Owen Garriott EOM and SPEDO

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Owen Garriott was assigned to the first Earth Observation Mission (EOM-1) and had a good chance of a re-flight on EOM-2 to utilise his experience and ease the training flow (a policy that was followed when the EOM missions became ATLAS in the early 1990s). When he was assigned to the mission the flight was designated STS 51-H, but numerous changes in the launch sequence and delays to several other flights caused the mission to slip into 1986 and be rescheduled as STS 61-K. The launch was set for September 1986, beginning a seven-day flight that would carry a payload merged with that of EOM-2. EOM-3 was manifested for STS 81-F in February 1988 and eightmore flights were planned for the series, ending with mission EOM-11.

Interviewed in 2006, Garriott recalled his assignment to the EOM crew and the combination of the EOM-1 and 2 missions, but stated that he never did any mission training. In fact, he remained in his position as Project Scientist for Space Station until he resigned from NASA and recalls completing only "negligible training'' for the EOM mission assignment.10

With the loss of Challenger, it was clear that Garriott's mission would probably be delayed by about five years. Already aged fifty-six in 1986, the delay meant he would have been about sixty-one by the time EOM was expected to fly in 1991. "I was getting to the point where I was a little doubtful that I would have enough time to really finish with that crew... [and] there would be no opportunities for another career beyond that. So it was essentially a career decision from my standpoint [to leave NASA]. It was going to be too long before I had the chance to fly again. If I'd had a chance to fly in late 1986 or 87, then I would have stayed for another opportunity. But when that was clearly going to be delayed five years, I just decided that from a personal perspective it'd be better to leave that to somebody else.''11

The EOM-1/2 mission was finally flown as ATLAS-1 in 1992, the first of what was intended to be a series often such missions flown annually over the eleven-year solar cycle. But a number of Shuttle missions were required to support Shuttle-Mir and the first phase of the International Space Station programme, so the series was cut to just three. ATLAS-1 (STS-45) flew in March 1992, followed by ATLAS-2 (STS-56) in April 1993 and ATLAS-3 (STS-66) in November 1994.

In June 1986, Garriott resigned from NASA to become Vice President of Space

Programs at Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Alabama. The company was involved with payload development and processing on Spacelab missions for NASA, and Garriott remained in the post until 1993. While at Teledyne Brown, he worked with Senior Systems Engineer Frank Echols, a veteran of thirty years of spacecraft design and instrumentation, on a proposal to extend the orbital life of the Shuttle beyond thirty days by using photovoltaic arrays to provide electrical power for independent flight. The concept was known as the SPEDO (Solar Powered Extended Duration Orbiter) configuration.12

SPEDO's photovoltaic array would provide an average of 12 kW of power which, combined with a nine-tank cryogenic Extended Duration Orbiter pallet kit and four double-panel arrays of 6 m x 12 m, could theoretically support an independent orbiter flight of up to eleven weeks (84.9 days). Flown in conjunction with a Spacelab long module and a SpaceHab augmentation module, this configuration would have been capable of supporting a Shuttle docked to ISS during the early construction phase. This man-tended configuration could have provided a platform for early science studies, prior to the deployment of the larger and more complicated ISS solar truss system. The independent flight capability of the EDO series of missions (planned by NASA from 1992 - the first flew as STS-50) offered further extension beyond the maximum duration of seventeen days, using off-the-shelf hardware and systems. The array was of the type tested on STS 41-D in 1984, the Spacelab module was flight-proven, and the EDO kit and SpaceHab modules were already manifested. It was seen as a way to extend the life of the Shuttle and conduct useful orbital research prior to permanent residency aboard ISS and the delivery of its laboratory modules and solar arrays. Garriott and Echols forecast that a SPEDO configuration could be ready for launch in three years from approval.13

Like SII's Industrial Space Facility, however, the idea of a solar-powered orbiter never really gained much ground within NASA. According to Garriott, the SPEDO configuration was "too large for NASA to consider having a solar-powered flight, and also they were biased against it because it would compete with ISS, which was also a solar-powered spacecraft. So SPEDO was never really given serious consideration, as much as anything because of its competitive nature with ISS.''14

In May 1993, Garriott left Teledyne Brown to become co-founder and president of Immutherapeutics Inc., also in Huntsville. The company initiated Federal Drug Agency (FDA) approved human trials for a tumour therapy. Garriott remained there until September 2000, when he became the interim director of the newly-created National Space Science & Technology Center (NSSTC) in Huntsville, and was responsible for managing the centre until July 2001 when a permanent director was found.

Since leaving NASA, Garriott has also devoted his time to a number of charitable causes, including co-founding the Enid (Oklahoma) Arts and Science Foundation in 1992, and has participated in research activities on new microbes. He has experienced other extreme environments, such as very alkaline lakes and deep sea vents, and has participated in undersea dives aboard Russian Mir submersibles to a depth of 2,300 metres, near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. He has also completed three trips to Antarctica.

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