Productive Mission

Unusually for a Spacelab flight, STS-58 did not operate a dual-shift system, although the entire crew typically put in 14-hour workdays or more. In view of the longer-than-normal duration, and in line with EDO procedures, each astronaut was given several periods of free time to relax and look out of Columbia's windows. ''The crew members are an important part of these investigations,'' said SLS-2 Mission Scientist Howard Schneider. ''We want to assure ourselves that we continue to study the...

Full Plate Of Experiments

Had Challenger not been lost in January 1986, it is likely that Spacelab-D2 would have taken place some time in 1988, about three years after the D1 mission. The delays in getting the Shuttle back into space, however, pushed it back into 1992 and finally 1993, but the enthusiasm of West Germany - and later the unified Federal Republic - remained intact. ''It is viewed by the general public, as well as the politicians in our government, as a very important mission,'' said Heinz Stoewer, a...

Recordbreakers

Originally scheduled to return to KSC on 22 July, after a mission falling just a few hours short of the Shuttle endurance record set by the STS-58 crew a year earlier, Columbia's crew was obliged to spend an extra day in space due to unacceptable weather in Florida. ''Right now, the weather forecast is very good for both Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd ,'' said Flight Director Jeff Bantle early on 22 July, adding prophetically, ''but as we all know with the history of KSC weather, sometimes that...

Troubled Road To Space

All went well until the beginning of February. The myriad of experiments arrived in Florida in July 1992 and the laborious process of installing them into the pressurised module began in September. After a slight delay caused by problems latching Columbia's payload bay doors, the 11,340-kg Spacelab-D2 cargo - including its experiment-laden USS pallet - was loaded on board the Shuttle on 11 January 1993 and checks confirmed their electrical and mechanical compatibility. After being transferred...

Combustion Science Experiments

Within four hours, Janice Voss and Roger Crouch entered the once-again-pristine Spacelab module to begin what they hoped would be 16 days of around-the-clock research. It's good to be back,'' Voss radioed to Mission Control, as Crouch cartwheeled and backflipped behind her in the voluminous lab. Among the most important unfinished business from the April flight was the completion of 144 scheduled tests in the CM-1 in the event, more than 200 were actually conducted during STS-94. Among the...

Columbia Returns Home To

After what Shuttle director Bob Crippen called a mission ''chocked full of work'', Wetherbee, Baker and flight engineer Shepherd ran crisply through the routine checkout of Columbia's systems on 31 October. The payload bay doors were closed at 10 32 am the following morning, and two-and-a-half hours later Wetherbee performed the two-minute OMS burn to drop his spacecraft into the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. There were, however, a few drama-tinged moments during the Shuttle's fall...

Acknowledgements

This book would not have been possible without the assistance of a number of individuals far more knowledgeable than I on the intricacies of the Solid Rocket Boosters, Shuttle main engines, External Tank fuelling procedures, crew training activities and, of course, the operation of the orbiter's multi-million-dollar toilet. I must thank the ever-patient Clive Horwood of Praxis for his support and advice, David Harland for reviewing each chapter, pointing out my mistakes and sharpening up the...

The Curse Of Steve Hawley

When the crew left their quarters early on 12 January, Steve Hawley had gained the unenviable record of having ridden the bus to the launch pad on 10 occasions for only two 'real' liftoffs. To this day, he thinks a conversation and agreement he had with Commander Hoot Gibson may have helped to finally get Columbia into space ''I decided that if Columbia didn't know it was me, then maybe we'd launch, and so I taped my name-tag with grey tape and had the glasses-nose-moustache disguise and wore...

Testing Nobel Prize Science

In fact, right up until the eve of Columbia's 22 October liftoff, NASA would continue to defend its decisions - many of which, to be fair, had been made long before the Challenger disaster - to launch such a small cargo. The questioning did not just relate to the presence of LAGEOS-2, either, for the Shuttle also carried the first United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-1). Not to be confused with the large Spacelab flown on Columbia's previous mission, this, too, was a small cargo which some...

New Columbia

If Space Shuttle Columbia had been a sentient, thinking person, she would undoubtedly have been just as confused by the new numbering system as everyone else. However, following her record-breaking, 10-day STS-9 mission at the end of 1983, she was removed from active flight status for more than a year-and-a-half for major repairs and refurbishment. Unlike the Spacelab Only modifications, which were undertaken at KSC, these repairs would be done at the Shuttle's prime contractor, Rockwell...

Astro1 Comes Alive

Activation of the observatory began almost immediately after the pilots had established Columbia in her 300-km orbit the Red Team - consisting of astronomers Parker and Parise and led by Gardner - took charge of activating the telescopes and their support equipment. Meanwhile, the Blue Team of astronomers Hoffman and Durrance and shift leader Lounge bedded down for a shorter-than-usual sleep period. They would awaken for their first 12-hour work shift at 6 00 pm on 2 December. Although not...

