HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT:
A RECORD OF ACHIEVEMENT, 1961-1998
Compiled by Judy A. Rumerman
NASA History Division
Office of Policy and Plans
Washington, DC 20546
MONOGRAPHS IN AEROSPACE HISTORY Number 9
In December 1991 the Office of Space Flight at NASA Headquarters
issued Space Flight: The First 30 Years as NASA pamphlet 150. This
short work chronicled each of the human space flights conducted by the
United States up to that time. At the time of the fortieth anniversary
of NASA, born in the aftermath of the Sputnik crisis of 1957-1958, its
it fitting to reflect on the record of achievement in human space flight
from those first experimental flights of Mercury through the hubris of
the Apollo Moon landings to the current flights of the Space Shuttle.
Accordingly, as one of its fortieth anniversary projects the NASA History
Division sponsored a revision and updating of that earlier chronology.
This is the ninth in a series of special studies prepared
by the NASA History Division. The Monographs in Aerospace History series
is designed to provide a wide variety of investigations relative to the
history of aeronautics and space. These publications are intended to be
tightly focused in terms of subject, relatively short in length, and reproduced
in an inexpensive format to allow timely and broad dissemination to researchers
in aerospace history. Suggestions for additional publications in the Monographs
in Aerospace History series are welcome.
ROGER D. LAUNIUS
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
May 29, 1998
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Space Shuttle Missions
Almost forty years after the Mercury astronauts made their
first brief forays into the new ocean of space, Earth orbit has become
a busy arena of human activity. In that time, nearly 300 people have traveled
into orbit on U.S. spacecraft. The first astronauts went along, stuffed
into capsules barely large enough for their bodies, eating squeeze-tube
food and peering out at the Earth through tiny portholes. Their flights
lasted only a matter of hours. Today we routinely launch eight people
at a time to spend a week living, working and exploring on board the Space
The history of space flight has seen not only an increase
in the numbers of people traveling into orbit, but a marked improvements
in their vehicles. Each successive spacecraft, from Mercury through Apollo
and the Space Shuttle, has been larger, more comfortable, and more capable.
Scientists working inside the Shuttle's Spacelab have many of the comforts
of a laboratory on Earth, none of which were available when human space
flight first began.
Some projects, like Apollo, produced stunning firsts or
explored new "territory." Others-notably Skylab and the Space Shuttle-advanced
our capabilities by extending the range and sophistication of human operations
in space. Both kinds of activity are vital to establishing a permanent
human presence off the Earth.
Almost forty years after the dawn of the age of space flight,
we are learning not just to travel into space, but to live and stay there.
That challenge ensures that the decades to come will be just as exciting
as the past decades have been.
Project Mercury came into being on October 7, 1958, only
a year and three days after the Soviet Union's Sputnik I satellite opened
the Space Age. The goal of sending people into orbit and back had been
discussed for many years before that, but with the initiation of the Mercury
project, theory became engineering reality.
Mercury engineers had to devise a vehicle that would protect
a human being from the temperature extremes, vacuum and newly discovered
radiation of space. Added to these demands was the need to keep an astronaut
cool during the burning, high-speed reentry through the atmosphere. The
vehicle that best fit these requirements was a wingless "capsule" designed
for a ballistic reentry, with an ablative heat shield that burned off
as Mercury returned to Earth.
Mercury capsules rode into space on two different kinds
of booster. The first suborbital flights were launched on Redstone rockets
designed by Wernher von Braun's team in Huntsville, Alabama. For orbital
flights, Mercury was placed on top of an Atlas-D, a modified ballistic
missile whose steel skin was so thin (to save weight) it would have collapsed
like a bag if not pressurized from within.
The first Americans to venture into space were drawn from
a group of 110 military pilots chosen for their flight test experience
and because they met certain physical requirements. Seven of those 110
became astronauts in April 1959. Six of the seven flew Mercury missions
(Deke Slayton was removed from flight status due to a heart condition).
Beginning with Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 flight, the astronauts named their
own spacecraft, and all added 7 to the name to acknowledge the teamwork
of their fellow astronauts.
With only 12.133 cubic meters of volume, the Mercury capsule
was barely big enough to include its pilot. Inside were 120 controls,
55 electrical switches, 30 fuses and 35 mechanical levers. Before Shepard's
flight, surrogate "passengers" tested the integrity of the spacecraft
design: two rhesus monkeys, Ham the chimpanzee, and an electronic "crewman
simulator" mannequin that could breathe in and out to test the cabin environment.
Finally, in May 1961, Shepard became the first American in space. Nine
months later, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
The six Mercury flights (which totaled two days and six
hours in space) taught the pioneers of space flight several important
lessons. They learned not only that humans could function in space, but
that they were critical to a mission's success. Ground engineers learned
the difficulty of launch preparations, and found that a worldwide communications
network was essential for manned space flight.
By the time of the last Mercury flight in May 1963, the
focus of the U.S. space program had already shifted. President John F.
Kennedy had announced the goal of reaching the Moon only three weeks after
Shepard's relatively simple 15-minute suborbital flight, and by 1963,
only 500 of the 2,500 people working at NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center
were still working on Mercury-the remainder were already busy on Gemini
But Mercury had taken the critical first step, and had given
reassuring answers to a number of fundamental questions:
Could humans survive in space?
Could a spacecraft be designed to launch them into orbit?
Could they return safely to Earth?
At the moment John Glenn's Friendship 7 capsule was placed into its orbital
trajectory, fulfilling the primary goal of Project Mercury, one member
of the launch team on the ground made a notation in his log: "We are through
Vehicles: Redstone and Atlas launchers
Number of People Flown: 6
Highlights: First American in space
First American in orbit
Grimwood, James M. Project Mercury: A Chronology.
(NASA SP4001, 1963).
Hansen, James R. Spaceflight Revolution: NASA Langley
Research Center from Sputnik to Apollo. (NASA SP4308, 1995).
Link, Mae Mills. Space Medicine in Project Mercury.
(NASA SP4003, 1965).
Pitts, John A. The Human Factor: Biomedicine in the Manned
Space Program to 1980. (NASA SP4213, 1985).
Swenson, Loyd S., Jr., Grimwood, James M., and Alexander,
Charles C. This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury. (NASA
Wolfe, Tom. The Right Stuff. (Farrar, Straus &
Mercury Astronauts. We Seven. (Simon and Schuster,
Mercury Redstone 3 (Freedom 7)
May 5, 1961
Crew: Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
Alan Shepard's suborbital flight lasted only 15 minutes,
but it proved that an astronaut could survive and work comfortably in
space, and demonstrated to the 45 million Americans watching on TV that
the United States was now in the space flight business. Freedom 7 was
a ballistic "cannon shot"-Shepard reached no higher than 187.45 kilometers,
and traveled only 486.022 kilometers down range from Cape Canaveral. During
his short time in space he maneuvered his spacecraft using hand controllers
that pitched, yawed and rolled the tiny Mercury capsule with small thrusters.
He found the ride smoother than expected and reported no discomfort during
five minutes of weightlessness. Although this first Mercury capsule lacked
a window, Shepard was able to look down at the Atlantic coastline through
a periscope. His view, though, was in black and white-the astronaut had
inadvertently left a gray filter in place while waiting on the pad for
Mercury Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7)
July 24, 1961
Crew Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom
Grissom's suborbital mission was essentially a repeat of
Shepard's, again using the Redstone launcher instead of the more powerful
Atlas. Grissom's Mercury capsule had a few minor improvements, including
new, easier-to-use hand controllers, a window, and an explosive side hatch,
which the astronauts had requested for easier escape in case of an emergency.
Since Shepard's flight had been overly busy, Grissom's duties were deliberately
reduced, and he spent more time observing the Earth. The only significant
failure came at the end of the 15-minute flight, after Liberty Bell 7
had parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas. While Grissom
waited inside the floating capsule to be picked up by helicopter rescue
teams, the side hatch opened, filling the tiny spacecraft with seawater.
Liberty Bell sank, but a wet Grissom was safely recovered, and the Mercury
program was able to move on to orbital flights.
Mercury Atlas , 6 (Friendship 7)
February 20, 1962
Crew: John H. Glenn, Jr.
John Glenn's orbital flight-an American first-lasted four
hours, 55 minutes, during which he circled the Earth three times, observing
everything from a dust storm in Africa to Australian cities from an altitude
of 260.71 kilometers. Glenn was the first American to see a sunrise and
sunset from space, and was the first photographer in orbit, having taken
along a 35millimeter Minolta purchased from a Cocoa Beach, Florida
drugstore. The most nervous moments of the flight came before and during
reentry, when a signal received on the ground (erroneously, as it turned
out) indicated that the capsule's heat shield had come loose. At one point,
Glenn thought his shield was burning up and breaking away. He ran out
of fuel trying to stop the capsule's bucking motion as it descended through
the atmosphere, but splashed down safely, 64.37 kilometers short of his
target (preflight calculations of the spacecraft's weight had not considered
the loss of onboard "consumables"). Glenn returned to Earth a national
hero, having achieved Project Mercury's primary goal.
Mercury Atlas 7 (Aurora 7)
May 24, 1962
Crew: M. Scott Carpenter
The focus of Carpenter's five-hour Aurora 7 mission was
on science. The full flight plan included the first study of liquids in
weightlessness, Earth photography and an unsuccessful attempt to observe
a flare fired from the ground. At dawn of the third and final orbit, Carpenter
inadvertently bumped his hand against the inside wall of the cabin and
solved a mystery from the previous flight. The resulting bright shower
of particles outside the capsule-what Glenn had called "fireflies"-turned
out to be ice particles shaken loose from the capsule's exterior. Like
Glenn, Carpenter circled the Earth three times. Partly because he had
been distracted watching the fireflies and partly because of his busy
schedule, he overshot his planned reentry mark, and splashed down 402.34
kilometers off target.
Mercury Atlas 8 (Sigma 7)
October 3, 1962
Crew: Walter M. Schirra, Jr.
Schirra's was the first of two longer-duration Mercury missions.
After Carpenter's flawed reentry, the emphasis returned to engineering
rather than science (Schirra even named his spacecraft "Sigma" for the
engineering symbol meaning "summation.") The six-orbit mission lasted
nine hours and l3 minutes, much of which Schirra spent in what he called
"chimp configuration," a free drift that tested the Mercury's autopilot
system. Schirra also tried "steering" by the stars (he found this difficult),
took photographs with a Hasselblad camera, exercised with a bungeecord
device, saw lightning in the atmosphere, broadcast the first live message
from an American spacecraft to radio and TV listeners below, and made
the first splashdown in the Pacific. This was the highest flight of the
Mercury program, with an apogee of 283.24 kilometers, but Schirra later
claimed to be unimpressed with space scenery as compared to the view from
high-flying aircraft. "Same old deal, nothing new," he told debriefers
after the flight.
Mercury Atlas 9 (Faith 7)
May 15-16, 1963
Crew: L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.
If Schirra's mission was an endurance test, the final Mercury
flight was a marathon. Cooper circled the Earth 22 1/2 times, and released
the first satellite from a spacecraft-a l52.4-millimeter sphere with a
beacon for testing the astronaut's ability to track objects visually in
space. Although a balloon for measuring atmospheric drag failed to deploy
properly, Cooper finally completed another Mercury experiment when he
was able to spot a powerful, 44,000-watt xenon lamp shining up from the
ground. (He also claimed to be able to see individual houses from orbit,
even smoke from chimneys in the Tibetan highlands.) During his 34 hours
in space, Cooper slept, spoke a prayer into his tape recorder and took
the best photographs of the Mercury program, including pictures of the
Earth's limb and infrared weather photographs. His mission was deemed
a "great success-so successful, in fact, that it allowed Mercury officials
to cancel a planned seventh flight and move on to the two-man Gemini program.
Gemini was not pure pioneering like Mercury, nor did it
have the excitement of Apollo. But its success was critical to Kennedy's
goal of reaching the Moon "by decade's end."
The program was announced to the public on January 3, l962,
after Apollo already was well underway. Gemini's primary purpose was to
demonstrate space rendezvous and docking-techniques that would be used
during Apollo, when the lunar lander would separate from the command module
in orbit around the Moon, then meet up with it again after the astronauts
left the lunar surface. Gemini also sought to extend astronauts' stays
in space to two weeks, longer than even the Apollo missions would require.
It was during the Gemini program that space flight became
routine. Ten piloted missions left the launch pads of Cape Canaveral,
Florida, in less than 20 months, and the Manned Spacecraft Center (renamed
the Johnson Space Center in 1973) outside Houston, Texas, took over the
role of Mission Control. Ground operations became smooth and efficient,
due in part to fleetingly short launch windows-the Gemini XI "window"
opened for only 2 seconds-dictated by the need to rendezvous with targets
already in orbit. Meanwhile, sixteen new astronauts chalked up experience
The Gemini spacecraft was an improvement on Mercury (it
was originally called Mercury Mark II) in both size and capability. Gemini
weighed more than 3,628.72 kilograms-twice the weight of Mercury-but ironically
seemed more cramped, having only 50 percent more cabin space for twice
as many people. Ejection seats replaced Mercury's escape rocket, and more
storage space was added for the longer Gemini flights. The long duration
missions also required fuel cells instead of batteries for generating
Unlike Mercury, which had only been able to change its orientation
in space, Gemini needed real maneuvering capability to rendezvous with
another spacecraft. Gemini would have to move forward, backward and sideways
in its orbital path, even change orbits. The complexity of rendezvous
demanded two people on board, and more piloting than had been possible
with Mercury. It also required the first onboard computers to calculate
complicated rendezvous maneuvers.
