Centaur with a shuttle full of people.

“Rockets that are associated with human spaceflight have certain levels of redundancy and certain design specifications that are supposed to make them more reliable,” Hauck commented.

Clearly, Centaur did not come from that heritage, so, number one, was that go­ing to be an issue in itself, but number two is, if you’ve got a return-to-launch – site abort or a transatlantic abort and you’ve got to land, and you’ve got a rock­et filled with liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen in the cargo bay, you’ve got to get rid of the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, so that means you’ve got to dump it while you’re flying through this contingency abort. And to make sure that it can dump safely, you need to have redundant parallel dump valves, helium sys­tems that control the dump valves, software that makes sure that contingen­cies can be taken care of And then when you land, here you’re sitting with the shuttle Centaur in the cargo bay that you haven’t been able to dump all of it, so you’re venting gaseous hydrogen out this side, gaseous oxygen out that side, and this is just not a good idea.

Hauck was working those issues when George Abbey called on him to command the first flight of the Shuttle-Centaur to launch the Ulysses solar probe. Astronaut Dave Walker was assigned the second Centaur mission, to launch the Galileo probe to Jupiter. The two missions had to be flown close together—in the first ten days of April 1986, Hauck said—because of the positioning of Earth in its orbit relative to the two satellites’ destinations. “It was clear this would be very difficult,” Hauck said. “We were going to have just four crew members, because that minimized the weight. We were going to 105 nautical mile altitude, which was lower than any shuttle had ever gone to, because you need the performance to get the Shuttle-Centaur up because it was so heavy.”

The Shuttle-Centaur integration was being managed out of the Lewis Research Center, now Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Centaur was developed originally. “Lewis had been the program man­agers for Atlas-Centaur, and so they knew the systems,” Hauck said,

but in retrospect, the whole concept of taking something that was never designed to be part of the human spaceflight mission, that had this many potential fail­ure modes, was not a good idea, because you’re always saying, “Well, I don’t want to solve the problems too exhaustively; I’d like to solve them just enough so that I’ve solved them." Well, what does that mean? You don’t want to spend any more money than you have to, to solve the problem, so you’re always try­ing to figure out, “Am I compromising too much or not?" And the net result is you’re always compromising.

The head of the Office of Spaceflight at that time was Jess Moore, whom Hauck described as a good man but one who was unfamiliar with the world of human spaceflight. “Jess made it very clear that he wanted Dave and my­self to be part of all the substantive discussions, and he was very sensitive to the human spaceflight issues, but he wasn’t a human spaceflight guy,” Hauck said. “I think that the program would have profited at that point by having had someone there who was more keenly attuned to the human spaceflight issues. As I say, he couldn’t have been nicer to us and encour­aged us more and bent over backwards to be sensitive to the issues, but he didn’t start out as a human spaceflight guy.”

In early January 1986, Hauck recalled, he worked on an issue with re­dundancy in the helium actuation system for the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen dump valves. It was clear, in Hauck’s mind, that the program was willing to compromise on the margins in the propulsive force being provid­ed by the pressurized helium, which concerned him enough that he took it up with Chief of the Astronaut Office John Young. “John Young called this mission ‘Death Star,’” recalled Hauck. “That was his name for this mission, which he said with humor, but behind humor, there’s a little bit of truth. I think it was conceded this was going to be the riskiest mission the shuttle would have flown up to that point.”

Young, Hauck, and other members of the Astronaut Office argued be­fore a NASA board why it was not a good idea to compromise on this fea­ture, and the board turned down the request. “I went back to the crew of­fice and I said to my crew, in essence, ‘nasa is doing business differently from the way it has in the past. Safety is being compromised, and if any of you want to take yourself off this flight, I will support you.’”

Hauck said he didn’t consider asking to be removed from the mission himself.

I probably had an ego tied up with it so much that, you know, “I can do this. Heck, I’ve flown off of aircraft carriers, and I’ve flown in combat, and I’ve put myself at risk in more ways than this, and I’m willing to do it. ” So I didn’t ever think of saying, "Well, I’m not going to fly this mission. ” Knowing what I know now, with Challenger and Columbia, maybe I would. But NASA was a lot different back there, when we’d never killed anybody in spaceflight up to that point. I mean, there was a certain amount of sense that it wouldn’t happen.

To Touch the Face of God

And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

—“High Flight,” Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee, No. 412
Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force,
died 11 December 1941


Crew: Commander Dick Scobee, Pilot Michael Smith, Mission Special­ists Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, and Ron McNair; Payload Special­ists Christa McAuliffe and Gregory Jarvis Orbiter: Challenger Launched: 28 January 1986 Landed: N/A

Mission: Deployment of TDRS, astronomy research, Teacher in Space

Astronaut Dick Covey was the ascent CapCom for the 51L mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger. “There were two CapComs, the weather guy and the prime guy, and so it had been planned for some time that I’d be in the prime seat for [51L] and be the guy talking to them. . . . As the ascent Cap­Com you work so much with the crew that you have a lot of [connection]. In the training periods and stuff, not only do you sit over in the control center while they’re doing ascents and talk to them, but you also go and work with them on other things.”

Covey remembered getting together with the crew while the astronauts were in quarantine at jsc, before they flew down to Florida, to go over

To Touch the Face of God

31. Crew members of mission STS-51L stand in the White Room at Launchpad 39B. Left to right. Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Michael Smith, and Ellison Onizuka. Courtesy nasa.

the mission one more time and work through any questions. “We got to go over and spend an hour or two in the crew quarters with them. I spent most of my time with Mike Smith and Ellison Onizuka, who was my long­time friend from test pilot school. They were excited, and they were raun­chy, as you would expect, and we had a lot of fun and a lot of good laughs. It was neat to go do that. So that was the last time that I got to physical­ly go and sit with the crew and talk about the mission and the ascent and what to expect there.”

On launch day the flight control team reported much earlier than the crew, monitoring the weather and getting ready for communication checks with the astronauts once they were strapped in. Covey said that he was excited to be working with Flight Director Jay Greene, whom he had worked with be­fore, and that everything had seemed normal from his perspective leading into the launch. “From the control center standpoint,” Covey said, “I don’t remember anything that was unusual or extraordinary that we were working or talking about. It wasn’t something where we knew that someone was mak­ing a decision and how they were making that decision. We just flat didn’t have that insight. Didn’t know what was going on. Did not. It was pretty much just everything’s like a sim as we’re sitting there getting ready to go.”

Covey recalled that televisions had only recently been installed in the Mis­sion Control Center and that the controllers weren’t entirely sure what they were supposed to make of them yet. “The idea [had been] you shouldn’t be looking at pictures; You should be looking at your data,” he said. “So that’s how we trained. Since the last time I’d been in the control center, they’d started putting [televisions in]. . . . I’d sat as the weather guy, and once the launch happens, I kind of look at the data, but I look over there at the Tv.”

Astronaut Fred Gregory was the weather CapCom for the 51L launch and recalled that nothing had seemed unusual leading up to the launch.

Up to liftoff, everything was normal. We had normal communication with the crew. We knew it was a little chilly, a little cold down there, but the ice team had gone out and surveyed and had not discovered anything that would have been a hazard to the vehicle. Liftoff was normal. . . . Behind the flight director was a monitor, and so I was watching the displays, but also every now and then look over and look at Jay Greene and then glance at the monitor. And I saw what ap­peared to be the solid rocket booster motor’s explosive devices—what I thought— blew the solid rocket boosters away from the tank, and I was really surprised, because I’d never seen it with such resolution before, clarity before. Then I sud­denly realized that what I was intellectualizing was something that would oc­cur about a minute later, and I realized that a terrible thing had just happened.

Covey said Gregory’s reaction was the first indication he had that some­thing was wrong. “Fred is watching the video and sees the explosion, and he goes, ‘Wha—? What was that?’ Of course, I’m looking at my data, and the data freezes up pretty much. It just stopped. It was missing. So I look over and could not make heads or tails of what I was seeing, because I didn’t see it from a shuttle to a fireball. All I saw was a fireball. I had no idea what I was looking at. And Fred said, ‘It blew up,’ something like that.”

Covey recalled that the cameraman inside the control room continued to record what was happening there. “Amazingly, he’s still sitting there just crank­ing along in the control center while this was happening. Didn’t miss a beat,” he said, “because I’ve seen too many film footages of me looking in disbelief at this television monitor trying to figure out what the hell it was I was seeing.”

Off loop, Covey and Flight Director Jay Greene were talking, trying to gather information about what just happened. “There was a dialogue that started ensuing between Jay and myself,” Covey recalled, and Jay, he’s trying to get confirmation on anything from anybody, if they have any data, and what they think has happened, what the status of the or – biter is. All we could get is the solid rocket boosters are separated. Don’t know what else. I’m asking questions, because I want to tell the crew what to do. That’s what the ascent CapComs are trained to do, is tell them what to do. If we know something that they don’t, or we can figure it out faster, tell them so they can go and do whatever they need to do to recover or save themselves. There was not one piece of information that came forward; I was asking. I didn’t do it over the loop, so I did this between Jay and some of the other peo­ple that could hear, “Are we in a contingency abort? If so, what type of con­tingency abort? Can we confirm they’re off the SRBs?” Trying to see if there was anything I should say to the crew.

In all the confusion, he said, no one said anything about him attempt­ing to contact the crew members, since no one knew what to tell them. “We didn’t have any comm. We knew that. That was pretty clear to me; so the only transmissions that I could have made would have been over a UHF [ultrahigh frequency], but if I didn’t have anything to say to them, why call them? So we went through that for several minutes, and so if you go and look at it, there was never a transmission that I made after ‘ Challenger, you’re go [at] throttle up.’ That was the last one, and there wasn’t another one.”

After a few minutes of trying to figure out if there was anything to tell the crew, reality started to hit. Covey said,

I remember Jay finally saying, “Okay, lock the doors. Everybody, no commu­nications out. Lock the doors and go into our contingency modes of collecting data. ” I think when he did that, I finally realized; I went from being in this mode of, “What can we do? How do we figure out what we can do? What can we tell the crew? We’ve got to save them. We’ve got to help them save themselves. We’ve got to do something, ” to the realization that my friends had just died. … Of course, Fred and I were there together, which helped, because so many of the Challenger crew were our classmates, and so we were sharing that together. A special time that I’ll always remember being with Fred was there in the con­trol center for that.

It was a confusing time for those in the Launch Control Center. The data being received was not real-time data, Gregory said; there was a slight delay. “I had seen the accident occur on the monitor. I was watching data come in, but I saw the data then freeze, but I still heard the commentary about a normal flight coming from the public affairs person, who then, seconds later, stopped talking. So there was just kind of stunned silence in Mission Control.”

“At this point,” Gregory said, “no one had realized that we had lost the orbiter. Many, I’m sure, thought that this thing was still flying and that we had just lost radio signals with it. I think all of these things were kind of running through our minds in the first five to ten seconds, and then every­body realized what was going on.”

What Covey and Gregory, relatively insular in their flight control du­ties, did not realize was that concerns over the launch had begun the day before. The launch had already been delayed six times, and because of the significance of the first Teacher in Space flight and other factors, many were particularly eager to see the mission take off. On the afternoon of 27 Janu­ary (the nineteenth anniversary of the loss of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee in the Apollo 1 pad fire), discussions began as to whether the launch should be delayed again. The launch complex at Ken­nedy Space Center was experiencing a cold spell atypical for the Florida coast, with temperatures on launch day expected to drop down into the low twenties Fahrenheit in the morning and still be near freezing at launch time.

During the night, discussions were held about two major implications of the cold temperatures. The first was heavy ice buildup on the launch – pad and vehicle. The cold wind had combined with the supercooling of the cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in the external tank to lead to the formation of ice. Concerns were raised that the ice could come off during flight and damage the vehicle, particularly the thermal protec­tion tiles on the orbiter. A team was assigned the task of assessing ice at the launch complex.

The second potential implication was more complicated. No shuttle had ever launched in temperatures below fifty degrees Fahrenheit before, and there were concerns about how the subfreezing temperatures would affect the vehicle, and in particular, the O-rings in the solid rocket boosters. The boosters each consisted of four solid-fuel segments in addition to the nose cone with the parachute recovery system and the motor nozzle. The seg­ments were assembled with rubberlike O-rings sealing the joints between

To Touch the Face of God

32. On the day of Space Shuttle Challengers 28 January 1986 launch, icicles draped the launch complex at the Kennedy Space Center. Courtesy nasa.

the segments. Each joint contained both a primary and a secondary O- ring for additional safety. Engineers were concerned that the cold temper­atures would cause the O-rings to harden such that they would not fully seal the joints, allowing the hot gasses in the motor to erode them. Burn – through erosion had occurred on previous shuttle flights, and while it had never caused significant problems, engineers believed that there was poten­tial for serious consequences.

During a teleconference held the afternoon before launch, srb con­tractor Morton Thiokol expressed concerns to officials at Marshall Space Flight Center and Kennedy Space Center about the situation. During a second teleconference later that evening, Marshall Space Flight Center of­ficials challenged a Thiokol recommendation that nasa not launch a shut­tle at temperatures below fifty-three degrees Fahrenheit. After a half-hour off-1 ine discussion, Thiokol reversed its recommendation and supported launch the next day. The three-hour teleconference ended after 11:00 p. m. (in Florida’s eastern time zone).

During discussions the next morning, after the crew was already aboard the vehicle, orbiter contractor Rockwell International expressed concern that the ice on the orbiter could come off during engine ignition and ric­ochet and damage the vehicle. The objection was speculation, since no launch had taken place in those conditions, and the NASA Mission Man­agement Team voted to proceed with the launch. The accident investiga­tion board later reported that the Mission Management Team members were informed of the concerns in such a way that they did not fully under­stand the recommendation.

Launch took place at 11:38 a. m. on 28 January. The three main engines ignited seconds earlier, at 11:37:53, and the solid rocket motors ignited at 11:38:00. In video of the launch, smoke can be seen coming from one of the aft joints of the starboard solid rocket booster at ignition. The primary O-ring failed to seal properly, and hot gasses burned through both the pri­mary and secondary O-rings shortly after ignition. However, residue from burned propellant temporarily sealed the joint. Three seconds later, there was no longer smoke visible near the joint.

Launch continued normally for the next half minute, but at thirty-seven seconds after solid rocket motor ignition, the orbiter passed through an area of high wind shear, the strongest series of wind shear events recorded thus far in the shuttle program. The worst of the wind shear was encountered at fifty-eight seconds into the launch, right as the vehicle was nearing “Max Q,” the period of the highest launch pressures, when the combination of velocity and air resistance is at its maximum. Within a second, video cap­tured a plume of flame coming from the starboard solid rocket booster in the joint where the smoke had been seen. It is believed that the wind shear broke the temporary seal, allowing the flame to escape. The plume rapid­ly became more intense, and internal pressure in the motor began drop­ping. The flame occurred in a location such that it quickly reached the ex­ternal fuel tank.

The gas escaping from the solid rocket booster was at a temperature around six thousand degrees Fahrenheit, and it began burning through the exterior of the external tank and the strut attaching the solid rocket boost­er to the tank. At sixty-four seconds into the launch, the flame grew stron­ger, indicating that it had caused a leak in the external tank and was now burning liquid hydrogen escaping from the aft tank of the external tank. Approximately two seconds later, telemetry indicated decreasing pressure from the tank.

At this time, in the vehicle and in Mission Control, the launch still ap­peared to be proceeding normally. Having made it through Max Q, the ve­hicle throttled its engines back up. At sixty-eight seconds, Covey informed the crew it was “Go at throttle up.” Commander Dick Scobee responded, “Roger, go at throttle up,” the last communication from the vehicle.

Two seconds later, the flame had burned through the attachment strut connecting the starboard srb and the external tank. The upper end of the booster was swinging on its strut and impacted with the external tank, rup­turing the liquid oxygen tank at the top of the external tank. An orange fireball appeared as the oxygen began leaking. At seventy-three seconds into the launch, the crew cabin recorder records Pilot Michael Smith on the in­tercom saying, “Uh-oh,” the last voice recording from Challenger.

