Having your hands full

During a briefing by the crew to the Subcommittee of Science, Technology and Space in Washington DC on 28 January 1985, Joe Allen was asked by Senator Gorton, the chairman of the subcommittee, about how serious or exhausting the physical demands of holding the satellite motionless for seventy to eighty minutes were. Allen replied: ''I think it is fair to say that it was considerably easier than it may have appeared to those of you on the ground. By that I mean the satellite looks very large and awkward. However, it weighs nothing. It's just a matter of babysitting it, or tending it, not holding it 'up'. This is true even though your hands may be over your head. You are not holding your hands or arms up in doing that. The assignment to work outside a spacecraft in a spacesuit for many hours, however, is not a bed of roses. The suit is bulky, you feel quite cumbersome and it is not easy to move yourself along with great control. To do that takes considerable practice on the ground, and then it takes a certain deliberate approach to do it in the zero gravity of space. Dale and I worked for about eight hours a time. At the end of that time we were pleased that the task was completed and that it was time to come in. I might say that much of the demand is mental, not physical.''45

Allen was floating inside the suit, but due to the precise measurements it was a snug fit and required no extra effort to remain in place. What he did discover was something that Isaac Newton had realised almost 200 years earlier; ''The more massive an object is, the more it tends to resist motion and thus the easier it is to handle. I was even able to hold Palapa with one hand from time to time to help relieve muscle fatigue in my arms.''46

Having worked out how to overcome the additional problems that were encountered during the first EVA, the second would see Gardner retrieve the satellite and position it for Allen to hold, before stowing the MMU and attaching the adapter. Though Allen had flown the MMU two days before, he had not felt a sense of altitude. He was in control and at ease with the responsive MMU. But positioned atop the RMS was different: ''Riding the end of the arm, high above the cargo bay, was like

A "For Sale'' sign makes light reference to the successful retrieval of two errant satellites and their impending return to Earth for later re-launch.

standing on the top of the world's highest diving board ... and a moveable board at that. Because of my helmet's limited visibility I could not see my feet, nor the rail at my side. Only my knock-kneed stance kept me in the foot restraint, and my ride was as nerve-wracking as anything I had done before. Although I knew better, I had the sensation that if I fell, the payload bay would have to catch me or I would plummet to Earth. It was a relief to take hold of the satellite when Dale brought it within my reach. I felt like a man on a high wire being handed a balance bar and the round end of the cylindrical satellite provided some comfort and security.''46

The second EVA passed smoothly and with both satellites now safely secured in the payload bay, the two proud astronauts displayed a "For Sale'' sign as the rest of the crew recorded events on camera.

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