Double success

1 July 1997

MSL-1R carries specialist materials processing equipment into orbit.

1981

1982

on a further nine missions, up to Endeavour's STS-99 in 2000, which carried a radar that mapped the elevation of 80 per cent of the Earth's surface.

Most later Spacelab missions concentrated on specific areas of science, such as astronomy, life sciences, medicine, geophysics, and materials science. However, science aboard the Shuttle was not confined to Spacelab missions - most flights carried smaller experiments on the orbiter's mid-deck, and other scientific instruments have been flown on the

SPACELAB INSTALLED

Spocelob and its access tunnel are fitted in Columbia's cargo bay during preparations for the STS-9 mission.

28 November 1983

The first Spacelab mission, to test scientific techniques in orbit, begins.

29 April 1985

Spacelab 3 carries a variety of life sciences and microgravity experiments.

29 July 1985

Spacelab 2 carries instruments to study the physics of the Sun.

30 October 1985

Two German scientists and a Dutch ESA astronaut fly on the German-sponsored Spacelab D1.

2 December 1990

ASTRO-1 becomes the first astronomy-centred Spacelab mission.

12 September 1992

Spacelab J carries Japanese life-science and microgravity experiments.

In the end, Spacelab 1 was a huge success, both politically and scientifically. The laboratory carried a wide range of experiments investigating everything from physics and materials science to space biology and astronomy - its overall aim was to demonstrate the feasibility of carrying out such research in orbit. The six-man crew, including West Germany's Ulf Merbold (see panel, below) worked in groups of three for 12-hour shifts, sending a steady stream of data back to Earth. By the end of the ten-day mission, more scientific data had been returned to Earth than during the entire Skylab programme. Spacelab was built for use in various configurations - as well as the pressurized lab, it had a system of external pallets to carry telescopes and experiments requiring exposure to vacuum. Spacelab modules were flown on 15 more Shuttle missions through to 1998 (NASA had been so impressed with the original European version that it paid ESA to build a second one). Pallets were flown

TEMPORARY SATELLITE

Part of the Spacelab system, the Long-Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) was released into orbit in 1984 and retrieved in 1990.

27 June 1995

The Shuttle-Mir Spacelab studies the effect of long-duration spaceflight on the Mir astronauts.

1 July 1997

MSL-1R carries specialist materials processing equipment into orbit.

TEMPORARY SATELLITE

Part of the Spacelab system, the Long-Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) was released into orbit in 1984 and retrieved in 1990.

Microgravity Facility Germany

Germany's Ulf Merbold (b.1941) was the first non-American to fly aboard the Space Shuttle, joining the first Spacelab mission in 1983. A physicist by training, he was selected by ESA as a potential payload specialist for the mission in 1977. He also flew on the STS-42 International Microgravity Laboratory mission in 1992, and became the first ESA r astronaut to work on the i Mir space station, during the 32-day "Euromir" mission of 1994.

BLOOD TESTING

Owen Garriott takes a blood sample from Byron Lichtenberg during the first Spacelab mission. Blood analysis during and after spaceflight reveals that weightlessness affects the production of red blood cells.

MULTITASKING

(Above) Robert Porker (on the left) and Ulf Merbold were able to work on experiments while "wired up" to biom├ętrie sensors on Space lab 1. An ES A experiment, the fluid physics module, can be seen on the left.

LIVE AND DIRECT

(Left) The TDRS satellite network allows huge amounts of experimental data to be sent back from the Shuttle, including near-continuous live television. Here Gregory Linteris (foreground) and Donald Thomas are seen during the MSL-1R Spacelab of 1997.

MICROGRAVITY SCIENCE

(Above) Taylor Wang displays part of a "drop dynamics" experiment aboard Spacelab 3. The weightless environment of the Shuttle allows physicists to see how materials behave away from the influence of gravity.

CAPTURING INTELSAT VI

Retrieving a giant Intelsat comsat during STS-49 required the first ever three-person spacewalk, by (left to right) astronauts Richard Hieb, Tom Akers, and Pierre Thuot. Beyond Akers lies the new motor that would finally boost the satellite to its correct orbit.

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