Bingo We Nailed

Elsewhere, on the crowded flight deck, McCool and Brown - who, as members of the Blue Team, would shortly be bedding-down for their first sleep shift - busied themselves activating the FREESTAR experiments on a pallet at the rear end of Columbia's payload bay and setting up laptop computers to support the SOLSE instrument. An acronym for Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment, this device consisted of a visible and ultraviolet spectrograph designed to measure the vertical distribution of ozone...

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...

Satellite On A String

On 31 July 1992, Space Shuttle Atlantis headed into orbit with one of the most unusual experimental payloads on record - which STS-46 Mission Specialist Marsha Ivins described as weird science'' - known as the Tethered Satellite System (TSS). Originally conceived by the late Professor Guiseppe Colombo of Padua University, it was intended to demonstrate the 'electrodynamics' of a conducting tether in an electrically charged portion of Earth's atmosphere called the ionosphere. It was envisioned...

Busy Year Cut Short

Had Challenger not exploded, Columbia was set to fly a further four missions during the course of 1986. It would have been the most she had ever flown in a single calendar year and, judging from the impossibly short seven weeks expected to get her ready for STS-61E, probably could not have been realistically achieved. On the 6 March flight, she and another seven-man crew would have been launched to spend eight days in orbit with the ASTRO-1 observatory of three ultraviolet telescopes affixed to...

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...

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...

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...

Premonitions

For Andy Cline, the guide for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) who both worked and played with Rick Husband's crew, the morning of Saturday 1 February 2003 brought a peculiar and inexplicable sense of dread. Alone in his cabin in Wyoming, he got up early, aware that his seven friends were returning to Earth and eager to check if they had begun their descent. However, in his head, he instinctively knew that something was not quite right. My wife had gotten up early to go into the...

Ride Of A Lifetime

The history of jokes and pranks between astronauts and the ground crews responsible for strapping them into the spacecraft before launch has become the stuff of legend, since the days of pioneering Mercury missions in the early 1960s. ''John Young made a big deal about the size of the American flag on his suit,'' said KSC spacesuit technician Jean Alexander. ''It came in with kind of a small version and they got several sizes before he was satisfied and it was kind of a joke. So on launch...

Busy Aroundtheclock Mission

Cabana and his Red Team crewmates, however, had little time for reflection on 8 July. Shortly after entering space, Walz's Blue Team went to bed for an abbreviated sleep shift, while the Reds oversaw the activation of the Spacelab module and initiation of its first experiments. ''We're looking forward to a super two weeks up here,'' Cabana enthusiastically told Mission Control. Within three hours of reaching orbit, Mukai began the first of what would be 300 hours' worth of operations with the...

Very Human Machine

Eight precious individuals were lost on 1 February 2003. It is this fact that is so often overlooked, for in addition to Husband, McCool, Brown, Chawla, Anderson, Clark and Ramon, the world lost its pioneering Space Shuttle. Columbia was near the end of her 28th flight and, despite her distress, fought with valiant and remarkably 'human-like' characteristics to save her crew. She had repeatedly ordered elevon adjustments to cope with increasing aerodynamic drag on her left wing, she had...

More Stable Than Launch

Shortly after the top-secret STS-28 mission in August 1989, veteran astronaut Robert 'Hoot' Gibson was assigned to investigate an unusual aerodynamic 'shift' experienced by Columbia during her return to Earth. Gibson, who had commanded Columbia on STS-61C three-and-a-half years earlier and later served as chief of the astronaut corps, found the surfaces of Columbia's wings were two to four times 'rougher' than those of her sister ships Discovery and Atlantis. Moreover, he discovered that her...

Room for improvement

A lot of people thought this is a terrible thing but we improved the software and so people don't do that anymore but we discovered a susceptibility. Despite the concerns expressed by NASA management at the time, STS-3 was still a test flight - and such problems are commonplace on test flights - as well as only the third mission of the world's most advanced and complex spacecraft. The achievement was that the astronauts identified the problem before the Shuttle went operational and...

Abseiling Into The Spacelab

Preparing Columbia for this marathon mission, which would also become her last long-duration flight for almost five years, was as complicated an affair as the Neurolab experiments themselves. After having been transferred to Pad 39B on 23 March 1998, in anticipation of a 16 April launch, many of her mammalian and aquatic passengers had to wait until the very final hours of the countdown before they could be loaded into their cages in the Spacelab module. This proved an interesting event, worthy...

Neardisaster

However, the commentator's excitement-tinged announcement - ''We have ignition and liftoff of Columbia, reaching new heights for women and X-ray astronomy'' -masked a serious problem brewing in the Shuttle's main engines. It came to the attention of Collins and Ashby five seconds after leaving the pad, when they noted a voltage drop on one of their ship's electrical buses, which caused one of two backup controllers on two of the three engines to abruptly shut down. The third engine was...