Bionic Eyes

Applications of the Wake Shield research extend much further than the semiconductor and electronics industries. Ignatiev has pointed to the ability to build replacement rods and cones - which convert light into electrical impulses and transmit them along the optic nerve to the brain, constructing images and enabling us to 'see' - for insertion into the retina, possibly aiding retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, both of which can lead to permanent blindness. ''If only we could replace...

Red Lights In The Cockpit

Despite a month of delays, Columbia's new launch target was jeopardised when another Eastern Test Range booking - that of a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying a US Air Force navigation satellite - was postponed on 18 March due to high winds. In accordance with the range's launch policy to all customers, the US Air Force was given a second chance on the 21st, which pushed STS-55 back to the 22nd (plus its own 'second chance' on the 23rd). This then left the Atlas...

Hst Sm3 The Biggie

The third servicing mission, to which four spacewalking astronauts were assigned in the summer of 1998, was projected for launch in June 2000 and should have been 'the biggie' with no fewer than six excursions to change the telescope's large solar array wings for smaller, but heavier and more rigid, electricity-generating panels, replace its computer 'brain', install gyroscopes to 'steer' Hubble and fit a new 75-million instrument called the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The latter would...

Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons

Costs of reflying MSL-1 would clearly be considerably reduced NASA normally spent around 500 million per mission, although much of that went into hardware testing, processing, training, planning and simulations that did not need repeating. Holloway quoted 50-60 million, although Joel Kearns pointed out that already-budgeted 'reserve' funds could bring that sum down even more. Additionally, said Holloway, ''it would be a very good test of a capability we should have in place for the station - to...

Absolutely No Concern For Entry

A week and a half into the mission, the Red Team members - Husband, Chawla, Clark and Ramon - had the opportunity to speak to the three-man crew of the International Space Station. By that time, Expedition Six Commander Ken Bowersox and Flight Engineers Nikolai Budarin and Don Pettit were entering their tenth week in orbit and, as far as they knew, would be returning to Earth in mid-March on STS-114. At the time of the ship-to-ship radio call, the station was flying over eastern Ukraine as...

Usmp2 Longterm Payoff

Most visible was the second United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-2), which continued the research begun on STS-52 a year-and-a-half earlier by carrying the joint US French MEPHISTO furnace and the SAMS acceleration monitor, as well as indulging in new scientific studies with three new experiments the Advanced Automated Directional Solidification Furnace (AADSF), the Isothermal Dendritic Growth Experiment (IDGE) and the Critical Fluid Light Scattering Experiment (nicknamed 'Zeno' by its...

Crystal Growth

Activation of USML-1 was complete by 9 00 pm and, while Dunbar busied herself with preparing it for research, Bowersox and DeLucas unstowed, initiated and photographed two samples in the Protein Crystal Growth (PCG) unit, housed in a locker on Columbia's middeck. It was hoped that data from these experiments, which had already flown on several occasions, would yield new knowledge about the proteins' molecular arrangement and assist in the production of more nutritious foods, highly resistant...

Timeline To Tragedy

Nevertheless, it was enough to piece together Columbia's horrifying last minutes. Nor was the recorder the only remarkable find. A week after the disaster, Carl Vita -an engineer with United Space Alliance, the company responsible for Shuttle operations at KSC - and NASA engineer Marty Pontecorvo found a video cassette lying on a road near Palestine in Texas. They put it in a greasy Wal-Mart fried chicken bag and sent it to JSC for analysis. ''It'll probably turn out to be Waylon Jennings or a...

Hot Science In A Warm

As the FREESTAR experiments commenced operations, the Spacehab module was also a hive of activity as two shifts of astronauts activated and began their extensive programme of around-the-clock research. Only the most minor of problems, it seemed, was troubling Columbia herself one of two heaters in a cryogenic fluid storage tank in the payload bay refused to work and part of the intercom between the module and the crew cabin exhibited difficulties. Then, on the afternoon of 20 January, managers...

Scientific Bounty

Although not intended to be manoeuvred by the RMS on STS-2, the IECM was carried in the payload bay attached to the DFI pallet. Its task was to help scientists to better understand the effect of the Shuttle on its local environment, as part of continuing efforts to assess its atomic 'cleanliness' before committing sensitive telescopes and detectors to future missions. IECM was carried on the last three test flights and the first two Spacelab missions, and was either fixed in the payload bay or...

The Butterfly And The Bullet

Paradoxically, compared to flights that would follow, the first mission of the Space Transportation System - dubbed 'STS-1' - was relatively straightforward. Its objective was to fly Columbia into space, test her systems and bring her home two days later to a desert landing in California. Yet with so many unknowns and a history of technical problems, it was also the most complicated mission ever attempted. Not only would Columbia herself be tested, but so would the untried boosters and the...

The Rocky Road To Sts1

Preparing for each Shuttle flight takes several years, but the actual bringing together of the components begins with setting up the boosters on a Mobile Launch Platform MLP in the gigantic Vehicle Assembly Building VAB . This 160-m-tall structure -the world's largest scientific building, so vast that clouds once formed in its upper reaches before an air-conditioning system was fitted - has dominated the swampy landscape of the Kennedy Space Center KSC on Merritt Island in Florida for the best...