Fun in space

Despite the hard work of retrieving both satellites Allen, like all other astronauts, took time to enjoy his experiences. He shared this with those on the ground through fun demonstrations with liquids (using orange juice, coffee and water) and of movement in space (by performing no-handed push-ups and somersaults in the mid-deck). The most amusing sequence, however, was also one that the crew kept secret for some years.

With a few hours to themselves after retrieving the satellites, Gardner and Allen made a video that showed Allen being "extracted" from one of the small mid-deck lockers.47 After reviewing the tape, the optical illusion seemed highly amusing and they decided to downlink it to the night shift team of ground controllers. Unbeknown to the crew, the video was shared with other NASA centres and those who saw it in Florida's KSC, where the lockers were configured for flight, knew it was impossible for an astronaut - even one as small as Joe Allen - to fit inside the locker. When the mission landed, the technicians all but ignored the astronauts and looked around to see how the trick was done. They soon realised how it could be implied that Allen had indeed come from inside a locker. On a normal mission, the lockers are arranged in groups of sixteen (four across and four down), but on 51-A, centre of gravity parameters created by the hardware required to retrieve the satellites meant that several lockers were removed, although their frames remained. By placing the camera looking across the face of occupied lockers, Gardner could open one adjacent to the two-locker gap that Allen had squeezed into and, being careful not to show any part of his body floating "below" the locker base, could make it appear on video that Allen was being extracted from the locker.

After the flight, the crew were honoured by Lloyds of London, who arranged a trip to England to visit with the British Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher), Prince Charles, Oxford University and City Hall of London to celebrate their achievement in retrieving the satellites Lloyds had insured. It had been an exciting and fulfilling flight for Allen, one that he was unlikely to surpass.

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