While the fireball caused many to believe that the Space Shuttle had ex­ploded, such was not the case. The rupture caused the external tank to lose structural integrity, and at the high velocity and pressure it was experienc­ing, it quickly began disintegrating. The two solid rocket boosters, still fir­ing, disconnected from the shuttle stack and flew freely for another thirty – seven seconds. The orbiter, also now disconnected and knocked out of proper orientation by the disintegration of the external tank, began to be torn apart by the aerodynamic pressures. The orbiter rapidly broke apart over the ocean, with the crew cabin, one of the most solid parts of the ve­hicle, remaining largely intact until it made contact with the water.

All of that would eventually be revealed during the course of the acci­dent investigation. At Mission Control, by the time the doors were opened again, much was still unknown, according to Covey.

[We] had no idea what had happened, other than this big explosion. We didn’t know if it was an srb that exploded. I mean, that was what we thought. We always thought SRBs would explode like that, not a big fireball from the exter­nal tank propellants coming together. So then that set off a period then of just trying to deal with that and the fact that we had a whole bunch of spouses and families that had lost loved ones and trying to figure out how to deal with that.

The families were in Florida, and I remember, of course, the first thing I wanted to do was go spend a little time with my family, and we did that. But then we knew the families were coming back from Florida and out to Ellington [Field, Houston], so a lot of us went out there to just be there when they came back in. I remember it was raining. Generally they were keeping them isolat­ed, but a big crowd of us waiting for them, they loaded them up to come home. Then over the next several days most of the time we spent was trying to help the Onizukas in some way; being around. Helping them with their family as the families flew in and stuff like that.

After being in Mission Control for approximately twelve hours—half of that prior to launch and the rest in lockdown afterward, analyzing data, Gregory finally headed home.

The families had all been down at the Kennedy Space Center for the liftoff and they were coming back home. Dick Scobee, who was the commander, lived within a door or two of me. And when I got home, I actually preceded the families get­ting home; I remember that. They had the television remote facilities already set up outside of the Scobees’ house, and it was disturbing to me, and so I went over and, in fact, invited some of those [reporters] over to my house, and I just talked about absolutely nothing to get them away from the house, so that when June Scobee and the kids got back to the house, they wouldn’t have to go through this gauntlet.

The next few days, Gregory said, were spent protecting the crew’s fami­lies from prying eyes. “There was such a mess over there that Barbara and I took [Scobee’s] parents and just moved them into our house, and they must have stayed there for about four or five days. Then June Scobee, in fact, came over and stayed, and during that time is when she developed this concept for the Challenger Center. She always gives me credit for be­ing the one who encouraged her to pursue it, but that’s not true. She was going to do it, and it was the right thing to do.”

Gregory recalled spending time with the Scobees and the Onizukas and the Smiths, particularly Mike Smith’s children. “It was a tough time,” he said.

It was a horrible time, because I had spent a lot of time with Christa McAuliffe and [her backup] Barbara Morgan, and the reason was because I had teachers in my family. On my father’s side, about four or five generations; on my moth­er’s side, a couple of generations. My mother was elementary school, and my dad was more in the high school. But Christa and I and Barbara talked about how important it was, what she was doing, and then what she was going to do on orbit and how it would be translated down to the kids, but then what she was going to do once she returned. So it was traumatic for me, because not only had I lost these longtime friends, with Judy Resnik and Onizuka and Ron Mc­Nair and Scobee, and then Mike Smith, who was a class behind us, but I had lost this link to education when we lost Christa.

Astronaut Sally Ride was on a commercial airliner, flying back to Hous­ton, when the launch tragedy occurred. “It was the first launch that I hadn’t seen, either from inside the shuttle or from the Cape or live on television,” Ride recalled.

The pilot of the airline, who did not know that I was on the flight, made an announcement to the passengers, saying that there had been an accident on the Challenger. At the time, nobody knew whether the crew was okay; nobody knew what had happened. Thinking back on it, it’s unbelievable that the pilot made the announcement he made. It shows how profoundly the accident struck people. As soon as I heard, I pulled out my NASA badge and went up into the cockpit. They let me put on an extra pair of headsets to monitor the radio traf­fic to find out what had happened. We were only about a half hour outside of Houston; when we landed, I headed straight back to the Astronaut Office at jsc.

Payload Specialist Charlie Walker was returning home from a trip to San Diego, California, when the accident occurred.

I can remember having my bags packed and having the television on and search­ing for the station that was carrying the launch. As I remember it, all the sta­tions had the launch on; it was the Teacher in Space mission. So I watched the launch, and to this day, and even back then I was still aggravated with news services that would cover a launch up until about thirty seconds, forty-five sec-

onds, maybe one minute in flight, after Max Q, and then most of them would just cut the coverage. “Well, the launch has been successful. ” [I would think,] “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re only thirty seconds into this thing, and the roughest part is yet to happen. ”

And whatever network I was watching ended their coverage. “Well, looks like we’ve had a successful launch of the first teacher in space. ” And they go off to the programming, and it wasn’t but what, ten seconds later, and I’m about to pick my bags up and just about to turn off the television and go out my room door when I hear, “We interrupt this program again to bring you this announcement. It looks like something has happened. ” I can remember seeing the long-range tracker cameras following debris falling into the ocean, and I can remember going to my knees at that point and saying some prayers for the crew. Because I can remember the news reporter saying, “Well, we don’t know what has happened at this point. ” I thought, “Well, you don’t know what has happened in detail, but anybody that knows anything about it can tell that it was not at all good. ”

Mike Mullane was undergoing payload training with the rest of the 62A crew at Los Alamos Labs in New Mexico. “We were in a facility that didn’t have easy access to a Tv,” said Mullane.

We knew they were launching, and we wanted to watch it, and somebody finally got a television or we finally got to a room and they were able to finagle a way to get the television to work, and we watched the launch, and they dropped it away within probably thirty seconds of the launch, and we then started to turn back to our training. Somebody said, “Well, let’s see if they’re covering it further on one of the other channels, ” and started flipping channels, and then flipped it to a channel and there was the explosion, and we knew right then that the crew was lost and that something terrible had happened.

Mullane theorized that someone must have inadvertently activated the vehicle destruction system or a malfunction caused the flight termination system to go off. “I was certain of it,” Mullane said.

I mean, the rocket was flying perfectly, and then it just blew up. It just looked like it had been blown up from this dynamite. Shows how poor you can be as a witness to something like this, because that had absolutely nothing to do with it.

But it was terrible. Judy was killed on it. She was a close friend. There were four people from our group that were killed. It was a terrible time. Really as bad as it gets. It was like a scab or a wound that just never had an opportunity to heal because you had that trauma.

Astronaut Mary Cleave recalled two very different sets of reactions to the tragedy from the people around her in the Astronaut Office. “For the guys in the corps, when you’re in the test pilot business, you’re sort of a tough guy,” she said.

It’s a part of the job. It’s a lousy part of the job, but it’s part of the job. But I mean, the secretaries and everybody else were really upset, so we spent some time with them. Before my first flight, I had signed up. I basically told my family, “Hey, I might not be coming back." When we flew, it was the heaviest payload to orbit. We were already having nozzle problems. I think a lot of us under­stood that the system was really getting pushed, but that’s what we’d signed up to do. I think probably a lot of people in the corps weren’t as surprised as a lot of other people were. I did crew family escort afterwards. I was assigned to help when the families came down, as an escort at jsc when the president came in to do the memorial service. Jim Buchli was in charge of the group; they put a marine in charge of the honor guard. So I got to learn to be an escort from a marine, which was interesting. I learned how to open up doors. This was sort of like it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or boy, there’s a certain way people need to be treated when they’re escorted. So I did that. That was interesting. And it was nice to think that you could help at that point.

Charlie Bolden had just returned to Earth ten days earlier from his first spaceflight, 61c. His crew was wrapping up postmission debriefing, he recalled, and it gathered with others in the Astronaut Office to watch Challenger launch. “That was the end of my first flight, and we were in heaven. We were celebrat­ing as much as anybody could celebrate,” he said. “We sat in the Astronaut Office, in the conference room with everybody else, to watch Challenger. No­body was comfortable because of all the ice on the launchpad and everything. I don’t think there were many of us who felt we should be flying that day, but what the heck. Everybody said, ‘Let’s go fly.’ And so we went and flew.”

