A new moon race is on

A new moon race is on. Is China already ahead?

The Trump administration wants to get back to the moon—but Beijing’s single-minded focus could outpace a NASA with competing priorities.

Shortly after New Year’s Day, a boxy gold-toned spacecraft made a soft landing on a corner of the solar system never before visited from Earth: the moon’s far side, sometimes known as the “dark side.”

The craft began sending images of previously unseen reddish craters, bouncing them off a satellite orbiting above. In the following days, it launched a robotic rover, set up a colony of silkworms and even experimented with growing plants like cotton and potatoes. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine hailed the mission—intended as part of an ambitious plan to return humans to the lunar surface—as “a first for humanity and a great accomplishment.”

If you haven’t heard of it, and didn’t see much coverage of those historic images, there’s a reason. The most ambitious and successful moon lander in decades wasn’t sent by NASA. It was sent by China.

Fifty years after the Apollo landing, the moon is now the target of the biggest flurry of human activity in history, more intense even than in the heyday of the Apollo program. And it’s largely driven by countries outside the United States. India plans its own mission to the moon’s south pole later this summer, when it expects to send an orbiter, lander and rover as a trial run for sending humans to the surface within three years. Japan’s space agency has teamed up with carmaker Toyota to build a moon rover. Israel sent a privately funded robot to the moon this spring, a mission that failed when it crashed into the surface, but it is already working on a second attempt. Russia, for its part, has said it plans to build a moon colony.

Unlike the first moon race, a largely symbolic Cold War contest in which the United States decisively prevailed over the Soviet Union, this one has hard resources at stake. In this new race, powered partly by private enterprise and highly capable new space vehicles, there’s an increasingly realistic chance for the winners to stake a claim to the moon’s untapped mineral and other resources and commercialize them.

The most focused and ambitious new entrant is China, which plans to follow its Chang’e 4 lander with more robotic craft to explore both the icy poles, offering the game-changing prospect of extracting water from the ice deposits and using it to power space vehicles and sustain life. China is stepping up its human spaceflight program as well, and its plans call for a permanent Chinese colony scheduled for 2030.

China has ambitious plans for extending its scientific and national interests in space, and in January became the first nation to land a robotic explorer on the moon’s far side, which faces away from Earth. Top: A Long March 3B rocket lifts off from the Xichang launch center in China’s southwestern Sichuan province. Bottom left: China’s lunar rover, Yutu-2, explores the far side of the moon. Bottom right: The Chang’e-4 lunar probe after landing on the moon’s far side, in a photo taken by the Yutu-2 moon rover. | STR/AFP/Getty Images; Xinhua/CNSA via Getty Images; AFP/Getty Images

The moon also tops the Trump administration’s space agenda, at least in theory: Vice President Mike Pence declared in March that the U.S. intends to return American astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024, four years earlier than previously planned, as a first step to building a permanent presence by 2028. But as it does, the U.S. faces a challenge that could be more serious than the technical questions that swirled around the program in the 1960s. Its sense of mission is far more fragmented now, and there’s little consensus on how to take the next steps off Earth, or why.

We hosted a live chat on Reddit about the U.S.’s efforts to go back to the moon. See highlights from the conversation here.

Pence’s announcement took much of the space community by surprise, and his own boss cast some doubt on the administration’s seriousness in a tweet last week. The focus on the moon has exacerbated a debate that has raged inside NASA, Congress and the wider space community for decades about whether to put priority on human space flight or unmanned missions; how much to spend; how much to let private space ventures lead the way; and what NASA’s role should be at all.

The U.S.’s chief rival, meanwhile, has far more clarity. As a rising global power, China is strongly motivated by the kind of national pride that drove the U.S. two generations ago. “If we don’t go there now even though we’re capable of doing so, then we will be blamed by our descendants,” Ye Peijian, the head of the China’s moon program, said last year. And beneath that rhetoric, the Chinese government has a far more pragmatic rationale: economic ambition. Its centrally managed, methodical strategy is designed not just to plant a flag on the moon, but to lead the way in industrializing space.

At NASA, Bridenstine downplays the rivalry: “We’re really two different countries operating on very independent approaches,” he told POLITICO in a recent interview. “From our perspective at NASA, we do science, we do discovery, we do exploration. We’re very interested in what they achieve. When they landed on the far side of the Moon, we took keen interest in that.”