Gemini rode into orbit on a Titan 2 launch vehicle. The
target for rendezvous operations was an unmanned Agena upper stage, which
was launched ahead of the Gemini. After meeting up in orbit, the nose
of the Gemini capsule then fit into a docking collar on the Agena.
To avoid long delays between flights, Gemini spacecraft
were made more serviceable, with subsystems that could be removed and
replaced easily. An adapter module fitted to the rear of the capsule (and
jettisoned before reentry) carried on-board oxygen, fuel and other consumable
Gemini gave U.S. astronauts their first real experience
with living and working in space. They had to learn to sleep and keep
house on long flights in crowded quarters, both of which were difficult.
Gemini astronauts also made the first forays outside their spacecraft,
which required a new spacesuit design. Space walks proved more difficult
than expected-following Ed White's successful solo on Gemini IV, it wasn't
until the final Gemini flight that another extravehicular activity went
as smoothly as planned.
By Gemini's end, an important new capability-orbital rendezvous
and docking-had become routine, and space doctors had gained confidence
that humans could live, work and stay healthy in space for days or even
weeks at a time. Gemini also completed a long list of onboard science
experiments, including studies of the space environment and Earth photography.
Above all, the program added nearly 1,000 hours of valuable space-flight
experience in the years between Mercury and Apollo, which by 1966 was
nearing flight readiness. Five days before the launch of the last Gemini,
Lunar Orbiter 2 had been sent to the Moon, already scouting out Apollo
Vehicles: Titan 2 launcher
Number of People Flown: 20
Highlights: First orbital rendezvous and docking
First U.S. space-walk
Dethloff, Henry C. "Suddenly Tomorrow Came...": A History
of the Johnson Space Center. (NASA SP4307, 1993).
Grimwood, James M., and Hacker, Barton C., with Vorzimmer,
Peter J. Project Gemini Technology and Operations: A Chronology.
(NASA SP4002, 1969).
Hacker, Barton C., and Grimwood, James M. On Shoulders
of Titans: A History of Project Gemini. (NASA SP4203, 1977).
Pitts, John A. The Human Factor: Biomedicine in the Manned
Space Program to 1980. (NASA SP4213, 1985).
Collins, Michael. Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut Journeys.
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974).
March 23, 1965
Crew: Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom and John W. Young
In a playful reference to the Broadway hit The Unsinkable
Molly Brown, Grissom nicknamed the Gemini 3 spacecraft "Molly Brown,"
hoping that it would not duplicate his experience with Liberty Bell 7.
(It was the last Gemini to be named by an astronaut. All subsequent flights
in the program were designated by a Roman numeral.) The mission's primary
goal was to test the new, maneuverable Gemini spacecraft. In space, the
crew fired thrusters to change the shape of their orbit, shift their orbital
plane slightly, and drop to a lower altitude. The spacecraft was supposed
to have enough lift for a precision landing, but reality did not match
wind tunnel predictions: Gemini 3 splashed down some 80.47 kilometers
short of its intended target. The capsule was designed to land on its
side, suspended at two points from a parachute. But during the descent,
when the astronauts threw a switch to shift "Molly Brown" to its landing
position, they were thrown forward with such force that Grissom's faceplate
cracked. Still, the first test of the twoseat spacecraft-and of Gemini
ground operations-had been a success.
June 37, 1965
Crew: James A McDivitt and Edward H. White II
The plan for this four-day, 62-orbit mission was for Gemini
IV to fly in formation with the spent second stage of its Titan 2 booster
in orbit. On this first attempt, however, space flight engineers learned
something about the complication of orbital rendezvous. Thrusting toward
their target, the astronauts only moved farther away. They finally gave
up after using nearly half their fuel. (On later rendezvous missions,
a spacecraft chasing another in orbit would first drop to a lower, faster
orbit before rising again.) The mission's highlight was White's 22-minute
space walk, the first ever for an American. Tied to a tether and using
a handheld "zip gun" to maneuver himself, White swam through space while
McDivitt took photographs. Gemini IV set a record for flight duration,
and eased fears about the medical consequences of longer missions. It
also was the first use of the new Mission Control Center outside Houston,
which because of the long duration, had to conduct the first three-shift
August 21 29, 1965
Crew: L. Gordon Cooper. Jr. and Charles "Pete" Conrad,
Gemini V doubled the space-flight record to eight days,
thanks to new fuel cells that generated enough electricity to power longer
missions. Cooper and Conrad were to have made a practice rendezvous with
a "pod" deployed from the spacecraft, but problems with the electricity
supply forced a switch to a simpler "phantom rendezvous," whereby the
Gemini maneuvered to a predetermined position in space. Mercury Veteran
Gordon Cooper was the first person to travel into space twice. He and
Conrad took high-resolution photographs for the Defense Department, but
problems with the fuel cells and maneuvering system forced the cancellation
of several other experiments. The astronauts found themselves marking
time in orbit, and Conrad later lamented that he had not brought along
a book. On-board medical tests, however, continued to show the feasibility
of longer flights.
December 4-18, 1965
Crew: Frank Barman and James A. Lovell, Jr.
This 14-day mission required NASA to solve problems of long-duration
space flight, not the least of which was stowage (the crew had practiced
stuffing waste paper behind their seats before the flight). Timing their
workday to match that of ground crews, both men worked and slept at the
same time. Gemini VII flew the most experiments-20-of any Gemini mission,
including studies of nutrition in space. The astronauts also evaluated
a new, lightweight spacesuit, which proved uncomfortable if worn for a
long time in Gemini's hot, cramped quarters. The high point of the mission
was the rendezvous with Gemini VI. But the three days that followed were
something of an endurance test, and both astronauts, heeding Pete Conrad's
Gemini V advice, brought books along. Gemini VII was the longest space
flight in U.S. history, until the Skylab missions of the 1970s.
December 1516, 1965
Crew: Walter M. Schirra, Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford
A rendezvous and docking with an unmanned Agena target was
this mission's original objective, but when Mission Control lost contact
with the Agena during an October launch attempt, an alternate mission
was substituted: a meeting in space of two Gemini spacecraft. Eight days
after the launch of Borman and Lovell's Gemini VII, Schirra and Stafford
tried to join them, but their Titan 2 launcher shut down on the pad (the
cool-headed Schirra did not eject, even though the countdown clock had
started ticking-he felt no motion, and trusted his senses). Three days
later, Gemini VI made it into orbit. Using guidance from the computer
as well as his own piloting, Schirra rendezvoused with the companion spacecraft
in orbit on the afternoon of December 15. Once in formation, the two Gemini
capsules flew around each other, coming within 0.3048 meters of each other
but never touching. The two spacecraft stayed in close proximity for five
hours. One of Gemini's primary goals-orbital rendezvous-had been achieved.
March 16, 1966
Crew: Neil A. Armstrong and David R. Scott
A second major objective of the Gemini program was completed
less than six hours after launch, when Neil Armstrong brought Gemini VIII
within 0.9144 meters of the prelaunched Agena target, then slowly
docked-the first orbital docking ever. What followed, however, were some
of the most hair-raising few minutes in space-program history. The Gemini
VIII capsule, still docked to the Agena, began rolling continuously. Never
having faced this in simulation, the crew undocked from the Agena, but
the problem was a stuck thruster on the spacecraft, which now tumbled
even faster, at the dizzying rate of one revolution per second. The only
way to stop the motion was to use the capsule's reentry control thrusters,
which meant that Armstrong and Scott had to cut short their mission and
make an emergency return to Earth 10 hours after launch. They were still
nauseated after splashdown, as well as disappointed: Scott had missed
out on a planned space-walk.
June 36, 1966
Crew: Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene A. Cernan
Stafford and Cernan became the first backup crew to fly
in space after the first crew of Elliott See and Charles Bassett died
in a plane crash four months before the flight. The highlight of the mission
was to have been a docking with a shortened Agena called the Augmented
Target Docking Adapter. The docking was canceled, though, after Stafford
and Cernan rendezvoused with the target to find its protective shroud
still attached, which made it look, in Stafford's words, like an "angry
alligator." Cernan also was to have tested an Astronaut Maneuvering Unit
(AMU) a jet-powered backpack stowed outside in Gemini's adapter
module, to which the spacewalking astronaut was to have strapped
himself. But Cernan's spacewalk was troubled from the start. His
visor fogged, he sweated and struggled with his tasks, and he had problems
moving in microgravity. Everything took longer than expected, and Cernan
had to go inside before getting a chance to fly the AMU. The device was
not finally tested in space until Skylab, seven years later.
July 18-21, 1966
Crew: John W. Young and Michael Collins
Gemini established that radiation at high attitude was not
a problem. After docking with their Agena booster in low orbit, Young
and Collins used it to climb another is 482.8032 kilometers to meet with
the dead, drifting Agena left over from the aborted Gemini VIII flight-thus
executing the program's first double rendezvous. With no electricity on
board the second Agena the rendezvous was accomplished with eyes only-no
radar. After the rendezvous, Collins space-walked over to the dormant
Agena at the end of a 15.24-meter tether, making Collins the first person
to meet another spacecraft in orbit. He retrieved a cosmic dustcollecting
panel from the side of the Agena, but returned no pictures of his close
encounter-in the complicated business of keeping his tether clear of the
Gemini and Agena, Collins' Hasselblad camera worked itself free and drifted
off into orbit.
September 12-15, 1966
Crew: Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr. and Richard F. Gordon,
With Apollo looming on the horizon, Gemini project managers
wanted to accomplish a rendezvous immediately after reaching orbit, just
as it would have to be done around the Moon. Only 85 minutes after launch,
Conrad and Gordon matched orbits with their Agena target stage and docked
several times. Conrad had originally hoped for a Gemini flight around
the Moon, but had to settle for the highest Earth orbit-1367.94 kilometers-ever
reached by an American manned spacecraft. Gordon's first space-walk once
again proved more difficult than ground simulations, and had to be cut
short when he became overtired. A second, two-hour "stand-up" space walk
went more smoothly: Gordon even fell asleep while floating halfway out
the hatch. An experiment to link the Agena and Gemini vehicles with a
15.24 meter tether (which Gordon had attached during his space-walk) and
rotate the joined pair was troublesome-Conrad had problems keeping the
tether taut-but was able to generate a modicum of "artificial gravity."
The mission ended with the first totally automatic, computer-controlled
reentry, which brought Gemini XI down only 4.506 kilometers from its recovery
November 11-15, 1966
Crew: James A. Lovell, Jr. and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin,
By the time of the last Gemini flight, the program still
had not demonstrated that an astronaut could work easily and efficiently
outside the spacecraft. In preparation for Gemini XII, new, improved restraints
were added to the outside of the capsule, and a new technique-underwater
training-was introduced, which would become a staple of all future space-walk
simulation. Aldrin's two-hour, 20-minute tethered space-walk, during which
he photographed star fields, retrieved a micrometeorite collector and
did other chores, at last demonstrated the feasibility of extravehicular
activity. Two more stand-up EVAs also went smoothly, as did the bynow
routine rendezvous and docking with an Agena which was done "manually"
using the onboard computer and charts when a rendezvous radar failed.
The climb to a higher orbit, however, was canceled because of a problem
with the Agena booster.
The Apollo program had been underway since July 1960, when
NASA announced a follow-on to Mercury that would fly astronauts around
the Moon. But with President John F. Kennedy's speech of May 25, 1961,
declaring the goal of landing an astronaut on the surface of the Moon
and returning to Earth by decade's end, Apollo shifted its focus. That
goal was achieved with five months to spare, when, on July 20, 1969, Neil
Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity.
Apollo was one of the great triumphs of modern technology.
Six expeditions landed on the Moon, and one-Apollo 13-was forced to return
without landing. Before that, there had been two manned checkouts of Apollo
hardware in Earth orbit and two lunar orbit missions.
The Apollo lunar module, or LM, was the first true spacecraft-designed
to fly only in a vacuum, with no aerodynamic qualities whatsoever. Launched
attached to the Apollo command/service module, it separated in lunar orbit
and descended to the Moon with two astronauts inside. At the end of their
stay on the surface, the lunar module's ascent stage fired its own rocket
to rejoin the command/service module in lunar orbit.
The teardrop-shaped Apollo command module, the living quarters
for the three-man crews, had a different shape from the conical-nosed
Gemini and Mercury. The attached cylindrical service module contained
supplies as well as the Service Propulsion System engine that placed the
vehicle in and out of lunar orbit.
Boosting the Apollo vehicles to the Moon was the job of
the giant Saturn V-the first launch vehicle large enough that it had to
be assembled away from the launch pad and transported there. A fueled
Saturn V weighed more than 2.7 million kilograms at liftoff, and stood
110.64 meters high with the Apollo vehicle on top. The vehicle had three
stages: the S-lC, SII, and S-IVB, the last of which burned to send Apollo
out of Earth orbit and on its way to the Moon.
The Apollo program greatly increased the pace and complexity
of ground operations, both before launch and during the missions, when
ground controllers had to track two spacecraft at the same time. The lunar
missions also required extensive training. Apollo astronauts logged some
84,000 hours-nearly 10 man years-practicing for their flights: everything
from simulations of lunar gravity, to geology field trips, to flying the
lunar lander training vehicle.