Mysterious Flashing Satellite

Considering that STS-28 was such a historic mission, the official announcement from NASA spokesman Brian Welch, a couple of hours after launch, was a flat, businesslike The crew of Columbia has been given a 'go' for orbital operations.'' The primary payload was deployed at 8 06 pm, about seven-and-a-half hours into the mission at the time, John Pike - a space policy analyst for the Federation of American Scientists - speculated that it was a massive 14,500-kg 'KH-12' satellite, one of 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...

The Revolutionary Tempus

With four times as much time aloft as had been possible on STS-83, the scientific teams associated with both LIF and TEMPUS were gathering so much data that many were confidently expecting to spend at least a year analysing it all. The unique TEMPUS electromagnetic-levitation facility yielded the first measurements of specific heat and thermal expansion of glass-forming metallic alloys and, in so doing, obtained the highest temperature 2,000 Celsius and largest undercooling ever achieved in a...

Controversial Flight

The inclusion of a veterinarian on the crew had been on the cards before the SLS-1 mission, because, like its predecessor, the second Spacelab Life Sciences flight would involve extensive physiological examinations of 48 male rats Rattus norvegicus , caged in a pair of Research Animal Holding Facilities RAHFs . It would also controversially feature the first-ever in-flight decapitation and dissection of six of those rats this had drawn a significant amount of public criticism, but, according to...

First Spacewalk From Columbia

The other five STS-87 crew members had already been training for six months by the time Kadenyuk joined them in May 1997. Commander Kregel, who flew a year earlier on STS-78 and previously in July 1995, would be joined by Pilot Steve Lindsey and Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, Winston Scott and Takao Doi. Of these, only Scott - one of very few black members of NASA's astronaut corps, and one of only a handful to have completed a spacewalk - had flown before his selection for STS-87 was...

Fluid Physics

Remarkably, in spite of their relaxed state, the crew continued to enthusiastically pursue their hectic schedule of around-the-clock research in the Spacelab module. In addition to the crystal growth experiments already mentioned, a wide range of fluid physics investigations were carried out. These examined the behaviour of fluids under different influences, including the application of heat, in the hope that they could one day be used to produce high-technology glasses, ceramics,...

Columbias Other Passengers

Seven astronauts were not the Shuttle's only living passengers on LMS also hitching a ride were embryos of the hardy Medaka fish, provided by Debra Wolgemuth's team at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, which were being flown as part of investigations into gravity's role in animal development. At intervals, an onboard video microscope provided television viewers with pictures of the growth of the transparent embryos. It was recognised, said Wolgemuth, that...

Seventh Time Lucky

The repeated launch delays did not appear to have diminished the enthusiasm of Bowersox and his six crewmates - Pilot Kent Rominger, Payload Commander Kathy Thornton, Mission Specialists Cady Coleman and Spanish-born Mike Lopez-Alegria and Payload Specialists Fred Leslie and Al Sacco - as they left the Operations and Checkout Building that morning, wearing back-to-front baseball STS-73 crew portrait. Front row left to right are Al Sacco, Kent Rominger and Mike Lopez-Alegria and back row are...

Medical Experiments

Elsewhere in the Spacelab module, the crew - which included two medical doctors Brady and Thirsk and a veterinarian Linnehan - also concentrated on the second complement of LMS experiments the life science investigations. These were further categorised under five disciplines human physiology, musculoskeletal, metabolic, neuroscience and space biology and, according to Victor Schneider of NASA's Life and Microgravity Sciences Office on 5 July, ''the information-gathering has just been...

Secret Mission

With pressure on getting Discovery and Atlantis into space before the end of 1988, Columbia's launch was delayed until July and eventually the second week of August in the following year. However, as STS-28 drew closer, the shroud of secrecy covering it showed no sign of being drawn back. Not until years later would details of exactly what Columbia's crew did while in space begin to trickle out. Leestma, whose previous Shuttle flight had been a scientific one, described preparations for his...

Space Truck

Preparations for the STS-5 mission took place on three separate fronts. Firstly, there was the assembly of the boosters and External Tank, which took place in the VAB. Secondly, there was the processing - and a good deal of modification, too - of Columbia herself in the OPF. Finally, on this first operational flight of the Shuttle, the astronauts would be required to deploy two commercial communications satellites Satellite Business Systems SBS -3 and ANIK-C3. Both arrived by aircraft at Cape...

Heavy Payload

In such a dire eventuality, Columbia would tip the scales at 113,000 kg, some 590 kg heavier than safety rules determined to be the maximum-allowable landing weight. In the case of STS-93, a one-time-only waiver was granted to this rule, based on a detailed analysis of the payload, the Shuttle's centre-of-gravity constraints and a host of other interrelated factors. For Eileen Collins, the challenge of possibly having to perform a heavier-than-normal emergency landing did not faze her ''We...