Some insiders see this new space race as the first real risk to U.S. leadership in a half-century. As a focused rival with resources that dwarf most of its competitors, China has real potential to gain on, and even outpace, the preeminence that America takes for granted.

“We don’t have this national program that is able to beat the Chinese,” said former Lt. Col. Pete Garretson, who recently directed the Space Horizons Task Force at the Air Force’s Air University and has extensively studied Chinese space efforts. “They’ve got this really, really clever strategic offensive.”

IN BOTH NUMBERS and achievements, the U.S. is still the dominant space player by far. Its active roster of 39 astronauts is larger than any other nation’s. Its scientific exploration program is light years ahead of the rest of the world. And NASA has an impressive track record of enlisting other nations as partners, even erstwhile adversary Russia. It is the main sponsor and operator of the International Space Station and has already inked a partnership with Canada for its moon plans and is seeking more. (One country it can’t partner with is China, which is legally excluded over concerns that Beijing will steal U.S. technology for military purposes.)

For the first time since becoming the first nation to land astronauts on the moon in 1969, the United States is aiming to return astronauts to the moon in 2024. Top left: The mission control room after the succesful Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Top right: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Jr. poses for a photograph beside the United States flag during the Apollo 11 mission. Bottom: American servicemen in Saigon, Vietnam, read a local newspaper account of the lunar landing, which was a major propaganda victory for the United States. | STR/AFP/Getty Images; NASA; Hugh Van Es/AP Photo

Crucially, the United States also now boasts a burgeoning private space industry, driven in part by high-profile billionaires willing to spend their fortunes on sending humanity outward. The best known are Blue Origin, funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, which just unveiled its own lunar lander designed to reach the moon’s south pole, and SpaceX, run by Tesla founder Elon Musk, who wants to send humans to Mars on his SpaceX rockets. The industry extends well beyond those headline names, with a host of companies with big ambitions to help NASA colonize space.

But an initiative on the scale of space exploration also requires massive buy-in and investment at the public level, and on that front the U.S. is now potentially at a disadvantage compared with China. By Washington standards, NASA is a perpetually underfunded policy sideshow, and an easy target for cuts to fund more earthly priorities.

In contrast, Beijing’s leaders see their ambitions on Earth and their goals in space as linked at the highest level. In a U.S. riveted by consumer digital technology, space travel feels almost old-fashioned to discuss as a national ambition, while Chinese leaders refer unapologetically to the “spirit of aerospace” and the “space dream” as part of their efforts to rejuvenate the nation.

“The universe is an ocean, the moon is the Diaoyu Islands, Mars is Huangyan Island,” Ye, the head of China’s moon program, said in his speech last year, comparing it to the country’s expansionist designs on islands in the South China Sea.

It is difficult to determine what China spends annually on its space exploration efforts, in part because its space budget is wrapped up with defense spending. Namrata Goswami, a leading researcher on Chinese space operation at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in India, estimates that China spent $8 billion last year on its space program. That number is less than half the U.S. space budget, but an apples-to-apples comparison is nearly impossible: the U.S. budget is spread across a wide range of goals, and the military portion of China’s budget isn’t separate from “civilian” programs like landers and colonies.

INTERACTIVE: Explore China, Russia, India and Israel’s planned lunar missions | Nicolas Rapp for POLITICO

Goswami’sanalysis indicates that China is rapidly pushing toward commercial space development. “Given the vast economic potential that lies in outer space resources,” she says, “China is already shifting a major part of its resources to invest in research on space-based solar power, asteroid mining and developing capacity for permanent presence in space.”

Goswami has observed that China’s leaders clearly connect its space achievements to the legitimacy of the Communist Party itself, an emphasis reflected in the recent rewarding of plum political posts to leading Chinese space scientists. Ma Xingrui, former general manager of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, has been appointed governor of Guangdong Province, one of the country’s most economically robust. Yuan Jiajun, former president of the China Academy of Space Technology and chief commander of the Shenzhou Manned Space Program, is now governor of Zheijiang Province. And Xu Dazhe, who was the chief administrator of the space agency, is now governor of Hunan Province—particularly symbolic, in Goswami’s view, because that was the home province of Mao Zedong.

THE UNITED STATES may still be the only nation whose astronauts have placed a plaque on the moon, but its national space program is directed by an agency with a very different approach from China’s, and much further from the heart of political power. Putting humans in space has historically been a secondary mission for NASA and remains so.

The space agency instead is heavily committed, culturally and financially, to science. Its signature achievements are probes and telescopes deployed to buzz far-off planets and gaze deep into the universe. It is an emphasis heavily reflected in the space agency’s latest budget request, which also dedicates a large share to Earth-focused science missions.

NASA plans to spend $7 billion of its $21 billion budget—the largest chunk—on science; it requested $5 billion for human exploration. Even optimists acknowledge it will need far more than that to develop any kind of human return to the moon in the coming years.

“We’re going to need additional means,” Bridenstine told agency employees in a town hall in early April after the administration’s announcement of the 2024 moon goal. “I don’t think anyone can take this level of commitment seriously unless there are additional means.”

It’s not clear where those additional means will be coming from. In May, the White House asked Congress for an additional $1.6 billion for next year that it described as a “down payment” for the ambitious 2024 goal. But it couldn’t say how much the mission would ultimately cost. Some influential members of Congress, which will have the ultimate say on NASA’s spending priorities, say they simply don’t see the rationale for going back to the moon at all.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the Texas Democrat who chairs the House Science Committee with oversight of NASA, has downplayed the importance of returning to the moon, and instead stressed her support for NASA’s science portfolio, including research on climate change.

“The simple truth is that we are not in a space race to get to the Moon,” Johnson told Bridenstine at a hearing earlier this year. “We won that race a half-century ago.”

She also criticized those who frame it in terms of a new race for primacy. “Using outdated Cold War rhetoric about an adversary seizing the lunar strategic high ground only begs the question of why, if that is the vice president’s fear, the Department of Defense with its more than $700 billion budget request doesn’t seem to share that fear and isn’t tasked with preventing it from coming to pass,” she said.

At least four countries other than the United States are working on moon missions. Top left: India’s Chandryaan-2 spacecraft. Top right: Chinese astronauts in a televised interview after returning to Earth. Bottom left: A model of Russia’s next-generation manned spacecraft. Bottom right: Israel’s mission control center shortly before its lunar lander crashed on the moon’s surface. | Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images; Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images; Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images; Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

NASA, sensing Congress’ wariness, has insisted that the moon money won’t come at the expense of the agency’s science portfolio, which maintains strong support in both parties.

TRUMP HAS MADE a series of moves to reinvigorate the American space program, even in the absence of a deeper consensus. Shortly after his inauguration, he revived the White House National Space Council, defunct for 25 years, and designated Pence to lead it. He has issued multiple presidential directives to bring private space companies into the mix for contracts along with traditional aerospace firms and to encourage them to invest in new technology. And last year, Trump formally recommitted the United States to returning to the moon.

“This time, we will do more than plant our flag and leave our footprints,” he said at a meeting of the National Space Council. “We will establish a long-term presence, expand our economy and build the foundation for the eventual mission to Mars, which is actually going to happen very quickly.” On hand were top executives for some of the space entrepreneurs like Musk and Bezos. He said the United States is counting on them to help achieve its ambitious goals. “And, you know,” the president said, “I’ve always said that rich guys seem to like rockets. … If you beat us to Mars, we’ll be very happy, and you’ll be even more famous.”

To get to Mars, or even back to the moon, Trump will also need NASA on board with his vision for private space development, and that seems less certain than the affection of billionaires for rockets. The agency has always been the primary actor in human spaceflight, driven by testing the bounds of possibility; it has not seen its mission as paving the way for other efforts. “There has never been a strong voice in NASA for space industrial development or space settlement,” said Garretson, the recently retired Air Force colonel. “There has never been a strong camp in NASA that really wants to build sustainable infrastructure and technology that enables a broader segment of society to follow.”

Many observers see Trump and Bridenstine’s ambitions as implying a major shift for the agency, toward a gatekeeper role, laying the groundwork and setting rules for private enterprise to follow. Bridenstine has emerged as one of the leading voices for making NASA more commercial-friendly and an incubator of private ventures, including a series of partnerships with the commercial space industry for the moon mission.