On January 27, 1967, just as the program was nearing readiness
for its first manned flight, tragedy struck. A fire inside an Apollo command
module took the lives of astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White
and Roger Chaffee, who were training inside it at the time. The fire resulted
in delays and modifications to the spacecraft, but by October 1968, Apollo
7 was ready to carry three astronauts into Earth orbit. There, they checked
out the command/service module (both had been tested in an unmanned mode
during the November 1967 Apollo 4 mission, which was also the first flight
of the Saturn V). By December 1968, Apollo 8 was ready to try for lunar
orbit (on the Saturn V's third outing), and seven months later Apollo
11 made the first lunar landing.
By the time the Apollo program ended in 1972, astronauts
had extended the range and scope of their lunar explorations. The final
three missions were far more sophisticated than the first three, in large
part because the astronauts carried a lunar rover that allowed them to
roam miles from their base. Apollo 11's Armstrong and Aldrin spent only
two-and-a-half hours walking on the surface. On Apollo 17 the Moon walks
totaled 22 hours, and the astronauts spent three days "camped out" in
the Moon's Taurus-Littrow valley.
After six lunar landings the Apollo program came to a conclusion
(Apollo 18, 19 and 20 missions had been canceled in 1970 because of budget
limitations), and with it ended the first wave of human exploration of
Vehicles: Saturn IB and Saturn V launch vehicles
Apollo command/service module
Number of People Flown: 33
Highlights: First humans to leave Earth orbit
First human landing on the Moon
Benson, Charles D. and Faherty, William Barnaby. Moonport:
A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations. (NASA SP4204,
Bilstein, Roger E. Stages to Saturn: A Technological
History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles. (NASA SP4206, 1980).
Brooks, Courtney G., and Ertel, Ivan D. The Apollo Spacecraft:
A Chronology, Volume III, October 1, 1964January 20, 1966. (NASA
Brooks, Courtney G., Grimwood, James M., and Swenson, Loyd
S., Jr. Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft.
(NASA SP4205, 1979).
Compton, W. David. Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History
of Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions. (NASA SP4214, 1989).
Cortright, Edgar. Editor. Apollo Expeditions to the Moon.
(NASA SP-350, 1975).
Dethloff, Henry C. "Suddenly Tomorrow Came...": A History
of the Johnson Space Center. (NASA SP4307, 1993).
Ertel, Ivan D., and Morse, Mary Louise. The Apollo Spacecraft:
A Chronology, Volume I, Through November 7, 1962. (NASA SP4009,
Ertel, Ivan D., and Newkirk, Roland W., with Brooks, Courtney
G. The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, Volume IV, January 21, 1966July
13, 1974. (NASA SP4009, 1978).
Fries, Sylvia D. NASA Engineers and the Age of Apollo.
(NASA SP4104, 1992).
Hansen, James R. Spaceflight Revolution: NASA Langley
Research Center from Sputnik to Apollo. (NASA SP4308, 1995).
Herring, Mack R. Way Station to Space: A History of the
John C. Stennis Space Center. (NASA SP4310, 1997).
Levine, Arnold S. Managing NASA in the Apollo Era.
(NASA SP4102, 1982).
Morse, Mary Louise, and Bays, Jean Kernahan. The Apollo
Spacecraft: A Chronology, Volume II, November 8, 1962September 30,
1964. (NASA SP4009, 1973).
Pitts, John A. The Human Factor: Biomedicine in the Manned
Space Program to 1980. (NASA SP4213, 1985).
Armstrong, Neil A., Collins, Michael, and Aldrin, Edwin
E. First on the Moon. (Little, Brown and Company, 1970).
Chaiken, Andrew. A Man on the Moon. (Viking, 1994).
Cooper, Henry S.F. Apollo on the Moon. (Dial Press,
_____. Moon Rocks. (Dial Press, 1970).
_____. Thirteen: The Flight that Failed. (Dial Press,
Lambright, W. Henry. Powering Apollo: James E. Webb of
NASA. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).
Lewis, Richard S. The Voyages of Apollo: The Exploration
of the Moon. (Quadrangle, 1974).
Logsdon, John M. The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project
Apollo and the National Interest. (The MIT Press, 1970).
McDougall, Walter A. ...The Heavens and the Earth: A
Political History of the Space Age. (Johns Hopkins University Press,
rep. ed. 1997).
Murray, Charles A., and Cox, Catherine Bly. Apollo, the
Race to the Moon. (Simon and Schuster, 1989).
Pellegrino, Charles R., and Stoff, Joshua. Chariots for
Apollo: The Making of the Lunar Module. (Atheneum, 1985).
Wilhelms, Don E. To a Rocky Moon: A Geologist's History
of Lunar Exploration. (University of Arizona Press, 1993).
October 1122, 1968
Crew: Walter M. Schirra. Jr., Donn F. Eisele, Walter
Apollo 7 was a confidence-builder. After the January 1967
Apollo launch pad fire, the Apollo command module had been extensively
redesigned. Schirra, the only astronaut to fly Mercury, Gemini and Apollo
missions, commanded this Earth-orbital shakedown of the command and service
modules. With no lunar lander, Apollo 7 could use the Saturn IB booster
rather than the giant Saturn V. The Apollo hardware and all mission operations
worked without any significant problems, and the Service Propulsion System
(SPS) the all-important engine that would place Apollo in and out
of lunar orbit-made eight nearly perfect firings. Even though Apollo's
larger cabin was more comfortable than Gemini's, eleven days in orbit
took its toll on the astronauts. The food was bad, and all three developed
colds. But their mission proved the spaceworthiness of the basic Apollo
December 2127, 1968
Crew: Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., William A.
The Apollo 8 astronauts were the first human beings to venture
beyond low Earth orbit and visit another world. What was originally to
have been an Earthorbit checkout of the lunar lander became instead
a race with the Soviets to become the first nation to orbit the Moon.
The Apollo 8 crew rode inside the command module, with no lunar lander
attached. They were the first astronauts to be launched by the Saturn
V, which had flown only twice before. The booster worked perfectly, as
did the SPS engines that had been checked out on Apollo 7. Apollo 8 entered
lunar orbit on the morning of December 24, 1968. For the next 20 hours
the astronauts circled the Moon, which appeared out their windows as a
gray, battered wasteland. They took photographs, scouted future landing
sites, and on Christmas Eve read from the Book of Genesis to TV viewers
back on Earth. They also photographed the first Earthrise as seen from
the Moon. Apollo 8 proved the ability to navigate to and from the Moon,
and gave a tremendous boost to the entire Apollo program.
March 3-13, 1969
Crew: James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott, Russell L. Schweickart
Apollo 9 was the first space test of the third critical
piece of Apollo hardware-the lunar module. For ten days, the astronauts
put all three Apollo vehicles through their paces in Earth orbit, undocking
and then redocking the lunar lander with the command module, just as they
would in lunar orbit. For this and all subsequent Apollo flights, the
crews were allowed to name their own spacecraft. The gangly lunar module
was "Spider," the command module "Gumdrop." Schweickart and Scott performed
a space walk, and Schweickart checked out the new Apollo spacesuit, the
first to have its own life support system rather than being dependent
on an umbilical connection to the spacecraft. Apollo 9 gave proof that
the Apollo machines were up to the task of orbital rendezvous and docking.
May 1826, 1969
Crew: Thomas P. Stafford, John W. Young, Eugene A. Cernan
This dress rehearsal for a Moon landing brought Stafford
and Cernan's lunar module-nicknamed "Snoopy"-to within nine miles of the
lunar surface. Except for that final stretch, the mission went exactly
as a landing would have gone, both in space and on the ground, where Apollo's
extensive tracking and control network was put through a dry run. Shortly
after leaving low Earth orbit, the LM and the command/service module separated,
then redocked, top to top. Upon reaching lunar orbit, they separated again.
While Young orbited the Moon alone in his command module "Charlie Brown,"
Stafford and Cernan checked out the LM's radar and ascent engine, rode
out a momentary gyration in the lunar lander's motion (due to a faulty
switch setting), and surveyed the Apollo 11 landing site in the Sea of
Tranquillity. This test article of the lunar module was not equipped to
land, however. Apollo 10 also added another first-broadcasting live color
TV from space.
July 16-24, 1969
Crew: Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. "Buzz"
Half of Apollo's primary goal-a safe return-was achieved
at 4:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on July 20, when Armstrong piloted
the "Eagle" to a touchdown on the Moon, with less than 30 seconds' worth
of fuel left in the lunar module. Six hours later, Armstrong took his
famous "one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin joined him, and the two spent
two-and-a-half hours drilling core samples, photographing what they saw
and collecting rocks. After more than 21 hours on the lunar surface, they
returned to Collins on board "Columbia," bringing 20.87 kilograms of lunar
samples with them. The two Moon-walkers had left behind scientific instruments,
an American flag and other mementos, including a plaque bearing the inscription:
"Here Men From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D.
We Came in Peace For All Mankind."
November 14-24, 1969,
Crew: Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr., Richard F. Gordon, Jr.,
Alan L. Bean
The second lunar landing was an exercise in precision targeting.
The descent was automatic, with only a few manual corrections by Conrad.
The landing, in the Ocean of Storms, brought the lunar module "Intrepid"
within walking distance-182.88 meters-of a robot spacecraft that had touched
down there two-and-a-half years earlier. Conrad and Bean brought pieces
of the Surveyor 3 back to Earth for analysis, and took two Moonwalks
lasting just under four hours each. They collected rocks and set up experiments
that measured the Moon's seismicity, solar wind flux and magnetic field.
Meanwhile Gordon, on board the "Yankee Clipper" in lunar orbit, took multispectral
photographs of the surface. The crew stayed an extra day in lunar orbit
taking photographs. When "Intrepid's" ascent stage was dropped onto the
Moon after Conrad and Bean rejoined Gordon in orbit, the seismometers
the astronauts had left on the lunar surface registered the vibrations
for more than an hour.
April 11-17, 1970
Crew: James A. Lovell, Jr. Fred W. Haise, Jr., John L.
The crew's understated radio message to Mission Control
was "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here." Within 321,860 kilometers
of Earth, an oxygen tank in the service module exploded. The only solution
was for the crew to abort their planned landing, swing around the Moon
and return on a trajectory back to Earth. Since their command module "Odyssey"
was almost completely dead, however, the three astronauts had to use the
lunar module "Aquarius" as a crowded lifeboat for the return home. The
four-day return trip was cold, uncomfortable and tense. But Apollo 13
proved the program's ability to weather a major crisis and bring the crew
back home safely.
January 31 February 9, 1971
Crew: Alan B. Shepard. Jr., Stuart A. Roosa, Edgar D.
After landing in the Fra Mauro region-the original destination
for Apollo 13-Shepard and Mitchell took two Moonwalks, adding new
seismic studies to the bynow familiar Apollo experiment package,
and using a "lunar rickshaw" pullcart to carry their equipment. A
planned rockcollecting trip to the 1,000footwide Cone Crater
was dropped, however, when the astronauts had trouble finding their way
around the lunar surface. Although later estimates showed that they had
made it to within 30.48 meters of the crater's rim, the explorers had
become disoriented in the alien landscape. Roosa, meanwhile, took pictures
from on board command module "Kitty Hawk" in lunar orbit. On the way back
to Earth, the crew conducted the first U.S. materials processing experiments
in space. The Apollo 14 astronauts were the last lunar explorers to be
quarantined on their return from the Moon.
July 26August 7, /971
Crew: David R. Scott, James B. Irwin, Alfred M. Worden
The first of the longer, expedition-style lunar landing
missions was also the first to include the lunar rover, a carlike vehicle
that extended the astronauts' range. The lunar module Falcon touched down
near the sinuous channel known as Hadley Rille. Scott and Irwin rode more
than 27.36 kilometers in their rover, and had a free hand in their geological
field studies compared to earlier lunar astronauts. They brought back
one of the prize trophies of the Apollo program-a sample of ancient lunar
crust nicknamed the "Genesis Rock." Apollo 15 also launched a small subsatellite
for measuring particles and fields in the lunar vicinity. On the way back
to Earth, Worden, who had flown solo on board Endeavor while his crewmates
walked on the surface, conducted the first space-walk between Earth and
the Moon to retrieve film from the side of the spacecraft.
April 16-27, 1972
Crew: John W. Young, Thomas K. Mattingly II, Charles
M. Duke, Jr.
A malfunction in the main propulsion system of the lunar
module "Orion" nearly caused their Moon landing to be scrubbed but Young
and Duke ultimately spent three days exploring the Descarres highland
region, while Mattingly circled overhead in "Casper." What was thought
to have been a region of volcanism turned out not to be, based on the
astronauts' discoveries. Their collection of returned specimens included
an 11.34-kilogram chunk that was the largest single rock returned by the
Apollo astronauts. The Apollo 16 astronauts also conducted performance
tests with the lunar rover, at one time getting up to a top speed of 17.70
kilometers per hour.
December 7-19, 1972
Crew: Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, Harrison H.
The last man to set foot on the Moon was also the first
scientist-astronaut/geologist Harrison Schmitt. While Evans circled in
"America," Schmitt and Cernan collected a record 108.86 kilograms of rocks
during three Moonwalks. The crew roamed for 33.80 kilometers through the
Taurus-Littrow valley in their rover, discovered orange-colored soil,
and left behind a plaque attached to their lander Challenger, which read:
"Here Man completed his first exploration of the Moon, December 1972 A.D.
