Experiments and hardware

As with most space flights, there were opportunities to add smaller objectives to the primary goals set out for STS-5. The deployment of the two Comsats and the EVA (and the first flight of a four-person crew) were the primary objectives, but there was a range of small mid-deck experiments for the crew to conduct during the mission. These included a number of life sciences Detailed Supplementary Objectives (DSO). For Lenoir, those devised by fellow astronaut Bill Thornton were the most interesting, and were directly applicable to human adaptation to space flight. Some were conducted during the ascent and others during re-entry. One test required Lenoir to be restrained in a prone position in order to take data readings. The problem of trying to do this in weightlessness was resolved quite simply by taping the astronaut to the bulkhead with grey electrical ducting tape. Such improvisation was not confined to the medical experiments.

Joe Allen and the sheer joy of space flight - especially after waiting fifteen years to get there.

As chief photographer, Joe Allen was very pleased to be given flight cameras to take training shots for practice, evaluating the rolls of film to hone his skills prior to the actual flight. Allen wanted to keep the cameras until the very last minute prior to flight, which to him meant when he was strapped into his seat on the mid-deck for launch. He took images of the trip out to the pad and of the ingress and gave the camera to a technician prior to closing the hatch. Some of these photos were so good that they appeared in Time magazine.

Allen was given a NASA training book for his Nikon camera, but could not find out how to do a delayed shutter release. He went to the local photo shop and asked for an owner's manual for the same model, which revealed where the delayed shutter release mechanism should be. However, the NASA space flight version had been modified, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, ''in order to make it astronaut proof, such that astronauts didn't, by mistake, put the camera on delayed timing and thus mess up a picture.'' Allen investigated further and found that costly and totally unnecessary modifications had been made, despite the fact that the cameras had been successfully used in wars, violent storms, at the top of mountains and at the bottom of oceans without such changes. Still, as this was the first flight of four astronauts on one spacecraft, Allen wanted to record the event for posterity. Ever mindful of strict NASA regulations about taking personal items into space (since the Apollo 15 stamp incident from 1971, a mission he had supported as Capcom and mission scientist), he was careful to bend but not break the rules for STS-5. From a camera store, he purchased a cheap shutter release mechanism that attached to the shutter release directly, not the camera body facility that had been blocked. The device allowed him

A scientist-astronaut demonstrating the physics of liquids in space. Famous for his experiments on liquid dynamics, Joe Allen watches a globule of orange juice float in front of him.

to take the first four-crew photos, including some of the first "crew starburst'' images, something that has become a standard feature on subsequent flights. Despite the camera not having a delayed shutter release, no one at NASA ever said a word to Allen about the images, but he suspected that staff in the photo lab must have wondered how the shots were achieved.

For the return leg of the STS-5 mission, Lenoir and Allen exchanged places and Allen found himself on the flight deck - but with very little to do. He decided to take photos of the entry, and stood up to take what turned out to be spectacular views from inside the flight deck during entry, including views through the overhead windows of the plasma coming back together above and behind the orbiter. These were of particular interest to the engineers, as they had no such photographic records previously. Allen was also particularly pleased with a shot of one of the OMS burns (or, more correctly, an enormous flash of light at the back of the orbiter, which has since been reproduced in several books). The flash apparently lasted for only a fifth of a second and the camera exposure was a sixtieth of a second, "So I had to shoot a sixtieth of second during that fifth of a second, which is virtually impossible to do. But I got very lucky and was quite pleased by that result.''16

During the re-entry, Lenoir continued Thornton's SAS investigations. He also noted that about half way though entry, the inside of the mid-deck seemed to get warmer. On landing, however, Brand had to tell him that they were down as it was so smooth. The two scientist-astronauts were now the very first flight-experienced mission specialists and had finally made their trip into space. They were looking to return

"Hair cut sir?" Lenoir trims the hair of Bob Overmyer to Marine standards.

to orbit soon, and both would begin training for new missions into space from 1983. Only one of them would return to orbit.

The late oceanographer Bob Stevenson, who trained many NASA astronauts and crews in observation and photography, once described Bill Lenoir as "a real happy chappy,'' and mentioned his particular fondness for fresh jalapeno peppers, which he grew in his back yard. When they were still green, Lenoir would often bring a bagful to work and happily nibble away on them during the day. Sometimes, he would offer them to younger astronauts and take a little impish pleasure at their reaction when they bit down and found out the true nature of what they were eating.

Lenoir somehow received clearance to take a paper bag full of his beloved jalapeno peppers on the STS-5 mission. He planned on just popping one into his mouth every so often, and that whenever there was a TV broadcast to be made he would be seen just chewing away on them - just for fun. Unfortunately he became ill with a bout of space sickness early in the mission, and by the time he'd recovered sufficiently toward the end of his flight the rest of the crew had naturally finished off his lovely fresh peppers.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Courage Conqueror

Courage Conqueror

Do You Want To Be More Courageous, Push Negativity Out Of Your Life, and Have More Self Belief? Learn How, In Just A Very Short Time, You Can Put an END To Your Lack Of Bravery And Feel More In Control Of Your Life Than Ever Before... GUARANTEED.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment