An important mission for Germany 181

missions - into orbit for months at a time and expecting them to perform in the same way.

In the early 1990s, as these space station plans gradually began to crystallise, Spacelab was seen as useful practice for the kind of working environment astronauts would have on a permanent outpost. Indeed, it was an excellent research platform, and its dual-shift system to run experiments around-the-clock maximised a crew's productivity in orbit, but it did not cater for other demands that long-duration flights would place on them. Nagel's colleague on Spacelab-D2, Payload Commander Jerry Ross - a veteran of three previous Shuttle missions - would also describe the training as excessively hectic and ''not a very viable way to do business''.

By the time Columbia reached orbit in the last week of April 1993, Ross and three of his crewmates - Mission Specialist Bernard Harris and two German Payload Specialists, Ulrich Walter and Hans Schlegel - had been training for almost two years and spent the bulk of that time flying backwards and forwards between the United States and Germany. ''We spent a long period of time away from family and friends,'' Ross recalled at a pre-flight press conference in February. ''That is not the nicest way to have to do business over extended periods of time.''

He added that, during space station training - which would involve cooperation not only with Germany, but with other European countries, together with Canada, Japan and probably Russia - there was a very real risk of burning crews out if they were constantly 'on the road'. ''You will have to hire some additional divorce lawyers to keep up with all the families that are splitting up,'' he said darkly.

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