May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of
all mankind." The Apollo lunar program had ended.
Apollo 17: Splashdown in the Pacific.
NASA had studied concepts for space stations, including
an inflatable donut-shaped station, since the earliest days of the space
program. But it wasn't until the Saturn rocket came into existence in
the mid-1960s that the Skylab program was born. Initially called the Apollo
Applications Program, Skylab was designed to use leftover Apollo lunar
hardware to achieve extended stays by astronauts in Earth orbit.
At first there were two competing concepts: the so-called
"wet" workshop, where a Saturn IB would be launched, fueled, and its S
IV-B upper stage vented and refurbished in orbit; and the "dry" workshop,
where the outfitting of an empty S IV-B stage would be done on the ground
beforehand and launched on a Saturn V. In July 1969, while the Apollo
11 astronauts were completing their historic lunar landing mission, program
managers made their decision: the "dry" workshop concept won.
The Skylab space station weighed approximately 100 tons.
It was placed into orbit by the Saturn V, the last time that giant launcher
was used. Three separate astronaut crews then met up with the orbiting
workshop using modified Apollo command and service modules launched by
smaller Saturn IB rockets.
Skylab had a habitable volume of just over 283.17 cubic
meters. It was divided into two levels separated by a metal floor-actually
an open grid into which the astronauts' cleated shoes could be locked.
The "upper" floor had storage lockers and a large empty volume for conducting
experiments, plus two scientific airlocks, one pointing down at the Earth,
the other toward the Sun. The lower floor had compartmented "rooms" with
many of the comforts of home: a dining room table, three bedrooms, a work
area, a shower and a bathroom.
The largest piece of scientific equipment, attached to one
end of the cylindrical workshop, was the Apollo Telescope Mount, used
to study the Sun in different wavelengths with no atmospheric interference.
The ATM had its own electricity-generating solar panels.
Skylab also had an airlock module for space-walks (required
for repairs, experiment deployments and routine changing of film in the
ATM). The Apollo command/service module remained attached to the station's
multiple docking adapter while the astronauts were on board.
The space station itself was launched May 14, 1973, on the
unmanned Skylab 1 mission. Beginning only 63 seconds after the launch,
however, the workshop's combination meteorite shield and sunshade was
torn loose by aerodynamic stress, taking one of the two electricityproducing
solar arrays with it and preventing the other from deploying properly.
The crew was supposed to have launched the next day, but they waited on
the ground for 10 days while a fix was worked out (see Skylab 2).
In the course of the next nine months, three different crews
lived on board Skylab for one, two, then three months at a time. The station,
which orbited at an altitude of 434.52 kilometers, was deactivated between
flights. The nine Skylab astronauts chalked up a total of 513 man-days
in orbit, during which they conducted thousands of experiments and observations,
studying (in decreasing order of the amount of crew time spent): solar
astronomy, life sciences, Earth observations, astrophysics, man/systems
studies, Comet Kohoutek observations (Skylab 4 only), materials science
and student experiments.
Skylab showed the value of having humans working for long
periods in orbit on a wide variety of scientific studies, and proved that
they could survive the ordeal. More than five years after the last crew
left, the empty Skylab station reentered and burned up in the atmosphere
on July 11, 1979.
Vehicles: Skylab orbital workshop
Saturn IB launch vehicle (for crews)
Number of People Flown: 9
Highlights: Longest duration space flights in U.S.
Compton, W. David, and Benson, Charles D. Living and
Working in Space: A History of Skylab. (NASA SP4208, 1983).
Newkirk, Roland W., and Ertel, Ivan D., with Brooks, Courtney
G. Skylab: A Chronology. (NASA SP4011, 1977).
Pitts, John A. The Human Factor: Biomedicine in the Manned
Space Program to 1980. (NASA SP4213, 1985).
May 25June 22, 1973
Crew: Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr., Paul J. Weitz, Joseph
The first crew to visit the Skylab space station started
their mission with home repairs. Skylab's meteorite and sunshield had
torn loose during launch, and one of its two remaining solar panels was
jammed (see above). Due to concerns that high temperatures inside the
workshop- the result of no sunshield-would release toxic materials and
ruin onboard film and food, the crew had to work fast. After a failed
attempt to deploy the stuck solar panel, they set up a "parasol" as a
replacement sunshade. The "fix" worked, and temperatures inside dropped
low enough that the crew could enter. Two weeks later Conrad and Kerwin
conducted a space-walk, and after a struggle, were able to free the stuck
solar panel and begin electricity flowing to their new "home." For nearly
a month they made further repairs to the workshop, conducted medical experiments,
gathered solar and Earth science data and returned some 29,000 frames
of film. The Skylab 2 astronauts spent 28 days in space, which doubled
the previous U.S. record.
July28September 25, 1973
Crew: Alan L. Bean, Jack R. Lousma, Owen K. Garriott
After an early bout of motion sickness, the three-person
Skylab 3 crew settled down to a 59-day stay on board the space station.
During the flight, Garriott and Lousma deployed a second sun shield on
a space-walk lasting six and a half hours- the first and longest of three
Skylab 3 space-walks. During their two months in orbit, the astronauts
continued a busy schedule of experiments, including a student experiment
to see if spiders could spin webs in weightlessness (they could). They
also tested a jet-powered Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU) backpack inside
the spacious volume of Skylab's forward compartment, which had been carried
but never flown on Gemini missions in the 1960s. The AMU proved a capable
form of one-man space transportation, and helped engineers design the
more sophisticated Manned Maneuvering Unit used on the Space Shuttle in
November 16, 1973February 8, 1974
Crew: Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue, Edward G. Gibson
At 84 days, 1 hour, 15 minutes, and 31 seconds, Skylab 4
remains the longest U.S. space flight to date. To help keep the crew in
shape, a treadmill was added to the on-board bicycle like ergometer. As
a result of the exercise, the Skylab 4 crew was in better physical condition
upon their return to Earth than previous Skylab crews, even though an
excessive work pace had caused some tension during the flight. Comet Kohoutek
was among the special targets observed by the Skylab 4 crew, as were a
solar eclipse and solar flares. The astronauts also conducted four space-walks,
including one on Christmas Day to view Kohoutek, and set records for time
spent on experiments in every discipline from medical investigations to
The final mission of the Apollo era, in July 1975, was the
first in which spacecraft from two nations rendezvoused and docked in
orbit. The idea for this U.S./Soviet "handshake in space" had been initiated
three years earlier with an agreement signed by U.S. President Nixon and
Soviet President Kosygin.
The American crew for this goodwill flight included Thomas
Stafford, a veteran of three flights, Vance Brand, who had never flown
in space, and Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton, the only one of the original
seven astronauts who had never flown (due to a heart condition). The American
astronauts traveled into orbit inside a three-man Apollo spacecraft.
Like the Apollo command module, the twoman Soyuz capsule
flown by the Soviets had debuted in 1967. On board the Soviet spacecraft
were Alexei Leonov, who had made history's first space-walk in 1965, and
rookie Valeri Kubasov.
The Apollo-Soyuz mission, aside from its political significance,
resulted in a number of technical developments, including a common docking
system, which had to be specially designed so that the different spacecraft
could connect in orbit. The joint mission also gave both "sides" a view
of one another's space programs. In preparation for the flight, Soviet
cosmonauts and their backups visited and trained at the Johnson Space
Center, and the American crew and their backups paid visits to Moscow.
Flight controllers from both nations also conducted joint simulations.
Although Apollo-Soyuz was a one-time-only event, it created
a sense of goodwill that transcended the simple "handshake in space" that
was its most visible symbol.
ApolloSoyuz Test Project
July 15 - 24, 1975
Crew: Thomas P. Stafford, Vince D. Brand, Donald K. "Deke"
The Soyuz 19 and Apollo 18 craft launched within seven-and-a-half
hours of each other July 15, and docked on July 17. Three hours later,
Stafford and Leonov exchanged the first international handshake in space
through the open hatch of the Soyuz. The two spacecraft remained linked
for 44 hours, long enough for the three Americans and two Soviets to exchange
flags and gifts (including tree seeds which were later planted in the
two countries), sign certificates, pay visits to each other's ships, eat
together and converse in each other's languages. There were also docking
and redocking maneuvers during which the Soyuz reversed roles and became
the "active" ship. The Soviets remained in space for five days, the Americans
for nine, during which the Soviets also conducted experiments in Earth
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
Vehicles: Saturn IB launcher, Apollo command module
Number of People Flown: 3
Total Time in Space: 9 days
Highlights: First international space mission
Ezell, Edward Clinton, and Ezell, Linda Neuman. The Partnership:
A History of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project. (NASA SP4209,
Before the Space Shuttle, launching cargo into space was
a one-way proposition. Satellites could be sent into orbit, but could
not return. The world's first reusable space vehicle changed that, and
revolutionized the way people worked in space.
The Space Shuttle was approved as a national program in
1972. Part spacecraft and part aircraft, it required several technological
advances, including thousands of insulating tiles able to stand the heat
of reentry over the course of many missions, and sophisticated engines
that could be used again and again without being thrown away.
The airplane-like orbiter has three of these Space Shuttle
Main Engines, which burn liquid hydrogen and oxygen stored in the large
External Tank, the single largest structure in the Shuttle "stack." Attached
to the tank are two Solid Rocket Boosters, which provide most of the vehicle's
thrust at liftoff. Two minutes into the flight, the spent solids drop
into the ocean to be recovered, while the orbiter's own engines continue
burning until approximately eight minutes into the flight.
The Shuttle was developed throughout the 1970s. Enterprise,
a test vehicle not suited for space flight, was used for approach and
landing tests in 1977 that demonstrated the orbiter's aerodynamic qualities
and ability to land (after separating from an airplane). The first spaceworthy
Shuttle orbiter, Columbia, made its orbital debut in April 1981.
The first four missions of the new Space Transportation
System (STS) were test flights to evaluate the Shuttle's engineering design,
thermal characteristics and performance in space. Operational flights
began with STS-5 in November 1982, with a four-person crew on board. Over
time the crews grew in size: five people flew on STS-7 in 1983, six on
STS-9 later that same year. The first seven-person crew flew on STS 41-C
in 1984, and in 1985 eight people-a Shuttle record- flew on STS 61-A.
The Space Shuttle changed the sociology of space flight.
With such large crews, Shuttle astronauts were divided into two categories:
pilots responsible for flying and maintaining the orbiter, and mission
specialists responsible for experiments and payloads. A new class of space
traveler, payload specialists-who are not even necessarily career astronauts-also
was created to tend to specific onboard experiments.
The reusable Shuttles together make up a fleet, with each
vehicle continually being processed on the ground in preparation for its
next flight. The second orbiter, Challenger, debuted in 1983, followed
by Discovery in 1984 and Atlantis in 1985. A fifth orbiter, Endeavour,
joined the fleet in 1991, to make its first flight in 1992.
The Space Transportation System introduced several new tools
to the business of space flight. The Remote Manipulator System, a 15.24-meter
crane built by the Canadian Space Agency and designed to mimic the human
arm, is able to move large and heavy payloads in and out of the Shuttle's
18.29-meter-long cargo bay. The Spacelab module, built by the European
Space Agency, provides a pressurized and fully equipped laboratory for
scientists to conduct experiments ranging in subject matter from astronomy
to materials science to biomedical investigations. The Manned Maneuvering
Unit backpack allows space-walking astronauts to "fly" up to several hundred
meters from the orbiter with no connecting tether.
The MMU has figured in several of the Shuttle program's
most spectacular accomplishments. On STS 41-C in April 1984, the ailing
Solar Max satellite was retrieved, repaired, and reorbited by the astronaut
crew, all on the same flight. Later that same year, on STS 51-A, two malfunctioning
commercial communications satellites were retrieved in orbit and brought
back to Earth in the Shuttle cargo bay. Another malfunctioning satellite
was fixed in orbit by the crew of STS 51-I in 1985.
Early in the Shuttle program, communications satellites
were common payloads, with as many as three delivered into orbit on the
same mission. The January 1986 Challenger accident, which resulted in
the loss of the crew and vehicle due to a failed seal in one of the two
Solid Rocket Boosters, led to a change in that policy, however. Since
returning to flight in September 1988, the Shuttle has carried only those
payloads unique to the Shuttle or those that require a human presence.
The majority of these have been scientific and defense missions. Among
those payloads have been some of the decade's most important space science
projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Galileo Jupiter spacecraft,
and the Gamma Ray Observatory.
In 1995, the Shuttle program added a new capability to its
repertoire. In preparation for deployment of the International Space Station,
the crew of the Space Shuttle began a series of eight dockings and five
crew exchanges with the Russian space station Mir. U.S. astronauts spent
time aboard the Mir-sometimes several months at a time-acclimating themselves
to living and working in space. They carried out many of the types of
activities they would perform on the Space Station and encountered conditions
they would possibly encounter.
The Space Shuttle continues today as the nation's most capable
form of space transportation. By early 1998, over the course of 89 missions,
Shuttle missions had carried 516 people into space, spent a total of 757
days in space, and circled the Earth almost 12,000 times.
Vehicles: Space Shuttle orbiter,
External Tank, Solid Rocket Boosters
Number of People Flown: 516
(through January 1998)
Highlights: First reusable spacecraft
First in-space satellite repairs and retrievals
Space Shuttle Bibliography
Guilmartin, John F., and Maurer, John. A Space Shuttle
Chronology. NASA Johnson Space Center, 1988.