Bolden thought the explosion was a premature separation of the solid rocket boosters; he expected to see the vehicle fly out of the smoke and per­form a return-to-launch-site abort. “We were looking for something good to come out of this, and nothing came out except these two solid rocket boosters going their own way.”

It took awhile, but it finally sunk in: the vehicle and the crew were lost. “We were just all stunned, just didn’t know what to do,” Bolden said. “By the end of the day we knew what had happened; we knew what had caused the accident. We didn’t know the details, but the launch photog­raphy showed us the puff of smoke coming out of the joint on the right – hand solid rocket booster. And the fact that they had argued about this the night before meant that there were people from [Morton] Thiokol who could say, ‘Let me tell you what happened. This is what we predict­ed would happen.’”

Bolden was the family escort for the family of 51L mission specialist Ron­ald McNair. Family escorts are chosen by crew members to be with the fam­ilies during launch activities and to be a support to families if something happened to the crew, as was the case with 51L. Much of Bolden’s time in the year after the incident was spent helping the McNair family, which in­cluded Ron’s wife and two children. “I sort of became a surrogate, if you will, for [McNair’s children] Joy and Reggie, and just trying to make sure that Cheryl [McNair] had whatever she needed and got places when she was supposed to be there. Because for them it was an interminable amount of time, I mean years, that they went through the postflight grieving pro­cess and memorial services and that kind of stuff.”

Bolden’s 61c crewmate Pinky Nelson was on his way to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the premier of the imax movie The Dream Is Alive, which included footage from Nelson’s earlier mission, 41c. Nelson recalled hav­ing worked closely with the 51L crew, which Nelson said would be using the same “rinky-dink little camera” as his crew to observe Halley’s Comet.

I’d spent a bunch of time trying to teach Ellison [Onizuka] how to find Halley’s Comet in the sky. [Dick] Scobee and I were really close friends because of 41C, so “Scobe” and I had talked a lot about his kind of a “zoo crew, ” about his crew and all their trials and tribulations. He really wanted to get this mission flown and over with. So I talked to them the night before, actually, from down at the Cape and wished them good luck and all that, and then the accident happened while I was on the airplane to Minneapolis.

Nelson flew back to Houston from Minneapolis that afternoon, arriving around the same time that the families were arriving from Florida. Nelson and his wife, Susie, and astronaut Ox van Hoften and his wife convened at the Scobees’ home.

“The national press was just god-awful,” Nelson said.

I’ve never forgiven some of those folks. . . . I mean, it’s their job, but still— for their just callous, nasty behavior. We just spent a lot of time just kind of over at Scobee’s, trying to just be there and help out. I still can’t drink fla­vored coffee. That’s the only kind of coffee June had, vanilla bean brew or something. So whenever I smell that stuff, that’s always my memory of that, is having bad coffee at Scobes house, trying to just get their family through the time, just making time pass. We had to unplug the phones. The press was parked out in front of the house. It was a pretty bad time for all that. We went over and tried to do what we could with some of the other families. My kids had been good friends with Onizuka’s kids; they’re the same age. Lorna [Onizuka] was having just a really hard time. Everyone was trying to help out where we could.

Memorial services were beginning to be held for the lost crew members even as the agency was continuing with its search for the cockpit and the bodies of the lost crew. “It was terrible, going to the memorial services,” admitted Mullane.

It was one of those things that didn’t seem to end, because then they were looking for the cockpit out there. I personally thought, “Why are we doing this? Leave the cockpit down there. What are you going to learn from it?" Because by then they knew the SRB was the problem. . . . I remember thinking, “Why are we even looking for that cockpit? Just bury them at sea. Leave them there."I’m glad they did, though, because later I heard it was really shallow where that cockpit was. It was like, I don’t know, like eighty feet or something, which is too shal­low, because somebody eventually would have found it and pulled it up on a net or been diving on it or something. So it’s good that they did look for it. So you had these several weeks there, and then they bring that cockpit up, and then you have to repeat all the memorial services again, because now you have remains to bury. And then plus on top of that, you had the revelation that it wasn’t an accident; it was a colossal screwup. And you had that to deal with. So it was a miserable time, about as bad as I’ve ever lived in my life, were those months surrounding, months and years, really, surrounding the Challenger tragedy.

Astronaut Bryan O’Connor was at Kennedy Space Center during the debris recovery efforts and postrecovery analysis. O’Connor recalled be­ing on the pier when representatives from the Range Safety Office at Cape Canaveral were trying to determine whether what happened was an inad­vertent range safety destruct—if somehow there had been a malfunction of the destruct package intended to destroy the vehicle should a problem cause it to pose a safety risk to those on the ground. “I remember there was a Coast Guard cutter that came in and had some pieces and parts of the external tank,” O’Connor said. “On the second or third day, I think, one of these ships actually had a piece of the range safety destruct system from the external tank, intact for about halfway and then ripped up the other half of it. When he looked at that, he could tell that it hadn’t been a destruct.”

O’Connor had accident investigation training and was then assigned to work with Kennedy Space Center on setting up a place to reconstruct the ve­hicle as debris was recovered. “I remember we put tape down on the floor. We got a big room in the Logistics Center. They moved stuff out of the way. As time went on, the need increased for space, and we actually ended up putting some things outside the Logistics Center, like the main engines and some of the other things. But the orbiter pretty much was reassembled piece by piece over a period of time as the parts and pieces were salvaged out of the water, most of them floating debris, but some, I think, was picked up from subsurface.”

Recovery efforts started with just a few ships, O’Connor said, but grew into a large fleet. According to the official Rogers Commission Report on the accident, sixteen watercraft assisted in the recovery, including boats, subma­rines, and underwater robotic vehicles from NASA, the navy, and the air force. “It was one of the biggest salvage efforts ever, is what I heard at the time,” O’Connor said. “Over a period of time, we were able to rebuild quite a bit of the orbiter, laying it out on the floor and, in some cases, actually putting it in a vertical structure. Like the forward fuselage, for example, we tried to make a three-dimensional model from the pieces that we recovered there.”

While the goal had originally been to determine the cause of the acci­dent, the investigation eventually shifted to its effects, with analysis of the

To Touch the Face of God

33- This photograph, taken a few seconds after the loss of Challenger, shows the Space Shuttle’s main engines and solid rocket booster exhaust plumes entwined around a ball of gas from the external tank. Courtesy nasa.

debris revealing how the various parts of the vehicle had been affected by the pressures during its disintegration.

Astronaut Joe Kerwin, a medical doctor before his selection to the corps and a member of the first crew of the Skylab space station, was the direc­tor of Space Life Sciences at Johnson Space Center at the time of the acci­dent. “Like everybody else at jsc I remember exactly where I was when it happened,” Kerwin recalled.

I didn’t see it live. In fact, I was having a staff meeting in my office at jsc and we had a monitor in the background because the launch was taking place. And I just remember all of us sort of looking up and seeing this ex­plosion taking place on the monitor. And there was the moment of silence as each of us tried to absorb what it looked like was or might be going on, and then sort of saying, “Okay, guys, I think we better get to work. We’re going to need to coordinate with the Astronaut Office. We’re going to have to have flight surgeons. Sam, you contact the doctors on duty down at the

Cape and make sure that they have the families covered,” and we just sort of set off like that.

His medical team’s first actions were simply to take care of the families of the crew members, Kerwin said. “Then as the days went by and the search for the parts of the orbiter was underway I went down to Florida and coor­dinated a plan for receiving bodies and doing autopsies and things of that nature. It included getting the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to com­mit to send a couple of experts down if and when we found remains to see whether they could determine the cause of death.”

But the crew compartment wasn’t found immediately and Kerwin went back home to Houston, where days turned into weeks.

I was beginning to almost hope that we wouldn’t have to go through that ex­cruciating investigation when I had a call from Bob Crippen that said, no, we’ve found the crew compartment and even at this late date there are going to be some remains so how about let’s get down here. I went down immediately.

By that time the public and press response to the accident and to NASA had turned bad, and NASA, which had always been considered one of the best or­ganizations in government, was now one of the worst organizations in govern­ment and there was a lot of bad press and there were a lot of paparazzi there in Florida who just wanted to get in on the action and get gruesome pictures or details or whatever they could. So we had to face that.

