The second Spacelab mission

Launched on 29 April 1985, the seventeenth mission of the programme was the first not to make the major TV bulletins, which demonstrated that Shuttle flights were seemingly becoming routine and less interesting to the media and the general public. The flight set a new space record, as it was the first mission to include three men over 50 years old. After a brief delay, the launch went without incident and the crew were soon busy inside the Spacelab module preparing for the week of activities. Despite some small problems, the flight progressed smoothly and included extensive work by PS Wang on his fluid mechanics experiment. He even successfully rewired the device to get it working after it failed early in the mission, clearly demonstrating the benefit of having the principal investigator on board to repair his own equipment and once again proving that having a crew in space to overcome problems was worthwhile. Aboard the Spacelab, there were three experiments in material science, four in life sciences, two in fluid mechanics, four atmospheric and astronomical experiments and two small satellites, one of which failed to deploy. In addition to the seven astronauts, the "crew" included two monkeys and twenty-four rats, in holding facilities that caused problems of their own. The mission, which landed on 6 May, was deemed an outstanding success by NASA, logging 7 days 0 hours 8 minutes and 46 seconds in flight and landing during the 111th orbit. During their flight, the crew amassed an impressive 250,000 million bits of data from the suite of experiments which, according to the press releases, was enough to fill 44,000, 200-page volumes. They also gathered over three million video frames.

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