Allen, Joseph. Entering Space. (Stewart, Tabori &
Cooper, Henry S. F., Jr. Before LiftOff: The Making
of a Space Shuttle Crew. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).
Forres, George. Space Shuttle: The Quest Continues.
(Ian Allen, 1989).
Furniss, Tim. Space Shuttle Log. (Jane's, 1986).
Gurney, Gene, and Forte, Jeff. The Space Shuttle Log:
The First 25 Flights. (Aero Books, 1988).
Jenkins, Dennis. Space Shuttle: The History of Developing
the National Space Transportation System. Marceline, KS: Walsworth
Pub. Co., 1996.
Joels, Kerry Mark, and Kennedy, Greg. Space Shuttle Operator's
Manual. (Ballantine Books, 1982).
Lewis, Richard S. The Last Voyage of Challenger.
(Columbia University Press, 1988).
__________. The Voyages of Columbia: The First True Spaceship.
(Columbia University Press, 1984).
Nelson, Bill, with Buckingham, Jamie. Mission: An American
Congressman's Voyage to Space. (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1988).
Stockton, William, and Wilford, John Noble. Spaceliner:
Report on Columbia's Voyage into Tomorrow. (Times Books, 1981).
NASA Space Shuttle Astronauts
Scott D. Altman
Michael P. Anderson
Ellen L. Baker
Michael A. Baker
Daniel T. Barry
John E. Blaha
Michael J. Bloomfield
Kenneth D. Bowersox
Charles E. Brady, Jr.
Vance D. Brand
Curtis L. Brown
Daniel W. Bursch
Robert D. Cabana
John H. Casper
Franklin R. Chang-Diaz
Kevin P. Chilton
Kenneth D. Cockrell
Eileen M. Collins
Frank L. Culbertson, Jr.
Robert Curbeam, Jr.
Nancy J. Currie
N. Jan Davis
Bonnie J. Dunbar
Joe F. Edwards, Jr.
Anna L. Fisher
C. Michael Foale
Charles D. Gemar
Michael L. Gernhardt
John H. Glenn, Jr.
Linda M. Godwin
Dominic L. Gorie
William G. Gregory
John M. Grunsfeld
James D. Halsell, Jr.
Steven A. Hawley
Susan J. Helms
Kathryn P. Hire
Scott J. Horowitz
Rick D. Husband
Marsha S. Ivins
Tamara E. Jernigan
Brent W. Jett
Janet L. Kavandi
Thomas D. Jones
Kevin R. Kregel
Mark C. Lee
Steven W. Lindsey
Michael E. Lopez-Alegria
Edward T. Lu
Shannon W. Lucid
William S. McArthur, Jr.
Pamela A. Melroy
James H. Newman
Carlos I. Noriega
Stephen S. Oswald
Scott E. Parazynski
Charles J. Precourt
William F. Readdy
James E. Reilly
Stephen K. Robinson
Kent V. Rominger
Jerry L. Ross
Mario Runco, Jr.
Winston E. Scott
Richard A. Searfoss
William M. Shepherd
Nancy J. Sherlock
Steven L. Smith
Susan L. Still
Frederick W. Sturckow
Joseph R. Tanner
Andrew S.W. Thomas
Donald A. Thomas
James S. Voss
Janice E. Voss
Carl E. Walz
Mary E. Weber
James D. Werherbee
Terrence W. Wilcutt
Peter J.K. Wisoff
David A. Wolf
John W. Young
Thomas D. Akers
Andrew M. Allen
James C. Adamson
Joseph P. Allen
James P. Bagian
Guion S. Bluford
Karol J. Bobko
Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
Daniel C. Brandenstein
Roy D. Bridges, Jr.
Mark N. Brown
James F. Buchli
Kenneth D. Cameron
Mary L. Cleave
Michael R.U. Clifford
Michael L. Coats
Richard O. Covey
John O. Creighton
Robert L. Crippen
Anthony W. England
Joe H. Engle
John M. Fabian
William F. Fisher
C. Gordon Fullerton
Dale A. Gardner
Guy S. Gardner
Owen K. Garriott
Robert L. Gibson
Ronald J. Grabe
Frederick D. Gregory
Sidney M. Gutierrez
L. Blaine Hammond, Jr.
Gregory J. Harbaugh
Bernard A. Harris, Jr.
Terry J. Hart
Henry W. Hartsfield
Frederick H. Hauck
Steven A. Hawley
Terrence T. Henricks
Richard J. Hieb
David C. Hilmers
Jeffrey A. Hoffman
Mae C. Jemison
William B. Lenior
David C. Leestma
Don L. Lind
Jerry M. Linenger
John M. Lounge
Jack R. Lousma
T. Kenneth Mattingly, II
Jon A. McBride
Bruce McCandless, II
Michael J. McCulley
Donald R. McMonagle
Carl J. Meade
Bruce E. Melnick
Richard M. Mullane
F. Story Musgrave
Steven R. Nagel
George D. Nelson
Bryan D. O'Connor
Robert A.R. Parker
Donald H. Peterson
Kenneth S. Reightler, Jr.
Richard N. Richards
Sally K. Ride
Margaret Rhea Seddon
Ronald M. Sega
Brewster H. Shaw, Jr.
Loren J. Shriver
Sherwood C. Spring
Robert C. Springer
Robert L. Stewart
Kathryn D. Sullivan
Norman E. Thagard
Kathryn C. Thornton
William E. Thornton
Pierre J. Thuot
Richard H. Truly
James D.A. van Hoffen
David M. Walker
Paul J. Weitz
Donald E. Williams
Manley L Carter, Jr.
S. David Griggs
Karl G. Henize
Ronald E. McNair
Ellison S. Onizuka
Robert F. Overmyer
Judith A. Resnik
Francis R. Scobee
Michael J. Smith
Stephen D. Thorne
Charles Lacy Veach
April 1214, 1981
Crew: Young, Crippen
On its debut flight, the Space Shuttle proved that it could
safely reach Earth orbit and return through the atmosphere to land like
an airplane. In space, Young and Crippen tested the Columbia's onboard
systems; fired the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) used for changing
orbits and the Reaction Control System (RCS) engines used for attitude
control; opened and closed the payload bay doors (the bay was empty for
this first flight); and, after 36 orbits, made a smooth touchdown at Edwards
Air Force Base in California, the landing site for most of the early Shuttle
November 1214, 1981
Crew: Engle, Truly
Originally intended to last five days, the Shuttle's second
test flight was cut short when problems developed with one of three onboard
fuel cells that produce electricity. Engle
and Truly conducted the first tests of the 50-foot Remote
Manipulator System arm and operated the Shuttle's first payload: a package
of Earth-viewing instruments stored in the cargo bay.
March 22-30, 1982
Crew: Lousma, Fullerton
The longest of the Shuttle test flights carried space-viewing
instruments for the first time. The crew also continued engineering evaluations
of Columbia. After rains flooded the dry lakebed at the primary landing
site in California, the Columbia made the Shuttle program's only landing
to date at White Sands, New Mexico.
June 27-July 4, 1982
Crew: Mattingly, Hartsfield
The last Shuttle test flight was the first mission to carry
payloads for the Department of Defense. It also included the first small
"Getaway Special" experiments mounted in the cargo bay, and further tested
the mechanical and thermal performance of the Columbia, as well as the
environment surrounding the spacecraft. Mattingly made the first Shuttle
landing on a concrete runway instead of the dry lakebed at Edwards Air
November 11-16, 1982
Crew; Brand, Overmeyer J. Allen, Lenior
The Shuttle's first operational mission also was the first
space flight with four people on board. Two commercial communications
satellites, SBS-3 and Anik C-3, were launched into orbit from the cargo
bay-another first-using the Payload Assist Module (PAM) upper stage designed
for the Shuttle. A planned space-walk was canceled when problems developed
with the two on-board spacesuits.
April 49, 1983
Crew: Weitz, Bobko, Peterson, Musgrave
Challenger's debut flight included the Shuttle program's
first space-walks. Musgrave and Peterson spent more than four hours testing
new Shuttle spacesuits and mobility aids, and evaluated their own ability
to work outside in the Shuttle's cargo bay. The first of NASA's Tracking
and Data Relay Satellites was launched. The communications satellite initially
failed to reach its proper orbit due to an upper stage guidance error,
but was eventually maneuvered into the correct position.
June 18-24, 1983
Crew: Crippen, Hauck, Ride, Fabian, Thagard
Except for Crippen, all the members of this crew were from
the "class" of 1978, the first astronauts chosen for the Shuttle program.
STS-7 had a record five people on board, including Sally Ride, the first
American woman in space. The crew deployed, rendezvoused with and retrieved
the German-built SPAS experiment platform, which took the first full pictures
of a Shuttle orbiter in space. The crew also released two communications
satellites-Anik C-2 and Palapa B-l- into orbit, and activated a series
of materials processing experiments fixed in the Challenger's cargo bay.
August 30September 5, 1983
Crew: Truly, Brandenstein, Blaford, D. Gardner, W. Thornton
STS-8 featured the Shuttle program's first night launch
and landing. The crew launched India's INSAT 1-B communications satellite,
conducted the first tests of Shuttle-to-ground communications with the
new Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, and exercised the Remote Manipulator
"arm" with a test article weighing nearly four tons. Thornton, an M.D.,
conducted biomedical experiments, and Bluford became the first African-American
November 28December 8, 1983
Crew: Young, Shaw, Parker, Garriott. PS: Byron Lichtenberg,
The first flight of the European-built Spacelab module was
a multidisciplinary science mission, with 71 experiments in a wide range
of fields: space physics, materials processing, life sciences, Earth and
atmospheric studies, astronomy and solar physics. The record sixperson
crew included the first Shuttle payload specialists: Lichtenberg of MIT,
and Merbold, a West German physicist who became the first non-U.S. citizen
to fly on an American spacecraft.
February 3-11, 1984
Crew: Brand, Gibson, McCandless, Stewart, McNair
With this flight, the number designations for Shuttle missions
changed. The "4" indicates the (originally scheduled) year of the launch-1984.
The second digit represents the launch site ("1" for Florida, "2" for
California), and the "B" indicates the second launch of the fiscal year.
The highlights of the flight were the first untethered space-walks by
McCandless and Stewart, who tested new Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) backpacks
that allowed them to travel as far as 97.54 meters from the orbiter. Two
satellites deployed from the Shuttle, Westar VI and Palapa B-2, failed
to reach their proper orbits when their PAM upper stages did not ignite.
Both were later retrieved and brought back to Earth (see STS 51-A). Challenger
made the Shuttle's first landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
April 6-13, 1984
Crew: Crippen, Scobee, Hart, van Hoften, Nelson
In the space program's first satellite service call, the
crew rendezvoused with and retrieved the Solar Maximum Mission (Solar
Max) satellite, which had failed after four years in orbit. With the satellite
anchored in Challenger's cargo bay, Nelson and van Hoften replaced a faulty
attitude control system and one science instrument, and the repaired satellite
was re-released into orbit. The Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF),
a passive satellite for testing the effects of space exposure on different
materials, also was deployed on the flight. Originally LDEF was to have
remained in orbit for only ten months, but it was not returned to Earth
until STS-32 in January 1990.
August 30-September 5, 1984
Crew: Hartsfield, Coats, Mullane, Hawley, Resnik, PS:
The first flight of Discovery was the first Shuttle mission
to deploy three communications satellites: Syncom IV-2, SBS-4 and Telstar
3-C. The crew also experimented with a 31.09-meter-high solar cell array,
which was unfurled from a stowage container only 177.8 millimeters deep
located in the cargo bay. The experiments included testing the structure's
stability when the Shuttle's attitude control engines were fired. Walker,
a McDonnell Douglas engineer, was the Shuttle's first commercially sponsored
payload specialist, on board to tend to the company's Continuous Flow
Electrophoresis System for separating materials in microgravity.
October 513, 1984
Crew: Crippen, McBride, Leestma, Ride, Sullivan. PS:
Paul Scully-Power, Marc Garneau
The Shuttle's first seven-member crew included two payload
specialists. Scully-Power, a Navy oceanographer, was on board to observe
ocean dynamics from orbit. Garneau, the first Canadian in space, operated
the multidisciplinary CANEX (Canadian Experiment) package. In Challenger's
cargo bay was a suite of instruments dedicated to Earth observationthe
primary purpose of this mission. During a three-and-a-half hour space-walk,
Sullivan and Leestma also tested connections for an orbital refueling
system in the bay. Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space.
November 816, 1984
Crew: Hauck, Walker, J. Allen, A. Fisher, D. Gardner
The STS 51-A crew delivered two satellites-Anik D-2 and
Syncom IV-I- into orbit, then brought two others-Palapa B2 and Westar
VI, whose on-board boosters had failed after being deployed on STS 41-B-back
to Earth. In separate space-walks using Manned Maneuvering Unit backpacks,
Gardner and Allen each docked with an orbiting satellite, stopped its
rotation, then assisted as it was stowed in Discovery's cargo bay. Both
satellites were then returned for refurbishment on the ground in a dramatic
demonstration of the Shuttle's salvage capability.
January 2427, 1985
Crew: Mattingly, Shriver, Onizuka, Buchli. PS: Gary Payton
The crew for the Shuttle's first flight dedicated to the
Department of Defense included payload specialist Gary Payton of the U.S.