Under Bridenstine, NASA has taken some initial steps to harness the abilities of that expanding commercial space sector. One example is its recently unveiled Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, in which the space agency is sharing the cost of with nine private space companies of developing lunar landers that can deliver supplies to the moon’s surface. In previous decades, NASA would have been the sole developer. The effort is expected to cost the space agency about $2.6 billion over 10 years.

PHOTOS: See some of the United States’ competitors in space | Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

Another is the Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities program, which aims to provide seed money to private space companies to develop spacecraft that can bring humans to the surface of the moon. In its new budget request for fiscal year 2020, NASA is seeking $363 million for the project, double what it sought last year. And in late May, NASA selected the first contractor for the its so-called Lunar Gateway project to construct a space station orbiting the moon to serve as a way station for astronauts living and working on the surface.

In Bridenstine’s view, this is a new approach for NASA, a collaboration that will change the course of the human spaceflight program. “We’re not purchasing, owning and operating the hardware. We’re buying the service,” he told POLITICO. “We will invest in that hardware, but we expect them to make investments in that hardware as well,” he added.

“The idea is they’re making those investments because they know that there will be customers that are not NASA,” he said. “Those customers could be international customers, could be foreign governments. Those customers could also be tourists.”

In one sense, that’s the kind of long view needed to drive big shifts in a program as entrenched as NASA’s. But Bridenstine is a political appointee working for a president whose policy priorities seem to shift week to week, and there are deep doubts he can redirect the 17,000-person agency and its army of contractors to such a new way of thinking. Even a relatively modest NASA program takes a decade to come to fruition; to affect real change, Trump’s team will need to build political coalitions around its priorities that can outlast his presidency.

IN TODAY’S SPACE race, some see a useful analogy in the early days of settling the American west in the 19th century, when there was a massive land grab that fueled the nation’s growth. “We learned in the Wild West that possession is 9/10 of the law, so getting there first is important,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a member of the White House National Space Council, said recently.

But the settling of the American frontier was also undergirded by massive government investment, using the U.S. Army, cash subsidies and high-risk expeditions to help secure territory, clear land and create the infrastructure needed for private prospectors to follow.

On that front, China enjoys a built-in advantage. Beijing directs massive subsidies to its commercial space companies, helping them land international customers for space launch services and other products, while simultaneously propelling its overall space program.

Some of the Trump administration’s biggest allies aren’t sure that the skepticism on Capitol Hill and resistance of NASA’s entrenched bureaucracy can be overcome. Homer Hickam is a career NASA rocket scientist who was tapped by Pence last year as an adviser to the Space Council. Best known for his best-selling memoir “Rocket Boys,” he said he has long been “a strong proponent” for NASA’s unmanned robotic missions.

The United States is prioritizing working with space start-up companies as part of its accelerated mission to return to the moon. Top: NASA astronauts and SpaceX executives stand in front of the company’s Crew Dragon module. Bottom left: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks with SpaceX chief Elon Musk after the successful launch of Crew Dragon in March. Bottom right: The Blue Moon lander being built by Blue Origin, a space start-up owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. | Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“But I want human activity in space, too,” he said in an interview. “I believe humans in that dangerous place should be for practical reasons as well as science. If humans are to go out there, I think they should identify and utilize the resources available, especially on the moon, to help the economies of the Earth and also create new industries and businesses.”

“I do not frankly know whether NASA can do it or not,” he said.

Dennis Wingo, an aerospace engineer who oversaw the first attempt by NASA to support a private lunar lander in the 1990s, says he’s worried that NASA “may be institutionally too ossified” to pull off what the Trump administration is proposing.

Though the prospect of a focused new competitor in China has added a strong note of urgency to the question of NASA’s transformation, others think the U.S. still has some time to get it right, in part because China’s ambitions may be outpacing its real achievements. “Chinese progress has been incredibly slow given the access they had to all of this stuff and a half-century of history to analyze on the way,” said Greg Autry, a professor at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California who specializes in space entrepreneurship and has advised NASA. “They’ve done zero new things beyond going to a different location on the moon.”

He says he is particularly unimpressed with China’s human spaceflight program, which has conducted far fewer space flights than NASA did during the Apollo program in the 1960s. “They are still far, far behind,” Autry said. “There is no reason to panic. But it is good to have a competitor. It gives us a sense of mission.”