In addition to dealing with the press, Kerwin said recovery efforts also had to deal with local politics.

The local coroner was making noises like this accident had occurred in his ju­risdiction and therefore he wanted to take charge of any remains and perform the autopsies himself, which would have been a complicating factor, to say the least. I didn’t have to deal with that, I just knew about it and that I might have had to deal with [the] coroner if the offensive line didn’t block him. But the higher officials in NASA and in particular in the State of Florida got him called off saying, “No, this accident was in a federal spacecraft and it occurred offshore and you just back off”

By the time Kerwin arrived at the scene, the recovery team had come up with several different possible ways to get the remains to where they would be autopsied.

In view of the lateness of the time and in view of the press coverage and all that stuff, we decided that we needed a much more secure location for this activity to take place and we were given space in one of the hangars at Cape Canav­eral, one of the hangars in which the Mercury crews trained way back in the early sixties. We quickly prepared that space for the conduct of autopsies. When the remains were brought in they were brought into one of the piers by motor­ized boat. It was done after dark, and there was always one or two or three as­tronauts with the remains and we put up a little screen because right across the sound from this pier the press had set up floodlights and cameras and bleachers.

An unmarked vehicle was used to transport the remains to the hangar, while a nasa ambulance was used as a decoy to keep the location of the autopsies a secret. “We knew by that time, and really knew from the begin­ning, that crew actions or lack of actions didn’t have anything to do with the cause of the Challenger accident,” Kerwin said.

As an accident investigator you ask yourself that first—could this have been pilot error involved in any way, and the immediate answer was no. But we still needed to do our best to determine the cause of death, partly because of public interest but largely because of family interest in knowing when and under what circumstances their loved ones died. So that was the focus of the investigation.

The sort of fragmentary remains that were brought in, having been in the water for about six weeks, gave us no clue as to whether the cause of death was ocean impact or whether it could’ve taken place earlier. So the only thing left for the autopsies was to determine, was to prove, that each of the crew mem­bers had had remains recovered that could identify that, yes, that crew mem­ber died in that accident. That was not easy but we were able to do it. So at the end of the whole thing I was able to send a confidential letter to the next ofkin of each of the crew members stating that and stating what body parts had been recovered, a very, very short letter.

In addition to identifying the remains, Kerwin and his team worked to identify the exact cause of death of the crew members.

We’d all seen the breakup on television, we knew it was catastrophic, and my first impression as a doctor was that it probably killed all the crew just right at the time of the explosion. But as soon as they began to analyze the camera foot­age, plus what very little telemetry they had, it became apparent that the g-forces were not that high, not as high as you’d think. I guess the crew compartment was first flung upward and away from the exploding external tank and then rapidly decelerated by atmospheric pressure until it reached free fall. The explo­sion took place somewhere about forty thousand feet, I think about forty-six or forty-seven thousand, and the forces at breakup were estimated to be between fifteen and twenty gs, which is survivable, particularly if the crew is strapped in properly and so forth. The crew compartment then was in free fall, but up­ward. It peaked at about sixty-five thousand feet, and about two and half min­utes after breakup hit the ocean at a very high rate of speed. If the crew hadn’t died before, they certainly died then.

Kerwin said he and his team then worked to refine their understand­ing of exactly what had happened when. “Our investigation attempted to determine whether or not the crew compartment’s pressure integrity was breeched by the separation, and if so, if the crew compartment had lost pressure, we could then postulate that the crew had become profoundly un­conscious because the time above forty thousand feet was long enough and the portable emergency airpack was just that, it was an airpack, not an ox­ygen pack, so they had no oxygen available. They would have become un­conscious in a matter of thirty seconds or less depending on the rate of the depressurization and they would have remained unconscious at impact.”

But the damage to the compartment was too great to allow Kerwin to determine with certainty whether the cabin had lost pressure. He said that, given what it would mean for the crew’s awareness of its fate, his team was almost hopeful of finding evidence that the crew compartment had been breached, but they were unable to make a conclusive determination.

The damage done to the crew compartment at water impact was so great that despite a really lot of effort, most of it pretty expert, to determine whether there was a pressure broach in any of the walls, in any of the feed-throughs, any of the windows, any of the weak points where you might expect it, we couldn’t rule it out but we couldn’t demonstrate it either. We lifted all the equipment to see whether any of the stuff in the crew compartment looked as if it had been dam­aged by rapid decompression, looked at toothpaste tubes and things like that, tested some of them or similar items in vacuum chambers to determine wheth­er that sort of damage was pressure-caused and that was another blind hole. We simply could not determine. And then as to the remains, in a case of immedi­ate return of the remains we might have gotten lucky and been able to measure tissue oxygen concentration and tissue carbon dioxide concentration and gotten a clue from that but this was way too late for that kind of thing.

Finally, after all ofthat we had to just, I just had to sit down and write the letter to Admiral [Richard H.] Truly stating that we did not know the cause of death.

Sally Ride was named to the commission that was appointed to in­vestigate the causes of the accident. President Reagan appointed former secretary of state William Rogers to head a board to determine the fac­tors that had resulted in the loss of Challenger. (Ride has the distinction of being the only person to serve on the presidential commission inves­tigations of both the Challenger and the Columbia accidents.) Ride was in training at the time of the accident and was assigned to the presiden­tial commission within just a few days of the accident. The investigation lasted six months.

“The panel, by and large, functioned as a unit,” Ride recalled.

We held hearings; we jointly decided what we should look into, what witness­es should be called before the panel, and where the hearings should be held. We had a large staff so that we could do our own investigative work and conduct our own interviews. The commission worked extensively with the staff through­out the investigation. There was also a large apparatus put in place at NASA to help with the investigation: to analyze data, to look at telemetry, to look through the photographic record, and sift through several years of engineering records. There was a lot of work being done at NASA under our direction that was then brought forward to the panel. I participated in all ofthat. I also chaired a sub­committee on operations that looked into some of the other aspects of the shut­tle flights, like was the astronaut training adequate? But most of our time was spent on uncovering the root cause of the accident and the associated organiza­tional and cultural factors that contributed to the accident.

Ride said she had planned to leave nasa after her upcoming third flight and do research in an academic setting. But her role in the accident in­vestigation caused her to change her plans. “I decided to stay at nasa for an extra year, simply because it was a bad time to leave,” explained Ride.

She described that additional year as one that was very difficult both for her personally and for the corps. “It was a difficult time for me and a dif­ficult time for all the other astronauts, for all the reasons that you might expect,” said Ride. “I didn’t really think about it at the time. I was just go­ing from day to day and just grinding through all the data that we had to grind through. It was very, very hard on all of us. You could see it in our faces in the months that followed the accident. Because I was on the com­mission, I was on Tv relatively frequently. They televised our hearings and our visits to the NASA centers. I looked tired and just kind of gray in the face throughout the months following the accident.”

Astronaut Steve Hawley, who was married to Ride at the time, recalled providing support to the Rogers Commission, particularly in putting to­gether the commission’s report, Leadership and America’s Future in Space.

The chairman felt that it was appropriate to look not only at the specifics of that accident but other things that his group might want to say about safety in the program, and that included, among other things, the role of astronauts in the program, and that was one of the places where I think I contributed, was how astronauts ought to be involved in the program. I remember one of the recom­mendations of the committee talked about elevating the position of director of FCOD [Flight Crew Operations Directorate], because at the time of the Chal­lenger accident, he was not a direct report to the center director. That had been a change that had been made sometime earlier, I don’t remember exactly when. And that commission felt that the guy that was head of the organization with the astronauts should be a direct report to the center director. So several people went back to Houston and put George [Abbey] s desk up on blocks in an at­tempt to elevate his position. I think he left it there for some period of time, as far as I can remember.