Air Force. The cargo, as well as details of the mission, was classified.
April 12-19, 1985
Crew: Bobko, Williams, Hoffman, Griggs, Seddon PS: Charles
Walker, Jake Garn
When a booster attached to Syncom IV-3, the second of two
communications satellites released into orbit (the other was Anik C- l),
failed to ignite, the crew, with the help of engineers on the ground,
attempted a fix. Hoffman and Griggs took an unscheduled space-walk to
attach an improvised "flyswatter" device to the Remote Manipulator System
arm, in the hope that it could trip the satellite booster's sequence start
lever. The plan failed, however, and the satellite was eventually "jump-started"
by STS 51-I astronauts four months later. Utah Senator Jake Garn was the
first member of Congress to fly in space.
April 29-May 6, 1985
Crew: Overmeyer, F. Gregory, Lind, Thagard, W. Thornton
PS: Taylor Wand, Lodewijk van den Berg
The Shuttle's second Spacelab mission included 15 experiments
in materials processing, fluid behavior, atmospheric physics, astronomy
and life sciences. The crew worked around the clock in shifts, and had
trouble with a leaky animal-holding facility making its first test flight.
Wang, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist, concentrated on studies of
fluid behavior in microgravity, while van den Berg of EG&G, Inc. focused
on crystal growth experiments. Lind, an astronaut since 1966, made his
first space flight.
June 17 24, 1985
Crew: Brandenstein, Creighton, Fabian, Nagel. Lucid PS:
Patrick Bandry, Sultan Sa/man Abdul Azziz Al Sa'ud
Baudry of France and Al Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia were the international
payload specialists for this flight, which successfully launched three
communications satellites into orbit: Morelos-1, Arabsat 1-B and Telstar
3-D. SPARTAN-I, a reusable free-flying payload carrier with astronomy
instruments on board, also was released, then retrieved, by the Remote
Manipulator System arm. The crew conducted materials science and biomedical
experiments and participated in a Defense Department tracking experiment
in which a laser beam directed from Hawaii was bounced from a reflector
on board Discovery back to the ground.
July 29-August 6, 1985
Crew: Fullerton, Bridges, Musgrave, England, Henize.
PS: Loren Acton, John-David Bartoe
The Spacelab 2 mission replaced the Spacelab's enclosed
"long module" with open pallets containing 13 instruments dedicated to
astronomy. Despite problems with an instrument pointing system, the crew
was able to collect data on the Sun and other celestial targets. Earlier
in the flight, Challenger made the Shuttle program's first "abort to orbit"
when one of its three main engines shut down during the ascent. Henize
and England had waited a long time for a space flight-both had been astronauts
during the Apollo era. England had resigned from NASA in 1972, only to
rejoin the astronauts corps in 1979.
August 27-September 3, 1985
Crew: Engle, Corey, van Hoften, W. Fisher, Lounge
The Syncom IV-3 satellite (also known as "Leasat'') stranded
in orbit on STS 5I-D was repaired and re-boosted as a result of two space-walks
by van Hoften and Fisher that were among the most challenging in the history
of the space program. After van Hoften, standing on the end of the Remote
Manipulator System arm, grabbed the satellite manually, he and Fisher
worked on the satellite in Discovery's cargo bay. The astronauts attached
hardware that allowed ground crews to activate Syncom's still-live rocket
motor after van Hoften re-released it into orbit with a shove from the
cargo bay. Earlier in the flight, the crew had launched three new communications
satellites into orbit: ASC-1,
AUSSAT-I and Syncom IV-4 (nearly identical to the one that
October 37, 1985
Crew: Bobko, Grabe, Hilmers, Stewart. PS: William Pailes
The first flight of Atlantis was the second Shuttle mission
dedicated to the Department of Defense. The payload and on-board activities
October 30November 6, 1985
Crew: Hartsfield, Nagel, Bachli, Bluford, Dunbar. PS:
Reinhard Furrer, Wubbo Ockels, Ernst Messerschmid
The Spacelab D-1 mission was the first U.S. manned space
flight with a primary payload sponsored by another country-West Germany.
On board were 76 experiments, including investigations in fluid physics,
materials science, plant physiology and human adaptation to weightlessness.
Science experiments were directed from a German Space Operations Center
in Oberpfaffenhofen, and two of the payload specialists-Furrer and Messerschmid-were
German. With eight people working around the clock in shifts, it was the
largest Shuttle crew to date.
November 26-December 3, 1985
Crew: Shaw, O'Connor, Spring, Cleave, Ross, PS: Charles
Walker, Rodolfo Neri Vela
After the crew deployed three communications satellites
(SATCOM Ku-2, Morelos 2 and AUSSAT-2) Spring and Ross conducted the first
construction experiments in space, assembling and disassembling two tinkertoy-like
structures called EASE and ACCESS in the cargo bay of Atlantis. The two
space-walking astronauts attached beams, nodes and struts to evaluate
different methods of assembling large structures in space. Vela was the
first Mexican citizen in orbit, while Walker made his third flight with
the commercially sponsored electrophoresis experiment.
January 12-18, 1986
Crew: Gibson, Bolden, Nelson, Hawley, Chang-Diaz. PS:
Robert Cenker, Bill Nelson
Rep. Bill Nelson of Florida was the second member of Congress
to fly on the Shuttle. The crew deployed an RCA communications satellite
and conducted a number of smaller experiments, including several materials
science investigations mounted in the cargo bay of the Columbia. An attempt
to photograph Comet Halley through an overhead window was unsuccessful,
however, due to problems with the instrument's battery.
January 28, 1986
Crew: Scobee, Smith, Onizuka, Resnik, McNair. PS: Gregory
Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe
Challenger and all seven members of the crew-including Jarvis,
a Hughes employee, and Christa McAuliffe, the designated "Teacher in Space"-were
lost 73 seconds into the flight when the vehicle exploded as the result
of a leak in one of two Solid Rocket Boosters. The Shuttle program was
delayed for nearly three years while the boosters were redesigned and
other safety measures were added. A change in U.S. space policy also resulted
from the accident-no longer would the Shuttle carry commercial satellites
September 29-October 3, 1988
Crew: Hauck, Covey, Lounge, Nelson, Hilmers
The first Shuttle mission after the Challenger accident
was a conservative, four-day flight that proved the safety of the redesigned
Solid Rocket Boosters. On board the Discovery was the first all-veteran
astronaut crew since Apollo 11. During launch and reentry, the astronauts
wore new partial-pressure flight suits, and in orbit they practiced using
a new emergency escape system. The principal payload was a NASA Tracking
and Data Relay Satellite similar to the one lost on STS 51-L, which was
released into orbit on the first day.
December 2-6, 1988
Crew: Gibson, G. Garner, Mullone, Ross, Shepherd
Classified mission for the Department of Defense.
March 1318. 1989
Crew: Coats, Blaha, Buchli, Springer, Bagian
Six hours into the mission, the crew released the fourth
NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite into orbit. The astronauts conducted
experiments in plant growth, crystal growth and the human body's adaptation
to weightlessness, and tested a new Shuttle "fax" machine. They also took
large-format IMAX movie pictures of the Earth, and returned clear photographs
of the jettisoned external fuel tank in space.
May 48, 1989
Crew: Walker, Grabe, Thagard, Cleave, Lee
The Shuttle program's first launch of a planetary spacecraft
came on the first day of the mission, when the Magellan Venus Radar Mapper
was released from the Atlantis' cargo bay with an Inertial Upper Stage
booster attached. The booster fired shortly thereafter to send Magellan
to Venus, where it arrived in August 1990 to begin an eight-month mapping
mission. Secondary experiments after the deployment included crystal growth
studies and a search for thunderstorms in the atmosphere below, called
the Mesoscale Lightning Experiment.
August 8-13, 1989
Crew: Shaw, Richards, Leestma, Adamson, M. Brown
Classified mission for the Department of Defense.
October 1823, 1989
Crew: Williams, McCulley, Lucid, E. Baker, Chang-Diaz
The Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft was the Shuttle's second
interplanetary cargo. Galileo's mission got underway during Atlantis'
fifth orbit around the Earth, when the spacecraft was released from the
cargo bay to head toward Venus, the first "stop" on its voyage to Jupiter.
After releasing Galileo, the crew worked on experiments that included
materials science, plant growth and measurements of ozone in the atmosphere.
November 2227. 1989
Crew: F. Gregory, Blaha, Musgrave, K. Thornton, Carter
Classified mission for the Department of Defense.
January 9-20, 1990
Crew: Brandenstein, Wetherbee, Dunbar, Low, Ivins
The Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), released into
orbit on STS 41-C in 1984, was finally retrieved after nearly six years
in space. After rendezvousing with the large, cylindrical satellite-one
of the most complicated space rendezvous operations ever-the crew photographed
the LDEF in orbit, grappled it with the Remote Manipulator System arm,
then stowed it in the cargo bay of the Columbia. Scientists who examined
the LDEF after landing found evidence of erosion and micrometeorite impacts,
as expected. A Syncom satellite also was deployed on the mission. Lasting
almost 11 days, STS-32 was the longest Shuttle flight to date.
February 28-March 4, 1990
Crew: Creighton, Casper, Hilmers, Mullane, Thuot
Classified mission for the Department of Defense.
April 2429, 1990
Crew: Shriver, Bolden, Hawley, McCandless, Sullivan
The Hubble Space Telescope, the first large optical telescope
ever to be placed above the Earth's atmosphere and the first of NASA's
"Great Observatories," was released into orbit by the Remote Manipulator
System arm on the second day of the flight to begin at least a decade
of astronomical observations in space. After the telescope was deployed,
the astronauts conducted experiments in crystal growth and monitored the
radiation environment on board the orbiter. Because of the need to place
the telescope above most of the atmosphere, the Discovery flew the highest
Shuttle orbit to date, reaching an altitude of more than 531.08 kilometers.
October 610, 1990
Crew: Richards, Cabana, Mellnick, Shepherd, Akers
Deployment of the European Space Agency's Ulysses spacecraft
to explore the polar regions of the Sun was the highlight of this four-day
mission. On the first day of the flight, the crew sprung Ulysses from
Discovery's cargo bay, and on-board rockets fired to send the spacecraft
toward a gravity assist at Jupiter. After the deploy, the astronauts conducted
a number of secondary experiments, including taking measurements of atmospheric
ozone, studying the effects of atomic oxygen on spacecraft materials and
evaluating a new "hands-off" voice command system in the Shuttle crew
November 1520, 1990
Crew: Corey, Culbertson, Springer, Meade, Gemar
Classified mission for the Department of Defense.
December 210, 1990
Crew: Brand, Gardner, Hoffman, Lounge, Parker. PS: Ronald
Parise, Samuel Durrance
STS-35 was the first Spacelab mission since the Challenger
accident, and the first Shuttle flight dedicated to a single discipline:
astrophysics. Discovery carried a group of astronomical telescopes called
ASTRO-1 in its cargo bay, as well as four Ph.D.'s in astronomy: Hoffman,
Parker, Durrance of Johns Hopkins University, and Parise of the Computer
Science Corporation. Despite several hardware malfunctions, the crew was
able to make observations of a wide variety of astronomical targets, from
comets to quasars, with particular attention to x-ray and ultraviolet
April 5-11, 1991
Crew: Nagel. Cameron. Apt, Godwin, Ross
The Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO), was released by Atlantis
Remote Manipulator System arm on the third day of the flight, after Ross
and Apt made an unscheduled space-walk to repair an antenna on the spacecraft.
The second of NASA's "Great Observatories" designed for a long-term program
of astronomical observations from Earth orbit, the GRO was the heaviest
science satellite ever launched from the Shuttle. Later in the mission,
Ross and Apt returned to the cargo bay to rest rail-mounted mechanical
pushcarts planned for use on Space Station Freedom. The two space-walks
were the first in more than five years.
April 28 - May 6, 1991
Crew: Coats, Hammond, Bluford, Harbaugh, Hieb, McMonagle,
The first unclassified defense-related mission of the Shuttle
program included experiments sponsored by the Air Force and the Strategic
Defense Initiative (SDI) organization. The studies included extensive
infrared, ultraviolet, visible and x-ray observations of the space environment
and the Shuttle itself. On-board instruments also returned high-quality
images of the Earth's aurora. In an experiment related to ballisticmissile
defense, Discovery released a SPAS instrument platform equipped with infrared
sensors to fly in formation and observe rocket thruster plumes as the
Shuttle performed a complicated series of maneuvers.
June 5-14, 1991
Crew: O'Connor. Gutierrez. Bagian.
Jernigan. Seldon PS: F. Drew Gaffney, Millie Hughes-Fulford
The Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS-1) mission was the first
dedicated entirely to understanding the physiological effects of space
flight. An extensive series of biomedical experiments were conducted on
crew members during the nine-day mission, and the results were compared
with baseline data collected on the ground before and after the flight.
Along with the human subjects, rodents and jellyfish also were on board
to test their adaptation to microgravity.
August 2-11, 1991
Crew: Blaha, Baker, Adamson, Low, Lucid
This mission marked the first scheduled landing at Kennedy
Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility since January 1986. The Tracking/Data
Relay Satellite-5 was the mission's primary payload. The satellite became
the fourth member of the orbiting TDRS cluster, which now consisted of
two operating satellites plus two spares in the space network.
The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite is loosened from its
restraint device and begins to leave the payload bay of the Atlantis.
September 12-18, 1991
Crew: Creighton, Reightler, Brown, Gemar, Buchli
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was deployed
on this mission. The 6,577.2-kilogram observatory would investigate the
stratosphere, mesosphere, and lower thermosphere. The satellite had 10
sensing and measuring devices for collecting data on particular aspects
of the upper atmosphere that could affect the global environment.
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite in the grasp of
the Remote Manipulator System arm. The photo shows deployment of UARS'
solar array panel.
November 24-December 1, 1991
Crew: Gregory, Henricks, Runco, Voss, Musgrave, PS: T.
This unclassified Department of Defense mission deployed
the Defense Support Program satellite on the first day of the flight.
On-board payloads focused on contamination experiments and medical research.
A 70mm frame showing a pre-deployment view of the Defense
January 22-30, 1992
Crew: Grabe, Oswald, Readdy, Thagard, Hilmers, PS: Roberta
Bondar, Ulf Merbold
This mission's primary payload was the International Microgravity
Laboratory IML-1, which made its first flight. Working in the pressurized
Spacelab module, the international crew split into two teams for 24-hour
research on the human nervous system's adaptation to low gravity and the
effects of microgravity on other life forms. The crew also conducted materials
Canadian payload specialist Roberta L. Bondar gets into
the Microgravity Vestibular Investigation chair to begin an experiment
in the International Microgravity Laboratory-1 science module aboard the
March 24-April 2, 1992
Crew: Bolden, Duffy, Sullivan, Leestma, Foale, PS: D.
Frimout, B. Lichtenberg
This mission marked the first flight of the Atmospheric
Laboratory for Applications and Science-1 (ATLAS), which was mounted on
nondeployable Spacelab pallets in the orbiter's cargo bay. An international
team made up of the United States, France, Germany, Belgium, the United
Kingdom, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Japan provided 12 instruments
that performed investigations in the atmospheric sciences.
The forward portion of the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications
and Science (ATLAS-1) payload package.
May 7-16, 1992
Crew: Brandenstein, Chilton, Melnick, Akers, Hieb, Thornton,
STS-49 was marked by a number of "firsts." Four space walks,
the most ever on a single mission, highlighted the first voyage of the
orbiter Endeavour. Two of these were the longest in U.S. space flight
history to date, lasting eight hours and 29 minutes and seven hours and
45 minutes. The flight also featured the longest space walk to date by
a female astronaut and was the first space flight where three crew members
worked outside the spacecraft at the same time. It also was the first
time that astronauts attached a live rocket motor to an orbiting satellite.
The crew also successfully captured and redeployed the Intelsat-VI satellite,
which had been stranded in an unusable orbit since its launch in March
The successful capture of the Intelsat VI satellite. Astronauts
Richard J. Hieb, Thomas D. Akers, and Pierre J. Thuot have handholds on
June 25-July 9, 1992
Crew: Richards, Bowersox, Dunbar, Meade, Baker, PS: L.
DeLucas, E. Trinh
The U.S. Microgravity Laboratory-1 made its first flight
on this mission. It was the first in a planned series of flights to advance
microgravity research efforts in several disciplines. Mission duration
surpassed all previous U.S. crewed space flights to date with the exception
of the three Skylab missions in 1973-74.
Astronaut Bonnie J. Dunbar, payload commander is about to
load a sample in the Crystal Growth furnace while payload specialist Lawrence
J. DeLucas checks out the multi-purpose glovebox.
July 31-August 8, 1992
Crew: Shriver, Allen, Hoffman, Chang-Diaz, Ivins, Nicollier,
PS: Franco Malerba
The primary mission objective was deployment of the European
Space Agency's European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) and operation of
the NASA-Italian Tethered Satellite System (TSS). After a delay and a
shorter-than-planned thruster firing, the satellite was successfully boosted
to operational orbit. During TSS deployment, the satellite at the end
of the tether reached a distance of only 256 meters rather than its planned
20 kilometers because of a jammed tether line. The satellite it carried
was restowed for return to Earth.
September 12-20, 1992
Crew: Gibson, Brown, Lee, Davis, Apt, Jemison, PS: Mamoru
Spacelab-J, the first Japanese Spacelab, debuted on this
flight. Jointly sponsored by NASA and the National Space Development Agency
(NASDA) of Japan, the mission included 24 materials science and 19 life
sciences experiments. Test subjects included members of the crew, Japanese
koi fish, cultured animal and plant cells, chicken embryos, fruit flies,
fungi and plant seeds, and frogs and frog eggs. The crew also included
the first African-American woman to fly in space, Mae Jemison the first
married couple (Mark Lee and Jan Davis), and the first Japanese person
to fly on the Shuttle, Mamoru Mohri.
October 22-November 1, 1992
Crew: Wetherbee, Baker, Veach, Jernigan, Shepherd, PS:
The mission deployed the Laser Geodynamic Satellite II (LAGEOS),
a joint effort of NASA and the Italian Space Agency, and operated the
U.S. Microgravity Payload-1 (USMP-1). LAGEOS was boosted into orbit by
the Italian Research Interim Stage (IRIS), its first use. Studies focused
on the influence of gravity on basic fluid and solidification processes.
December 2-9, 1992
Crew: Walker, Cabana, Bluford, Voss, Clifford
This was the last Shuttle flight for the Department of Defense.
The Discovery deployed a classified payload, after which flight activities
became unclassified. Ten secondary payloads were contained in or attached
to Get Away Special hardware in the cargo bay or located on the middeck.
January 13-19, 1993
Crew: Casper, McMonagle, Runco, Harbaugh, Helms
The fifth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-6), part
of NASA's orbiting communications system, was deployed on this mission.
On the fifth day of the flight, mission specialists Runco and Harbaugh
spent almost five hours walking in the open payload bay, performing a
series of extravehicular activity (EVA) tasks designed to increase NASA's
knowledge of working in space. The astronauts tested their abilities to
move freely in the cargo bay, climb into foot restraints without using
their hands, and simulated carrying large objects in a microgravity environment.
A Hitchhiker experiment collected data on stars and galactic gases.
April 8-17, 1993
Crew: Cameron, Oswald, Cockrell, Foale, Ochoa
The primary payload was the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications
and Science-2 (ATLAS-2), which collected data on the relationship between
the sun's energy output and the Earth's middle atmosphere and their affect
on the ozone layer. ATLAS-2 was one element of NASA's Mission to Planet
Earth program. The crew also used the remote manipulator arm to deploy
the SPARTAN-201, a free-flying science instrument platform that studied
velocity and acceleration of solar wind and observed the sun's corona.
Using the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment II (SAREX II), the crew also
contacted schools around the world and briefly contacted the Russian Mir
space station, the first contact between the Shuttle and Mir using amateur
April 26-May 6, 1993
Crew: Nagel, Henricks, Ross, Precourt, Harris, PS: Ulrich
Walter, Hans W. Schlegel
This mission marked the second German Spacelab mission,
designated D2. Around-the-clock crews conducted some 88 experiments, covering
materials and life sciences, technology applications, Earth observations,
astronomy, and atmospheric physics.
June 21-July 1, 1993
Crew: Grabe, Duffy, Low, Sherlock, Voss, Wisoff
STS-57 marked the first flight of the commercially developed
SPACEHAB, a laboratory designed to more than double pressurized workspace
for crew-tended experiments. Altogether, 22 experiments were flown, covering
materials and life sciences, and a wastewater recycling experiment for
the future Space Station. A five-hour, 50-minute space walk succeeded
in retrieving and stowing the 4,275-kilogram EURECA science satellite
inside the Endeavour's payload bay. The satellite had been deployed on
the STS-46 mission in 1992. Two crew members also carried out maneuvers
using the robot arm. During the mission, the crew also spoke with President
September 12-22, 1993
Crew: Culbertson Readdy, Newman, Bursch, Walz
The Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS)
was deployed on this mission. The attached Transfer Orbit Stage (TOS)
booster was used for the first time to propel the communications technology
spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The second primary payload,
the OERFEUS-SPAS, first in a series of ASTRO-SPAS astronomical missions,
was also deployed. The joint German-U.S. astrophysics payload was controlled
from the SPAS Payload Operations Control Center at Kennedy Space Center,
the first time a Shuttle payload was managed from Florida. Two crew members
also performed a space walk that lasted seven hours, five minutes, and
28 seconds. It was the last in a series of generic space walks begun earlier
in the year.
October 18-November 1, 1993
Crew: Blaha, Searfoss, Seddon, McArthur, Wolf, Lucid,
PS: Martin Fettman
STS-58 was the second dedicated Spacelab Life Sciences mission.
Fourteen experiments were conducted in regulatory physiology, cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary,
musculoskeletal, and neuroscience. Eight of the experiments centered on
the crew, six on 48 rodents carried on board. With the completion of her
fourth space flight, Shannon Lucid accumulated the most flight time for
a female astronaut on the Shuttle, 838 hours.
December 2-13, 1993
Crew: Covey, Bowersox, Musgrave, Hoffman, Thornton, Akers,
This Shuttle flight was one of the most challenging and
complex missions every attempted. During a record five back-to-back space
walks totaling 35 hours and 28 minutes, two teams of astronauts completed
the first servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. On the first space
walk, which lasted seven hours and 54 minutes, the two-person team replaced
two Rate Sensing Units, two Electronic Control Units, and eight electrical
fuse plugs. On the second space walk, which lasted six hours and 35 minutes,
two astronauts installed new solar arrays. On the third space walk, the
Wide Field/Planetary Camera was replaced in about 40 minutes rather than
in the four hours that had been anticipated. This team also installed
two new magnetometers at the top of the telescope. On the fourth space
walk, crew members removed and replaced the High-Speed Photometer with
the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement unit. During this
six-hour, 50-minute EVA, astronaut Akers set a new U.S. space-walking
record of 29 hours, 14 minutes. The final space walk replaced the Solar
Array Drive Electronics unit and installed the Goddard High Resolution
Spectrograph Redundancy kit and also two protective covers over the original
February 3-11, 1994
Crew: Bolden, Reightler, Chang-Diaz, Davis, Sega, Krikalev
This first Shuttle flight of 1994 marked the first flight
of a Russian cosmonaut on the U.S. Space Shuttlepart of an international
agreement on human space flight. The mission also was the second flight
of the SPACEHAB pressurized module and marked the 100th Get Away Special
payload to fly in space. Also on this mission, the Discovery carried the
Wake Shield Facility to generate new semiconductor films for advanced
March 4-18, 1994
Crew: Casper, Allen, Gemar, Ivins, Thuot
The primary payloads were the U.S. Microgravity Payload-2
(USMP-2) and the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology-2 (OAST-2).
USMP-2 included five experiments investigating materials processing and
crystal growth in microgravity. OAST-2's six experiments focused on space
technology and space flight. Both payloads were located in the payload
bay, activated by crew members, and operated by teams on the ground.
April 9-20, 1994
Crew: Gutierrez, Chilton, Godwin, Apt, Clifford, Jones
The Space Radar Laboratory-1 was the primary payload. It
gathered data on the Earth and the effect of humans on its carbon, water,
and energy cycles. It was located in the payload bay, activated by crew
members, and operated by teams on the ground. The German Space Agency
and the Italian Space Agency provided one instrument, the X-band Synthetic
Aperture Radar (X-SAR). This instrument imaged more than 400 sites and
covered approximately 38.5 million miles of the Earth, equivalent to 20
percent of the planet.
July 8-23, 1994
Crew: Cabana, Halsell, Hieb, Thomas, Walz, Chiao, PS:
STS-65 was the Columbia's last mission before its scheduled
modification and refurbishment. This flight saw the first Japanese woman
fly in space-payload specialist Chiaki Naito-Mukai. She also set the record
for the longest flight to date by a female astronaut. The International
Microgravity Laboratory-2 flew for the second time, carrying more than
twice the number of experiments and facilities as on its first mission.
Crew members split into two teams to perform around-the-clock research
on the behavior of materials and life in near weightlessness. More than
80 experiments, representing more than 200 scientists from six space agencies,
were located in the Spacelab module in the payload bay. This flight also
marked the first time that liftoff and reentry were captured on videotape
from the crew cabin. This flight was the longest Shuttle flight to date,
lasting 14 days and 18 hours.
September 9-20, 1994
Crew: Richards, Hammond, Helms, Meade, Lee, Linenger
STS-64 marked the first flight of the Lidar In-Space Technology
Experiment (LITE), which was used to perform atmospheric research. It
also included the first untethered U.S. extravehicular activity (EVA)
in 10 years. LITE involved the first use of lasers for environmental research.
During the mission, the crew also released and retrieved the SPARTAN-201
using the remote manipulator system arm.
September 30-October 11, 1994
Crew: Baker, Wilcutt, Jones, Bursch, Wisoff, Smith
This mission marked the second 1994 flight of the Space
Radar Laboratory, part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. Flying the SRL
in different seasons allowed investigators to compare observations between
the two flights. The mission also tested the ability of SRL-2 imaging
radar to distinguish between changes caused by human-induced phenomena
such as oil spills and naturally occurring events. Five Get Away Specials
were among the other cargo bay payloads. These included two by the U.S.
Postal Service that held 500,000 commemorative stamps honoring the 25th
anniversary of Apollo 11. STS-68 set another duration record, lasting
more than 16-1/2 days.
November 3-14, 1994
Crew: McMonagle, Brown, Ochoa, Tanner, Parazynski, Clervoy
STS-66 advanced data collection about the sun's energy output,
chemical makeup of the Earth's middle atmosphere, and how these factors
affect global ozone levels with the third flight of its Atmospheric Laboratory
for Applications and Science (ASTRO-3). The other primary payloads were
CRISTA-SPAS, which continued the joint NASA-German Space Agency series
of scientific missions, and the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet
spectrometer. CRISTA-SPAS was released and retrieved using the remote
manipulator system arm.
February 3-11, 1995
Crew: Wetherbee, Collins, Harris, Foale, Voss, Titov
This mission had special importance as a precursor and dress
rehearsal for the series of missions that would rendezvous and dock with
the Russian space station Mir. The orbiter Discovery approached within
12.2 meters of the Mir, then backed off to about 121.9 meters and performed
a flyaround. The six-person crew included the second Russian cosmonaut
to fly on the Space Shuttle. The mission also deployed the SPARTAN-204,
a free-flying spacecraft that made astronomical observations in the far
ultraviolet spectrum. The mission also included the third operation of
the commercially developed SPACEHAB module, with its array of technological,
biological, and other scientific experiments. Two crew members performed
a space walk to test spacesuit modifications and demonstrate large-object
March 2-18, 1995
Crew: Oswald, Gregory, Grunsfeld, Lawrence, Jernigan,
PS: Ronald Parise, Samuel Durrance
The second Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science
(ASTRO-2) flew on this mission. Its objectives were to obtain scientific
data on astronomical objects in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum.
Its three telescopes made observations in complementary regions of the
spectrum and gathered data that would add to scientists' understanding
of the universe's history and the origins of stars. STS-67 set a new mission
duration record of 16.6 days.
June 27-July 7, 1995
Crew: Gibson, Precourt, Baker, Harbaugh, Dunbar
This flight marked the 100th U.S. human space flight and
was the first of a series of flights that docked with the Russian space
station Mir. On STS-71, the Atlantis and Mir remained docked for five
days. The seven-person Shuttle crew included two Russian cosmonauts who
remained on the Mir after the Atlantis returned to Earth. Two other cosmonauts
and the U.S. astronaut Thagard, who had flown to Mir aboard the Russian
Soyuz spacecraft in March 1995, returned to Earth in the Atlantis. The
mission demonstrated the successful operation of the Russian-designed
docking system, which was based on the concepts used in the Apollo-Soyuz
test program flown in 1975.
July 13-22, 1995
Crew: Henricks, Kregel, Currie, Thomas, Weber
The deployment of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite
(TDRS-7) marked the completion of NASA's TDRS system that provided communication,
tracking, telemetry, data acquisition, and command services to the Shuttle
and other low orbital spacecraft missions. STS-70 also marked the first
flight of the new Block I Space Shuttle main engine. The engine featured
improvements that increased the stability and safety of the main engines.
September 7-18, 1995
Crew: Walker, Cockrell, Voss, Newman, Gernhardt
STS-69 deployed the Wake Shield Facility, which, flying
separately from the Shuttle, produced an "ultra vacuum" in its wake and
allowed experimentation in the production of advanced, thin film semiconductor
materials. The SPARTAN spacecraft also was deployed and retrieved. The
space walk on this mission was the 30th Shuttle extravehicular activity.
October 20-November 5, 1995
Crew: Bowersox, Rominger, Thornton, Coleman, Lopez-Alegria,
PS: Fred Leslie, Albert Sacco
The second United States Microgravity Laboratory was the
primary payload on STS-73. Some of the experiments on USML-2 resulted
from the outcome of investigations on the first USML mission that flew
aboard the Columbia on STS-50.
November 12-20, 1995
Crew: Cameron, Halsell, Hadfield, Ross, McArthur
STS-74 was the second in a series of Mir linkups. The mission
marked the first time that astronauts from the European Space Agency,
Canada, Russia, and the United States were in space on the same complex
at one time.
January 11-20, 1996
Crew: Duffy, Jett, Chiao, Barry, Scott, Wakata
The crew of STS-72 captured and returned to Earth a Japanese
microgravity research spacecraft, the Space Flyer Unit, which had been
launched by Japan in March 1995. The mission also deployed and retrieved
the OAST-Flyer spacecraft, the seventh in a series of missions aboard
reusable free-flying SPARTAN carriers. The flight also included two space
walks by three astronauts to test hardware and tools that will be used
in the assembly of the Space Station.
February 22-March 9, 1996
Crew: Allen, Horowitz, Hoffman, Cheli, Nicollier, Chang-Diaz,
PS: Umberto Guidoni
This mission was the 50th Shuttle flight since NASA's return
to flight following the Challenger accident and the 75th Shuttle flight.
Its mission was a reflight of the Tethered Satellite System (TSS). The
tether broke three days into the mission.
March 22-31, 1996
Crew: Chilton, Searfoss, Godwin, Sega, Clifford, Lucid
This mission featured the third docking between the Space
Shuttle Atlantis and the Russian Space Station Mir. It included a space
walk, logistics operations, and scientific research. More than 862 kilograms
of equipment were transferred from the Atlantis to the Mir, including
a gyrodyne, transformer, batteries, food, water, film, and clothing. Astronaut
Shannon Lucid, the second U.S. astronaut and the first U.S. woman, began
what would turn out to be a marathon stay on the Mir.
May 19-29, 1996
Crew: Casper, Brown, Bursch, Runco, Garneau, Thomas
During this flight, the six-person Endeavour crew performed
microgravity research aboard the commercially owned and operated SPACEHAB
module. The crew also deployed and retrieved the Sparton-207/IAE (Inflatable
Antenna Experiment) satellite. A suite of four technology experiments
called the Technology Experiments for Advancing Mission in Space (TEAMS)
also flew in the Shuttle's payload bay.
June 20-July 7, 1996
Crew: Henricks, Kregel, Helms, Linnehan, Brady, PS: J.
Favier, R. Thirsk
The Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS) mission, building
on previous Shuttle Spacelab flights dedicated to life sciences and microgravity
investigations, studied the effects of long-duration space flight on human
physiology and conducted the type of experiments that would fly on the
Space Station. The length of this flight surpassed the longest Shuttle
flight to date, lasting almost 17 days.
September 16-26, 1996
Crew: Readdy, Wilcutt, Akers, Apt, Walz, Blaha, Lucid
On this mission, astronaut Shannon Lucid set the world's
women's and U.S. record for length of time in space: 188 days and five
hours. The mission was the fourth Shuttle docking with the Mir space station.
Astronaut Lucid returned to Earth on the Atlantis and astronaut Blaha
replaced her on the Mir.
November 19-December 7, 1996
Crew: Cockrell, Rominger, Jernigan, Jones, Musgrave
STS-80 marked the third flight of the Wake Shield Facility
that flew on STS-60 and STS-69 and the third flight of the German-built
ORFEUS-SPAS II. Both the Wake Shield Facility and the ORFEUS-SPAS were
deployed and retrieved during the mission, making it the first time that
two satellites were flying freely at the same time. The record for the
longest Shuttle flight was broken again, with this flight lasting slightly
more than 17-1/2 days.
January 12-22, 1997
Crew: Baker, Jett, Wisoff, Grunsfeld, Ivins, Linenger,
This mission was the fifth of nine planned missions to Mir
and the second involving an exchange of U.S. astronauts. Astronaut Linenger
replaced astronaut Blaha aboard the Mir after spending 128 days in space.
The Atlantis carried the SPACEHAB double module, which provided additional
middeck locker space for secondary experiments.
February 11-21, 1997
Crew: Bowersox, Horowitz, Tanner, Hawley, Harbaugh, Lee,
STS-82 was the second in a series of planned servicing missions
to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The orbiter's robot arm captured
the HST so it could be serviced. In five space walks, the crew replaced
the Goddard High Resolution Spectrometer and the Faint Object Spectrograph
with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Near Infrared Camera
and Multi-Object Spectrometer. Crew members also replaced other hardware
with upgrades and spares. HST received a refurbished Fine Guidance Sensor
and a refurbished spare Reaction Wheel Assembly (RWA) to replace one of
four RWAs. A Solid State Recorder replaced one reel-to-reel tape recorder.
The crew members also replaced the HST's insulation, which had deteriorated
due to rapid heating and cooling as the telescope moved into and out of
sunlight and also due to constant exposure to the molecular oxygen encountered
in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.
April 4-8, 1997
Crew: Halsell, Still, Voss, Gernhardt, Thomas, PS: Roger
Crouch, Greg Linteris
This mission lasted only four days and returned to Earth
12 days early due to a problem with one of the fuel cells that provided
electricity and water to the orbiter. The Microgravity Science Laboratory-1
was rescheduled for a later mission.
May 15-24, 1997
Crew: Precourt, Collins, Clervoy, Noriega, Lu, Kondakova,
This was the sixth docking with the Mir space station and
the third involving an exchange of U.S. astronauts. Astronaut Foale replaced
astronaut Linenger, who had been in space for 132 days. The mission resupplied
materials for experiments to be performed aboard the Mir and also returned
experiment samples and data to Earth.
July 1-17, 1997
Crew: Halsell, Still, Voss, Gernhardt, Thomas, Crouch,
The reflight of the Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1),
which had flown on STS-83, took place on this mission. (STS-83 was cut
short due to fuel cell problems.) The mission involved the same vehicle,
crew, and experiment activities as planned on the earlier mission. MSL-1
focused on the phenomena associated with the routine influence of gravity,
including the behavior of materials and liquids in a microgravity environment.
The laboratory was a collection of 19 microgravity experiments housed
inside a European Spacelab Long Module.
August 7-19, 1997
Crew: Brown, Rominger, Davis, Curbeam, Robinson, PS:
The primary payload for STS-85 was the second flight of
the CRISTA-SPAS-2. It was the fourth in a series of cooperative ventures
between the German Space Agency and NASA. CRISTA-SPAS-2 was deployed and
retrieved using the Discovery's robot arm. Two other instruments on board
also studied the Earth's atmosphere: the Middle Atmosphere High Resolution
Spectrograph Instrument (MAHRSI) measured hydroxyl and nitric oxide, while
the Surface Effects Sample Monitor (SESAM) carried state-of-the-art optical
surfaces to study the impact of the atomic oxygen and the space environment
on materials and services. The Technology Applications and Science (TAS-1),
the Manipulator Flight Demonstration, supplied by Japan, and the international
Extreme Ultraviolet Hitchhiker were other mission payloads.
September 25-October 6, 1997
Crew: Wetherbee, Bloomfield, Parazynski, Titov, Chretien,
Lawrence, Wolf, Foale
This was the seventh docking between the Atlantis and the
Russian Mir space station and the fourth exchange of U.S. astronauts.
The mission included a flyaround of the Mir to determine the location
of the puncture on the hull of the Spektr module. The Mir crew pumped
air into the Spektr module, and the Shuttle crew observed that the leak
seemed to be located at the base of damaged solar panel. U.S. astronaut
Foale returned aboard the Atlantis after a stay of 134 days on the Mir.
His was the second longest single space flight in U.S. space flight history
behind Shannon Lucid's 188-day flight in 1996. The Atlantis also carried
the SPACEHAB double module to support the transfer of logistics and supplies
for the Mir and the return of experiment hardware and specimens to Earth.
November 19-December 5, 1997
Crew: Kregel, Lindsey, Chawla, Scott, Doi, PS: Leonid
Experiments that studied how the weightless environment
of space affected various physical processes and two space walks highlighted
STS-87. During this mission, payload specialist Kadenyuk became the first
Ukranian to fly aboard the Space Shuttle. The mission was marked by an
unexpected event when the attitude control system aboard the free-flying
SPARTAN solar research satellite malfunctioned, causing the satellite
to rotate outside the Shuttle. Crew members successfully recaptured the
satellite and lowered it onto its berth in the payload bay. The capture
took place during a space walk that lasted seven hours and 43 minutes.
A second space walk that lasted seven hours and 33 minutes tested a crane
that will be used in constructing the Space Station and a free-flying
camera that will be able to monitor conditions outside the Space Station
without requiring space walks.
January 22-31, 1998
Crew: Wilcutt, Edwards, Reilly, Anderson, Dunbar, Sharipov,
STS-89 featured the eighth Mir-Shuttle linkup and the fifth
crew exchange. Astronaut Wolf, who had been on the Mir since September
1997, was replaced by astronaut Thomas.
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Launius, Roger D., and Gillette, Aaron K. Compilers. The
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Launius, Roger D., and Hunley, J.D. Compilers. An Annotated
Bibliography of the Apollo Program. (Monographs in Aerospace History,
No. 2, 1994).
Launius, Roger D. Apollo: A Retrospective Analysis.
(Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 3, 1994).
Hansen, James R. Enchanted Rendezvous: John C. Houbolt
and the Genesis of the Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous Concept. (Monographs
in Aerospace History, No. 4, 1995).
Gorn, Michael H. Hugh L. Dryden's Career in Aviation
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Powers, Sheryll Goecke. Women in Aeronautical Engineering
at the Dryden Flight Research Center, 19461994 (Monographs in
Aerospace History, No. 6, 1997).
Portree, David S.F. and Trevino, Robert C. Compilers. Walking
to Olympus: A Chronology of Extravehicular Activity (EVA). (Monographs
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Logsdon, John M. Moderator. The Legislative Origins of
the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958: Proceedings of an Oral
History Workshop (Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 8, 1998).