Monkeying around with the media

On the eighth day of the mission, the international politics associated with the joint NASA/ESA mission meant that a little flag-waving would take place during a televised international press conference. Crew members Young, Merbold and Lichtenberg would be shown during a live transmission from space, planned to begin with the reading of prepared statements from President Ronald Reagan in Washington, and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was in Athens attending an economic meeting. Following this, the press would be "free" to ask questions of the three crew members. However, there was little spontaneity to this event, as the questions had been prepared in advance, and the crew were already in possession of suitable responses. Like other crews, this one did not mind a little flag-waving, but the heavy-handed politics and a decided lack of freedom of speech caused them to pull a little stunt of their own, as Garriott recalls:

"A spot in the day's timeline was picked when all six of us were awake to have the brief conversation. However, six people at a microphone for a brief conversation never works out very well, so they decided to restrict it to only three. Young, the commander, was an obvious choice as was Merbold, the German, and Lichtenberg, as a US civilian scientist. But then they wanted to set up all the communications

Taking a brief moment of respite from their work, the Spacelab 1 science crew utilise the scientific airlock (in the roof of the Spacelab module) as a "card table'' and "cards" from the targets used in the Awareness of Position experiment to play what appears to be a game of space cards.

Taking a brief moment of respite from their work, the Spacelab 1 science crew utilise the scientific airlock (in the roof of the Spacelab module) as a "card table'' and "cards" from the targets used in the Awareness of Position experiment to play what appears to be a game of space cards.

equipment and cameras and check it out before the actual link was made to the two heads of state. So they wanted the other three of us to set up all the equipment and run the checks first, then quietly exit ''stage left'' while the real ''stars'' took their places for the interview. This seemed [to be] pushing the priorities a little hard, so the three of us decided to get it all set up as requested, but then when the test video link was first established, we would be seen sitting side-by-side, positioned as 'The Three Monkeys'.''

When they knew they were 'on the air' and live on the pre-interview test link, one of the crew switched transmission cameras. Suddenly, those on the ground saw Garriott, Parker and Shaw huddled together, with Garriott holding his hands over his eyes, Parker covering his ears, and Shaw doing likewise with his mouth. Their ''see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil'' message was abundantly clear. After five seconds, and though they were unable to see the reaction of the ground crews, all three burst out laughing.

''We were later told on the ground that when the image came up in the control centre they also burst out laughing as they realised the implication of the pose - that we three had been to some (insignificant) degree slighted or placed in a ''second class'' category. We all enjoyed it a lot, and doubt if Reagan or Kohl ever knew anything about it.''

The international press conference took place as scheduled, but the crew's little bit of levity ensured that they got their message across about the time-wasting absurdity of a so-called ''spontaneous'' interview. The image seen in the control centre had also been viewed by the press, who considered it humorous enough to place a photo of the three-man performance in the following week's Time magazine. ''I still keep a small brass statue of the three monkeys on my memento shelf at home, and a larger pottery version is in our garden,'' Garriott states, still highly amused at the memory.36

With the four scientists busily engaged in their Spacelab experiments, there was very little time for peering out of the window at the Earth below. Garriott, however, made an interesting post-flight observation. ''We were flying at 57 degrees inclination on this flight, of course, and the high latitudes made the opportunities for looking at the Earth beneath us of even greater fascination. We could see both northern and southern latitudes much better than even on Skylab at 50 degrees.''31

Bob Parker was also quite happy that they were flying with a 57-degree inclination on his first space flight, as he explained:

''A typical Shuttle orbit comes due east out of the Cape in Florida, in a 28-and-a-half-degree inclination. It goes from a 28-and-a-half-degree north latitude to a 28-and-a-half-degree south latitude. It encompasses only the southern part of Florida and Texas and Hawaii and does not fly over the rest of the United States. In fact, it does not even fly over the Mediterranean - it just barely gets close to it. It does not quite go to the tip of South Africa, and it certainly does not get to Cape Horn, or New Zealand. You miss parts of Australia, most of Asia and Europe - a whole lot of interesting parts of the world. You see a whole lot less stuck in that orbit. It does see a whole lot of ocean! In a word, to those of us who fly, it is known as 'boring'.

''If the orbit has an inclination of 57 degrees, close to what the International Space Station has, you get to Hudson's Bay. You get below Cape Horn, above Moscow, most of Great Britain, parts of Denmark, the very bottom of Sweden, and below Australia and New Zealand. Probably ninety-five percent of the world's population is below us, there is a lot of land mass for us to see, and a lot of interesting things to photograph.''37

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