Nevertheless, Autry also sees scant evidence the United States is ready or able to mount the kind of full-scale investment of money and energy required to recalibrate the space program to tap into the potential resources.

“The White House has clearly committed to economic development,” Autry said. “But frankly there is nobody in NASA ready to receive that message and run with it. They are talented and good people and many of them label themselves as ‘pro-commercial,’ but they’ve never lived inside the commercial world. A significant cultural change is required.”

Human Space Flight: A Record of Achievement, 1961-1998 (Upcoming Monograph 9)

Nasa’s first attempt to achieve human space flight was called the

Compiled by Judy A. Rumerman

NASA History Division
Office of Policy and Plans
NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC 20546

August 1998

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.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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 Shuttle.

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 and Apollo.

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 the gates.”

Vehicles: Redstone and Atlas launchers

Highlights: First American in space

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 SP­4201, 1966).

Wolfe, Tom. The Right Stuff. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979).

Mercury Astronauts. We Seven. (Simon and Schuster, 1962).

Mercury Redstone 3 (Freedom 7)

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 liftoff.

Mercury Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7)

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)

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.

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.

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.

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 in space.

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 electrical power.

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 supplies.

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 landing sites.

Vehicles: Titan 2 launcher

Number of People Flown: 20

Highlights: First orbital rendezvous and docking

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).

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.

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 operations.

Crew: L. Gordon Cooper. Jr. and Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Crew: Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. and Richard F. Gordon, Jr.

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 ship.

Crew: James A. Lovell, Jr. and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.

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 the Moon.

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, 1978).

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 SP­4009, 1973).

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, 1969).

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, 1969).

_____. Moon Rocks. (Dial Press, 1970).

_____. Thirteen: The Flight that Failed. (Dial Press, 1973).

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).

Crew: Walter M. Schirra. Jr., Donn F. Eisele, Walter Cunningham

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 vehicle.

Crew: Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., William A. Anders

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.

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.

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.

Crew: Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.

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.”

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.

Crew: James A. Lovell, Jr. Fred W. Haise, Jr., John L. Swigert, Jr.

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. Mitchell

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.

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.

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.

Crew: Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt

At the end of this last Apollo mission Eugene Cernan earned the distinction of becoming the last human to stand on the Moon — so far. While Ronald Evans circled in America , Jack 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)

Highlights: Longest duration space flights in U.S. history

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).

Crew: Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr., Paul J. Weitz, Joseph P. Kewin

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.

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 the 1980s.

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 materials science.

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.

Crew: Thomas P. Stafford, Vince D. Brand, Donald K. “Deke” Slayton

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 observation.

Vehicles: Saturn IB launcher, Apollo command module

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, 1978).

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

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 & Chang, 1984).

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

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 missions.

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.

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.

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 Force Base.

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.

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.

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 in space.

November 28­December 8, 1983

Crew: Young, Shaw, Parker, Garriott. PS: Byron Lichtenberg, Ulf Merbold

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.

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.

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: Charles Walker

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 was rescued).

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 were classified.

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.

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.

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 into orbit.

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.

Crew: Gibson, G. Garner, Mullone, Ross, Shepherd

Classified mission for the Department of Defense.

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.

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.

Crew: Shaw, Richards, Leestma, Adamson, M. Brown

Classified mission for the Department of Defense.

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.

Crew: F. Gregory, Blaha, Musgrave, K. Thornton, Carter

Classified mission for the Department of Defense.

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.

Crew: Creighton, Casper, Hilmers, Mullane, Thuot

Classified mission for the Department of Defense.

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.

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 cabin.

Crew: Corey, Culbertson, Springer, Meade, Gemar

Classified mission for the Department of Defense.

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 wavelengths.

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.

Crew: Coats, Hammond, Bluford, Harbaugh, Hieb, McMonagle, Veach

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.

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.

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.

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. Hennen

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 Support Payload.

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 processing experiments.

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 Discovery.

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.

Crew: Brandenstein, Chilton, Melnick, Akers, Hieb, Thornton, Thuot

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 1990.

The successful capture of the Intelsat VI satellite. Astronauts Richard J. Hieb, Thomas D. Akers, and Pierre J. Thuot have handholds on the satellite.

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.

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.