Though not everyone in the Astronaut Office was involved in the Rog­ers Commission investigation and report, many astronauts were involved in looking into potential problems in the shuttle hardware and program. Recalled O’Connor,

I remember that a few days after the accident Dick Truly and the acting ad­ministrator [William Graham] were down at ksc. Again, because I had ac­cident investigation training, they had a discussion about what’s the next steps

here. The acting administrator, it turned out, was very reluctant to put a board together, a formal board. We had an Accident Investigation Team that was as­sembling; eventually became under the cognizance of J. R. Thompson. We had a bunch of subteams under him, and then he was reporting to Dick Truly. But we never called out a formal board, and I think there was more or less a politi­cal feel that this is such high visibility that we know for sure that the Congress or the president or both are going to want to have some sort of independent in­vestigation here, so let’s not make it look like we’re trying to investigate our own mishap here. And that’s why he decided not to do what our policy said, which is to create a board. We stopped short of that.

Once the presidential commission was in place, O’Connor said it was obvious to Dick Truly that he needed to provide a good interface between the commission and nasa. Truly assigned O’Connor to set up an “action center” in Washington DC for that purpose. The center kept track of all the requests from the commission and the status of the requests.

“They created a room for me, cleared out all the desks and so on,” O’Connor recalled. “We put [up] a bunch of status boards; very old-fashioned by to­day’s standard, when I think about it. It was more like World War Il’s tech­nology. We had chalkboards. We had a paper tracking system, an IBM type­writer in there, and so on. It all seemed so ancient by today’s standards, virtually nothing electronic. But it was a tracking system for all the requests that the board had. It was a place where people could come and see what the status of the investigation was.”

The center became data central for nasa’s role in the investigation. In addition to the data keeping done there, Thompson would have daily tele­conferences with all of his team members to find out what was going on.

Everybody would report in, what they had done, where they were, where they were on the fault tree analysis that we were doing to x out various potential cause factors. I remember the action center became more than just a place where we coordinated between NASA and the blue-ribbon panel. It was also a place where people could come from the [Capitol] Hill or the White House. We had quite a few visitors that came, and Dick Truly would bring them down to the action center to show them where we were in the investigation. So it had to kind of take on that role, too, of publicly accessible communication device.

I did that job for some weeks, and then we rotated people. [Truly] asked that George Abbey continue [to provide astronauts]. George had people available now that we’re not going to fly anytime soon, so he offered a bunch of high-quality people. . . . So shortly after I was relieved from that, I basically got out of the investigation role and into the “what are we going to do about it" role and was assigned by George to the Shuttle Program Office.

As board results came out, changes began to be made. For example, O’Connor said, all of the mission manifests from before the accident were officially scrapped.

I was relieved of my job on a crew right away. I think they called it 6im, which was a mission I was assigned to right after I got back from 6ib. I cant remem­ber who all the members were, but my office mate, Sally Ride, and I were both assigned to that same mission, 6im. Of course, when the accident happened, all that stuffbecame questionable and we stopped training altogether. I don’t think that mission ever resurrected. It may have with some other name or number, but the crew was totally redone later, and the two of us got other assignments.

In the meantime, O’Connor was appointed to serve as the assistant pro­gram manager for operations and safety. His job included coordinating how NASA was going to respond to a couple of the major recommendations that came out of the blue-ribbon panel. The panel had ten recommendations, covering a variety of subjects. One of them had to do with how to restruc­ture and organize the safety program at NASA. Another one O’Connor was involved with dealt with wheels, tires, brakes, and nose-wheel steering.

“It was all the landing systems,” he explained.

Now, that may sound strange, because that had nothing to do with this accident, but the Challenger blue-ribbon panel saw that, as they were looking at our his­tory on shuttle, they saw that one of the bigger problems we were addressing tech­nically with that vehicle was landing rollout. We had a series of cases where we had broken up the brakes on rollout by overheating them or overstressing them. We had some concerns about automatic landings. We had some concerns about steering on the runway in cases of a blown tire or something like that. So they chose to recommend that we do something about these things, put more empha­sis on it, make some changes and upgrades in that area.

In the wake of the accident, even relatively low-profile aspects of the shuttle program were reexamined and reevaluated. “nasa wanted to go back and look at everything, not just the solid rocket boosters, but every­thing, to determine, is there another Challenger awaiting us in some oth­er system,” recalled Mullane, who was assigned to review the range safety flight termination system, which would destroy the vehicle in the event it endangered lives. “I always felt it was a moral issue on this dynamite sys­tem. I always felt it was necessary to have that on there, because your wives and your family, your Lcc [Launch Control Center] people are sitting there two and a half miles away. If you die, that’s one thing. But if in the process of you dying that rocket lands on the LCC and kills a couple of hundred people, that’s not right. So they should have dynamite aboard it to blow it up in case it is threatening the civilian population.”

While Mullane himself supported having the flight termination system on the vehicles, he said that some of his superiors did not.

I could not go to the meetings and present their position. I couldn’t. I mean, to me it was immoral. It was immoral to sit there and say we fly without a dynamite system aboard. That’s immoral. And we threatened lcc, we threat­en our families, we threaten other people. We’re signing up for the risk to ride in the rocket.

That was another bad time of my life, because I took a position that was counter to my superiors’ position, and I felt that it was jeopardizing my future at nasa. I didn’t like that at all, didn’t like the idea that I was supposed to just parrot somebody’s opinion and mine didn’t count on that issue. . . . So I did not like that time of my life at all. I had an astronaut come to me once. . . who heard my name being kicked around as a person that was causing some prob­lems. And that’s the last thing you want in your career is to hear that your name is in front of people who make launch crew decisions, who make crew decisions, and basically, it looks like I’m a bad apple. But I just couldn’t do it. . . . I said, “You go. You do it. I cant. It’s immoral." By the way, the end of that is that the solid boosters retained their dynamite system aboard. It was taken off the gas tank, making it much safer, at least now two minutes up when the boosters are gone, we don’t have to dynamite aboard anymore, so it could fail and blow you up. But that’s the right decision right there. You protect the civilians, you pro­tect your family, you protect lcc with that system.

The results from the commission questioned the NASA culture, and ac­cording to Covey some within the agency found that hard to deal with, es­pecially while still recovering from the loss of the crew and vehicle. “Every­body was reacting basically to two things,” Covey said. “One was the fact that they had lost a Space Shuttle and lost a crew, and two, the Rogers Com­mission was extremely critical, and in many cases, rightfully so, about the way the decision-making processes had evolved and the culture had evolved.”

Covey noted,

Those two things together are hard for any institution to accept, because this was still a largely predominant workforce that had come through the Apollo era into the shuttle era and had been immensely successful in dealing with the issues that had come through both those programs to that point. So to be told that the culture was broken was hard to deal with, and that’s because culture doesn’t change overnight, and there was a lot of people that didn’t believe that that was an accurate depiction of the situation and environment that existed within the agency, particularly at the Johnson Space Center.

Personnel changes began to take place, including the departures of George Abbey, the long-time director of flight crew operations, and John Young, chief of the Astronaut Office. “We started seeing a lot of personnel chang­es in that time period in leadership positions,” Covey said.

I think they were a matter oftiming and other things, but George Abbey had been the director of flight crew operations for a long time, and somewhere in there George left that position. Don Puddy came in as the director of flight crew operations, and that sat poorly with a lot of people, because he wasn’t out of Flight Crew Opera­tions; he was a flight director. So that was something that a lot of people just had a hard time accepting. John Young left from being chief of the Astronaut Office, and Dan Brandenstein came into that position. I’m trying to remember what hap­pened in Mission Operations, but somewhere in there Gene Kranz left; I cant re­member when, and I’m not sure when in that spectrum of things that he did. So there were changes there. The center director changed immediately after the Chal­lenger accident, also, and changes were rampant at headquarters. So, basically, there was a restructuring of the leadership team from the administrator on down.

In time, the astronaut corps grieved and adjusted to leadership changes, and their focus returned to flying. “As jsc does,” Covey said, “once they got past the grief and got past the disappointment of failure and acceptance of their role relative to the decision-making process, they jumped in and said, ‘Okay, our job is flying. Let’s go figure out how we’re going to fly again.’”

Covey said the Challenger accident caused some in the astronaut corps to be wary of the NASA leadership structure and to distrust that the system would make the right kinds of decisions to protect them. “I wouldn’t say it was a bunker mentality, but it was close to that,” Covey said.

The idea that, as it played out, that there were decisions made and informa­tion that may not have been fully considered, and as you can see from all of it, a relatively limited involvement of any astronauts or flight crew people in the decision that led up to the launch; very little, if any. So that led to some changes that have evolved over time where there are more and more astronauts that have been involved in that decision-making process at the highest levels, either within the Space Shuttle program or in the related activities, where be­fore it was like, “Yeah, those guys will make the right decision, and we’ll go fly."

Along those same lines, Fred Gregory commented that the tragedy was a moment of realization for many about the dangers of spaceflight.

The first four missions we called test flights, and then on the fifth mission we de­clared ourselves operational. We were thinking offlying journalists, and we had Pete Aldridge, who was the secretary of the air force. [about to fly]. I mean, we were thinking of ourselves as almost like an airline at that point. It came back safely. Everything was okay, even though there may have been multiple failures or things that had degraded. When we looked back, we saw that, in fact, we had had this erosion of those primary and secondary O-rings, but since it was a successful mission and we came back, it was dismissed almost summarily. I think there was a realization that we were vulnerable, and that this was not an airliner, flying to space was risky, and that we were going to have to change the approach that we had taken in the past.

During the investigation, new light was shined on past safety issues and close calls. Astronaut Don Lind recalled being informed of a situation that occurred on his 51B mission, less than a year earlier.

What happened was that Bob Overmyer and I had shared an office for three and a half years, getting ready for this mission. Bob, when they first started the

Challenger investigation, was the senior astronaut on the investigation team. He came back from the Cape one day, walked in the office, slumped down in the chair, and said, “Don, shut the door." Now, in the Astronaut Office, if you shut the door, it’s a big deal, because we tried to keep an open office so people could wander in and share ideas. . . . So I shut the door, and Bob said, “The board today found out that on our flight nine months previously we almost had the same explosion. We had the same problems with the O-rings on one of our boosters." We talked about that for a few minutes, and he said, “The board thinks we came within fifteen seconds of an explosion. ”

After learning this, Lind traveled out to what was then Morton Thio – kol’s solid rocket booster facility in Utah to find out exactly what had hap­pened on his flight.

Alan McDonald, who was the head of the Booster Division, sat down with me. . . . He got out his original briefing notes for Congress, which I now have, and outlined exactly what had happened. There are three separate O-rings to seal the big long tubes with the gases flowing down through them at about five thousand degrees and 120 psi. The first two seals on our flight had been total­ly destroyed, and the third seal had 24 percent of its diameter burned away. McDonald said, “All of that destruction happened in six hundred millisec­onds, and what was left of that last O-ring if it had not sealed the crack and stopped that outflow of gases, if it had not done that in the next two hundred to three hundred milliseconds, it would have been gone all the way. You’d nev­er have stopped it, and you’d have exploded. So you didn’t come within fifteen seconds of dying, you came within three-tenths of one second of dying. " That was thought provoking.

In the wake of the Challenger disaster, all future missions were scrubbed and the flight manifest was replanned. Some missions were rescheduled with new numbers and only minor changes, while other planned missions and payloads were canceled entirely.

Recalled Charlie Walker of the electrophoresis research he had been con­ducting, “The opportunity just went away with the national policy changes; commercial was fourth priority, if it was a priority at all, for shuttle man­ifest. . . . Shuttle would not be flying with the regularity or the frequency that had been expected before.”

The plans to use the Centaur upper stage to launch the Ulysses and Gal­ileo spacecraft from the shuttle were also canceled as a result of the acci­dent. Astronaut Mike Lounge had been assigned to the Ulysses Centaur flight, which was to have flown in spring 1986 on Challenger. “So when we saw Challenger explode on January 28, before that lifted off, I remember thinking, ‘Well, Scobee, take care of that spaceship, because we need it in a couple of months.’ We would have been on the next flight of Challenger"

Lounge recalled that his crew was involved in planning for the mis­sion during the Challenger launch. They took a break from discussing the risky Centaur mission, including ways to eject the booster if necessary, so that they could watch the 51L launch on a monitor in the meeting room. Lounge said the disaster shone a new light on the discussions they’d been having. “We assumed we could solve all these problems. We were still ba­sically bulletproof. Until Challenger, we just thought we were bulletproof and the things would always work.”

Rick Hauck, who was assigned to command the Ulysses Centaur mission, was glad to see the mission canceled. “Would it have gotten to the point where I would have stood up and said, ‘This is too unsafe. I’m not going to do it’?” Hauck said. “I don’t know. But we were certainly approaching lev­els of risk that I had not seen before.”

For Bob Crippen, the Challenger accident would result in another loss, that of his final opportunity for a shuttle flight. The ramifications of the ac­cident meant that he ended his career as a flight-status astronaut the same way he began it—in the crew quarters for Vandenberg’s SLC-6 launch com­plex, waiting for a launch that would never come. In the 1960s that launch had been of the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory. In 1986 it was shuttle mission 62A.

“If I have one flying regret in my life, it was that I never had an oppor­tunity to do that Vandenberg mission,” Crippen said.

We [had been] going to use filament-wound solid rockets, whereas the solid rock­ets that we fly on board the shuttle have steel cases. That was one of the things, I think, that made a lot of people nervous. . . . We needed the filament-wounds to get the performance, the thrust-to-weight ratio that we needed flying out of Vandenberg. So they used the filament-wound to take the weight out. After we had the joint problem on the solids with Challenger; most people just couldn’t get comfortable with the filament-wound case, so that was one of the aspects of why they ended up canceling it.

As the agency, along with the nation, was reevaluating what the future of human spaceflight would look like, what things should be continued, and what things should be canceled, the astronauts in the corps had to make the same sorts of decisions themselves. Many decided that the years-long gap in flights offered a good time to leave to pursue other interests, but many stayed on to continue flying.

“I think it was a very sobering time,” Jerry Ross said. “I mean, we always knew that that was a possibility, that we would have such a catastrophic ac­cident. I think there was a lot of frustration that we found out fairly soon afterwards that the finger was being pointed at the joint design and, in fact, that there had been quite a bit of evidence prior to the accident that that joint design was not totally satisfactory. Most of us had never heard that. We were very shocked, disappointed, mad.”

Several astronauts left the office relatively soon after the accident, Ross said, and a stream of others continued to leave for a while afterward. “There were more people that left for various different reasons; some of them for frustration, some of them knowing that the preparations for flight were go­ing to take longer, some of them responding to spouses’ dictates or requests that they leave the program now that they’d actually had an accident.”

Ross discussed his future at NASA with his family and admitted to hav­ing some uncertainty at first as to what he wanted to do.

I had mixed feelings at first about wanting to continue to take the risk of fly­ing in space, but at the same time, all of the NASA crew members on the shuttle were good friends of mine, and I felt that if I were to quit and everybody else were to quit, then they would have lost their lives for no good benefit or progress. If you reflect back on history, any great undertaking has had losses; you know, wagon trains going across the plains or ships coming across the ocean. I was just watching a TV show that said in the 1800s, one out of every six ships that went across. . . the ocean from Europe to here didn’t make it. So there’s risk involved in any type of new endeavor that’s going on. And I got into the program with my eyes wide open, both for the excitement and the adventure of it, but also I felt very strongly that it was important that we do those kinds of things for the future of mankind and for the good of America.

After getting through the shock and getting through the memorial services and all that, even though I was frustrated I wasn’t getting a whole lot to do to help with the recovery effort, I was very determined that I was not going to leave, after talking with the family and getting their agreement, and that I was going to do whatever I could to help us get back to flying as soon as we could and to do it safer.

Bold They Rise

After John Young and I made the first flight of the Space Shuttle aboard Co­lumbia all those years ago, people would sometimes ask me what the best part of the flight was. I would always use John’s classic answer: “The part between takeoff and landing.”

Now that it’s all said and done, I think that describes what the best part of the Space Shuttle program was: the part between our first launch in April 1981 and the last landing in July 2011.

There were some low points in between, particularly the loss of both of the orbiters I had the privilege to fly and their crews, but as a whole I think the shuttle has been one of the most marvelous vehicles that has ever gone into space—a fantastic vehicle unlike anything that’s ever been built.

