Storys story

Ever since the configuration of the Shuttle (with its solid rocket boosters) was developed in the early 1970s, Story Musgrave was more than a little apprehensive about the design. When it came to flying the missions, though, he was not as scared on his first flight as he would later admit to being on his second. During his first flight into space, he was more involved with the EVA and orbital operations than he was with activities during ascent. Peterson, the other mission specialist on STS-6, was a test pilot, so he helped Weitz and Bobko on the ascent and entry phases and looked after the Shuttle on orbit. Musgrave essentially "handled everything else.'' With less focus on operational activities during ascent and descent and more on the orbital phase of the mission, Musgrave's "fear factor'' was less on this first mission, as he was "basically along for the ride.''18

With a nominal TDRS deployment (which Musgrave has mentioned was basically down to repetitive crew training, learning a sequence of switch throwing and working as a team to get the job done without too much variance to the pre-flight plan), he and Peterson began preparing to conduct their EVA. During the EVA, Musgrave translated to the aft bulkhead of the payload bay and looked back over the three main engine bells, marking the difference between this real EVA and his training in the WETF water tank back in Houston with the comment, "This is a little deeper pool than I'm used to working in.'' Working through the timeline, Musgrave and Peterson completed a translation to the aft bulkhead and performed safety tether dynamics, a mobility evaluation of the EMU, and a range of operations at the tool box, as well as simulating contingency operations by lowering the IUS tilt table and closing the payload bay doors using the forward winch system. For Musgrave, there were no surprises in the EVA and he later commented that the use of the water tank was excellent preparation for it.

Story enjoyed the food and took a sleeping pill to help him sleep on the mission, but he suffered no symptoms of SAS. He never found adapting to space a problem (he ended up by accomplishing the transition from Earth gravity to microgravity six times in his career) and could float right out of the seat and complete a somersault with no effect at all. It was coming home that he found more challenging.

The four STS-6 crew members participate in a December 1982 simulated launch during training in the Shuttle engineering mock-up at JSC. These are the positions the astronauts would occupy during their actual launch four months later.

During re-entry, Musgrave stood up to take photos over the shoulders of the pilots. He found it very difficult to hold the camera, as the force of gravity made him feel very, very heavy. Once the crew disembarked from the orbiter after landing, Musgrave held on to the hand rail of the steps "for dear life," to stop himself falling over. The plan to stand up on the flight deck was not a standard procedure but the crew wanted to determine how reasonable it was, in the event of an emergency or off-nominal situation, to send a crew member down to the mid-deck to, for example, close a circuit breaker or throw a switch, and this was the first insight into evaluating that capability. Of course, following the Challenger accident, the slide-pole method of escape would have required a crew member to leave the flight deck and descend to the mid-deck to evacuate the vehicle, although this procedure was not available at the time of the 1983 STS-6 mission. Musgrave's activities helped formulate such plans and capabilities years later.19

In the post-flight press conference, the crew was asked if the flight had changed their lives in any way. Musgrave replied that the flight had not changed his life too significantly, although it had "brought to fruition something that I've been working hard on for at least sixteen years and I'm just looking forward to going again as soon as I can.''

Following STS-6, Musgrave put the experience of EVA from the Shuttle and years of support work developing EVA systems and techniques to use, reviewing

Story Musgrave on the 7 April 1983 EVA during STS-6. Note the slide wire tether system that connects him to the Shuttle at all times.

the plans for refuelling the Landsat 4 satellite at the General Electric facilities with astronaut Jerry Ross in October 1983, just prior to the announcement of his second flight crew assignment. The next former scientist-astronaut to reach orbit, however, would be Dr. William Thornton aboard STS-8.

STS-7 flew in June 1983, under the command of STS-1 veteran Bob Crippen. Challenger was also on its second mission and carried the first representatives from the first (1978) Shuttle-era selection: pilot Rick Hauck, and mission specialists, John Fabian, Sally Ride (the first US female to fly into space) and Dr. Norman Thagard, who studied Space Adaptation Syndrome issues in support of Bill Thornton's programme.

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