Crew: Gibson, Brown, Lee, Davis, Apt, Jemison, PS: Mamoru Mohri

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: Steven MacLean

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.

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.

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.

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 radio equipment.

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.

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 Clinton.

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.

Crew: Covey, Bowersox, Musgrave, Hoffman, Thornton, Akers, Nicollier

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 magnetometers.

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 electronics.

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.

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.

Crew: Cabana, Halsell, Hieb, Thomas, Walz, Chiao, PS: Chiaki Naito-Mukai

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.

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.

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.

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 handling techniques.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Crew: Baker, Jett, Wisoff, Grunsfeld, Ivins, Linenger, Blaha

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.

Crew: Bowersox, Horowitz, Tanner, Hawley, Harbaugh, Lee, Smith

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.

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.

Crew: Precourt, Collins, Clervoy, Noriega, Lu, Kondakova, Foale, Linenger

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.

Crew: Halsell, Still, Voss, Gernhardt, Thomas, Crouch, Linteris

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.

Crew: Brown, Rominger, Davis, Curbeam, Robinson, PS: Bjarni Tryggvason

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 Kadenyuk

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.

Crew: Wilcutt, Edwards, Reilly, Anderson, Dunbar, Sharipov, Thomas, Wolf

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.

Monographs in Aerospace History

Launius, Roger D., and Gillette, Aaron K. Compilers. The Space Shuttle: An Annotated Bibliography. (Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 1, 1992).

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 and Space. (Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 5, 1996).

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 in Aerospace History, No. 7, 1997).

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).

Giant Leaps: Biggest Milestones of Human Spaceflight, Space

Giant Leaps: Biggest Milestones of Human Spaceflight

Reaching for the Stars

April 12 marks two huge milestones in the history of human spaceflight. On that date in 1961, the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin became the first person in history to reach outer space. And exactly 20 years later, NASA launched the first space shuttle mission, debuting the workhorse vehicle that would carry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit for the next three decades.

There have been a lot of other “firsts” in the 50 years of human spaceflight. Here’s a look at some of the top milestones, from Gagarin’s historic flight to humanity’s first steps on the moon to the birth of space tourism.

The First Human in Space

On April 12, 1961, humanity slipped Earth’s surly bonds for the first time in our species’ history. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched into space inside a spherical Vostok 1 capsule, orbited Earth once during a 108-minute flight, then landed safely in a Russian field.

The flight was a major milestone for humanity, and another victory for the Soviet Union in its escalating Cold War space race with the United States. In October 1957, the Soviets had stunned the U.S. by placing the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in orbit around Earth.

Gagarin became a global celebrity after his return to terra firma. But he didn’t live to see some of the other human spaceflight achievements his mission helped set in motion, such as humanity’s first steps on the surface of the moon. Gagarin’s plane crashed during a military training flight in March 1968, killing the cosmonaut at the age of 34.

An American in Space

Less than a month after the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, the United States countered with a manned mission of its own. On May 5, 1961, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard launched aboard the Freedom 7 vehicle, becoming the second human being in space.

Shepard’s suborbital flight lasted only 15 minutes, carrying him to an altitude of 115 miles (185 km). He splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean just 302 miles (486 km) downrange of the Florida launch site. But the short trip marked the U.S.’s human spaceflight debut, laying the foundation for longer, more ambitious jaunts down the road.

The flight also showed that humans can pilot a vehicle during weightlessness and the rigors of re-entry. Shepard controlled many of the Freedom 7’s movements, while Gagarin’s flight was more automated.

The First Woman in Space

Space travel started out as an exclusively male endeavor, but it didn’t stay that way for long. On June 16, 1963, the Soviet Union’s Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space.

The 26-year-old Tereshkova piloted the Vostok 6 vehicle, completing 48 orbits of Earth and staying in space for nearly three days. Upon landing, she became a national hero, like her countryman Yuri Gagarin.

The first American woman didn’t reach space until two decades later, when Sally Ride flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.

The First Spacewalk

In 1965, the Soviet Union scored yet another victory in its Cold War space race against the United States, adding to the milestones it notched with Sputnik in 1957 and Yuri Gagarin in 1961.

