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The first mission was planned as a series of five flights aboard the CV-990 Galileo II aircraft on consecutive days, to resemble the useful experiment time aboard the proposed seven-day Spacelab mission. Since the experiments were "real", a further two weeks of airborne flights were scheduled for the PIs following the "Spacelab mission'' to ensure the achievement of scientific objectives for each experiment. The programme of experiments included research into infrared astronomy and upper atmosphere physics. The chosen group of Experiment Operators from Europe and America reflected the proposed research fields for future Spacelab missions; in this case, airborne astronomers, a doctoral graduate student, an engineer and (with Parker) a science-trained astronaut with a background in astronomy. The mission began on 7 June 1975 with the international crew flying a six-day mission and living in specially designed quarters adjacent to the aircraft parking area between flights. During the mission, the crew completed infrared observations of Earth's upper atmosphere, Venus and various stars (including NGC 7000, Rho-Ophluchus and other significant celestial features), as well as UV measurements of planetary atmospheres.

This series of flights not only provided useful information from the flown experiments, but also evaluated key aspects of the proposed Spacelab mission operations. The crew worked in teams of three, with the fourth retiring to another part of the flying laboratory, simulating a crew member moving into the mid-deck or flight deck area of the Shuttle. This was planned for the actual space missions, as the Spacelab life support system (under development) could only support up to three crew members working in the module simultaneously for six hours, with a maximum one-hour overlap by a fourth person. The CV-990 flew a night-time triangular ground track (at about 11,300 m for astronomical observations), typically from Moffett Field over Santa Barbara in California, to Payette in Idaho, continuing on to El Paso in Texas, and finally returning to Santa Barbara.

Using standard racks provided by the Ames Research Center's Airborne Science Office and locked into the aircraft's seat tracks, the experimenters evaluated their mission as EOs. They conducted several experiments each at the same time, developed "space''-to-ground communications with the mission operations centre (located at the same hanger at Ames in which the vehicle was parked between flights and where the crew rested), undertook real-time maintenance and repair of experiment hardware, automated certain functions and evaluated the benefits of both dedicated and general purpose data systems. Isolated for the duration of the mission, the airborne crew moved from the special living quarters to the aircraft by means of a lift van, simulating transfer from the mid-deck to the Spacelab module. The decision to isolate the crew reflected potential decision-making processes on Spacelab missions, although there was no physiological or psychological monitoring of the crew. The flight crew of the aircraft, observers and data system operators were not confined during the experi ment. A briefing was held about four hours before each flight to confirm the day's flight plan and experiment objectives, and each six- to seven-hour research flight was followed by an experiment debriefing.15

The flights provided valuable results, not only from the science experiments, but also from the hardware and the crew. Crew training was found to be an important factor in the success of the missions, as was the fact that real-time communications between the PI and the EO needed to be controlled to avoid overloading the work schedule and diverting attention from any task the EO was trying to perform.

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