The Space Shuttle has carried hundreds of people into space and deliv­ered hundreds of tons of payloads into space. The shuttle gave us the Gali­leo and Magellan probes, which opened our eyes to new worlds, and it let us not only launch the Hubble Space Telescope but also repair and upgrade it time and time again, and Hubble has revolutionized our understanding of not only our solar system but the entire universe. The shuttle carried a lot of classified military payloads early on that probably helped the United States win the Cold War.

The Space Shuttle let us build the International Space Station. The Space Station is an incredible accomplishment, a marvelous complex, but it was the Space Shuttle that taught us that we could build a complicated space vehicle and make it work very well. The Space Station would not have been possible without the Space Shuttle.

But in those early days, I think the shuttle did something else, a little less concrete but just as important. The late ’70s and early ’80s weren’t re­ally a great time for the United States. We’d basically lost the Vietnam War. We’d been through economic hard times, through the hostage crisis in Iran.

President Reagan was shot just before our flight on STS-i. And morale for a lot of people in the country was really low. People were feeling like things just weren’t going right for us.

And that first flight, it was obvious that it was a big deal. It was a big thing for NASA, but it was a big thing for the country. It wasn’t just our ac­complishment at NASA; it was an American accomplishment. It was a mo­rale booster for the United States. It was a rallying point for the American people. And the awareness may not be as high now as it was then, but I think that’s still true today. I think you saw that when the shuttle made its last flight; the pride people had in what it had accomplished and the fact that a million people watched it. When I talk to people, they think space exploration is something we need to be doing, for the future of the United States and humankind.

The retirement of the shuttle was kind of bittersweet for me. I’m proud of all it’s accomplished, and I’m sorry to see it end. But I believe in moving on. I’d like to see us get out of Earth orbit and go back to the moon, and to other destinations, and eventually to Mars.

John and I got to see a lot of the development of the Space Shuttle first­hand. As astronauts, we were involved from an operations standpoint, and as the first crew, John and I visited the sites where they were working on the shuttle, getting it ready to fly. We had an outstanding, dedicated team, people who really believed they were doing something important for the nation. When we finally got into the shuttle for that first flight, meeting those thousands of people gave me a lot of confidence that we had a good vehicle to fly on.

I never expected to be selected for that first flight. I thought they would pick someone more experienced to fly with John. I was excited that they picked me, and I was honored to be a part of that flight. All told, that flight was the beginning of something truly amazing, and I’m honored to be one of the thousands of people who made it happen.

Bob Crippen


When I (David) first became involved in the Outward Odyssey series, working on the Skylab volume, my coauthors and I were shown a list of proposed titles for the first eight books in the series. As authors working on our first book, coming up with a title seemed like one of the more ex­citing parts of the job. We were thus somewhat pleased to be disappointed with the working title the publisher had provided: “Exemplary Outpost.” It was an accurate title, but it lacked the poetry of the other titles on the list—titles like Into That Silent Sea and In the Shadow ofthe Moon. I’m not sure that we quite lived up to that standard with Homesteading Space, but we made our best effort.

Even though it meant giving up the privilege of titling this volume, Heather and I were quite happy to go along with the name the publisher had suggested for this book: Bold They Rise. It was, quite literally, poetic, taken from the poem by series editor Colin Burgess that appears as the epigraph.

When we first read the poem, very early on in the process of writing this volume, we pictured the title as being about the Space Shuttles themselves, reflecting the poem’s reference to “winged emissaries.” As the book took shape, however, we realized that was no longer true; the title had taken on a new meaning for us. Rather than being about the hardware, it was about the men and women who risked their lives to expand humankind’s frontiers.

And in that vein, this book owes an incredible debt of gratitude to the NASA Johnson Space Center (jsc) Oral History Project, without which it quite literally would not exist.

With Homesteading Space, it was relatively easy to create a book that filled a unique niche—with a few notable exceptions, such as a handful of official NASA publications and David Shayler’s Skylab, very little had been written about America’s first space station. Breaking new ground was not a particular challenge.

With this book, the challenge was a little greater. There are more books about the Space Shuttle program, so it was somewhat harder to create some­thing unique. Most of the previous works, however, fall into one of three categories—technical volumes, which span the entire program but include none of the human experience; astronaut memoirs, which relate the hu­man experience, but only from one person’s perspective; or specific histories, which are more exhaustive but focus on only a limited slice of the program.

Based on the overall goal of the Outward Odyssey series, a new niche we could address became clear—a book relating the human experience of the Space Shuttle program, not limited to one person’s story but including a variety of viewpoints and spanning the early years of the program. Origi­nally the goal was to create a “Homesteading Space of the shuttle program,” but it quickly became apparent that was a misdirected goal. Homesteading had only three manned missions to cover, and thus we could delve much deeper and more broadly in covering them. To attempt to write about the subject of this book in that manner would be to do either the subject or the reader a grave disservice; we needed to narrow our approach to create something that was both relevant and readable.

When we began reading from the jsc oral history interviews early in our research, the ideal approach for the book became apparent. Here was a wealth of first-person experience, describing in detail what it was like to be there—what it was like to involved in the design of a new spacecraft, what it was like to risk one’s life testing that vehicle, what it was like to do things that no one had done before in space, what it was like to float freely in the vacuum of space as a one-man satellite, what it was like to hold thousands of pounds of hardware in one’s hands, what it was like to watch friends die.

This book almost exclusively offers the astronauts’ perspective on the early years of the Space Shuttle program, and, while research for the vol­ume drew on several resources, the extensive quoted material draws heavi­ly from the jsc Oral History Project. It’s the astronauts’ story, told in their own words, about their own experiences.

Bold They Rise is not a technical volume. We would love for this volume to inspire you seek out another book that delves more deeply into the tech­nical aspects of the shuttle. There are parts of the story that we had to deal with in what seemed like a relatively superficial manner; even dedicating an entire chapter to the Challenger accident and the effects it had seems woeful­ly insufficient. Entire books could, and have, been written about the Chal­lenger accident. If this book leaves you wanting to know more about that incident or other aspects of the shuttle’s history, we encourage you to seek out those volumes. And of course, individual astronauts have told their sto­ries in memoirs with more personality than we were able to capture here. The subject of this book is such that it can’t be covered by any one volume exhaustively, but hopefully we have provided a unique, informative, and engaging overview here.

The chronological scope of the book was also set by the publisher to fit within the Outward Odyssey series. (Another volume, written by Rick Houston, picks up the Space Shuttle story where this one leaves off.) Ini­tially, the ending point of the book was a bit discomfiting; the Challenger accident seemed a rather low note on which to end a book. There were any number of successes both before and after Challenger. Why would one pick the lowest point of the early years as a place to end the story? But, in a very real way, it was the best possible way to turn this history into a story arc.

As astronaut Mike Mullane wrote in his memoir Riding Rockets,

The NASA team responsible for the design of the Space Shuttle was the same team that had put twelve Americans on the Moon and returned them safely to Earth across a quarter million miles of space. The Apollo program represented the greatest engineering achievement in the history of humanity. Nothing else, from the Pyramids to the Manhattan Project, comes remotely close. The men and women who were responsible for the glory of Apollo had to have been af­fected by their success. While no member of the Shuttle design team would have ever made the blasphemous claim, “We’re gods. We can do anything," the reality was this: The Space Shuttle itself was such a statement. Mere mortals might not be able to design and safely operate a reusable spacecraft boosted by the world’s largest, segmented, uncontrollable solid-fueled rockets, but gods certainly could.

That, then, is the story of this book—a Greek tragedy about hubris and its price. It’s a story of the confidence that bred some of the most amazing achievements in human history but also led to overconfidence.

But make no mistake, this book is also a love letter. Both authors of this volume were born after the end of the last Saturn-Apollo flight; the Space Shuttle is “our” spacecraft. The Challenger accident occurred when we were still children; it was our “where were you” equivalent of the Kennedy assas­sination. In our “day jobs” as NASA education writers, we wrote extensively about the shuttle, its crews, its missions, its accomplishment and ultimate­ly its retirement. We write this with a fondness for the shuttle, even when that means telling the story with warts-and-all honesty.

It’s been an honor and a pleasure to tell this story. We hope you enjoy reading it.

David Hitt

Heather R. Smith