On March 18, 1965, cosmonaut Alexey Leonov made history’s first spacewalk. He left the cozy environs of his Voskhod 2 spacecraft while in orbit around the Earth. Leonov stayed outside for 12 minutes, with only a spacesuit separating him from the frigid near-vacuum of space.

Leonov’s suit ballooned greatly while he floated in space, complicating his re-entry to the Voskhod. Nonetheless, the spacewalk was a signficant achievement — one the United States matched less than three months later, when astronaut Edward White stepped outside his Gemini IV spacecraft.

Apollo 8 Circles the Moon

In December 1968, humanity traveled farther from its home planet than it ever had before, making a trip around the moon and back.

NASA’s Apollo 8 mission launched on Dec. 21, made 1 1/2 orbits of Earth, then lit out for the moon. As the craft left Earth in its rear-view mirror, astronauts pointed a television camera back at our planet. For the first time, humanity had a good look at Earth from afar, seeing it as a precious blue marble suspended in the black emptiness of space.

The mission arrived in lunar orbit on Dec. 24. On that date, the three Apollo crewmembers beamed home an iconic shot of Earth hanging in space with the desolate lunar surface in the foreground. They then delivered an unforgettable Christmas Eve message to a nation in need of healing — an America riven by the Vietnam War, racial inequality and other crises.

Apollo 11: Humans Walk on the Moon

Most Americans of a certain age — and many people around the world — can tell you exactly where they were, and what they were doing, on the evening of July 20, 1969.

Chances are, they were glued to the TV. At 4:18 p.m. Eastern time on that date, the lunar module of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission touched down on the surface of the moon. Shortly thereafter, Neil Armstrong’s boot hit the lunar dirt, and the world heard perhaps the 20th century’s most famous sentence: “That’s one small step for man — one giant leap for mankind.”

Humanity had set foot on another world for the first time ever. Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin hopped around the lunar surface for more than 21 hours, collecting rocks, setting up experiments and planting an American flag (though they stopped short of claiming the moon for the United States). The world would never be the same.

Apollo 13: NASA averts a tragedy

NASA’s Apollo 13 moon mission launched on April 11, 1970. Two days later, an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module exploded about 200,000 miles (322,000 kilometers) from Earth. The blast damaged several of the spacecraft’s power, electrical and life-support systems, putting the three astronauts aboard in grave peril.

NASA engineers determined that the oxygen in the Apollo capsule would run out before the craft could find its way back to Earth. But they figured out that the crew could use the attached lunar module — which was unaffected by the explosion — as a sort of lifeboat to survive the harrowing trip home.

The gambit worked, and the three astronauts splashed down safely in the South Pacific on April 17. The events — which were popularized in the award-winning 1995 film “Apollo 13” — prompted NASA to reconsider many aspects of its human spaceflight program, and they solidified in the public eye the space agency’s reputation for problem-solving genius.

Space Race Adversaries Meet in Orbit

In July 1975, during a lull in Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, the two superpowers teamed up to make history’s first international manned spaceflight.

On July 15, NASA launched an Apollo spacecraft, which met up with a Soviet Soyuz in low-Earth orbit. In a mission known as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), the two vehicles rendezvoused and docked, and their crews performed several experiments over the course of two days.

The mission tested the compatibility of rendezvous and docking systems for the two nations’ spacecraft, and it laid the foundation for joint manned flights down the road. But the ASTP’s main significance may have been symbolic, showing the easing of tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

The ASTP is sometimes unofficially called “Apollo 18,” since it was the last of the Apollo missions. It was also the last U.S. manned space mission until the space shuttle’s maiden flight in April 1981.

The First Space Station

A decade after humans first made it to outer space, they finally got a place to stay up there. The Soviet Union launched the Salyut 1 — the world’s first space station — on April 19, 1971.

Salyut 1 was a far cry from today’s huge, complex International Space Station. The structure was reported to be about 66 feet long and 13 feet across at its widest point (20 by 4 meters). The first cosmonauts attempted to board Salyut 1 on April 23, 1971, but docking problems prevented them from entering the craft. Another crew — flying aboard the Soyuz 11 spacecraft — finally made it inside on June 7 of that year.

The Soyuz 11 crew stayed onboard Salyut 1 until June 29, completing 362 orbits of Earth before heading back home. Tragically, all three cosmonauts died when their capsule unexpectedly de-pressurized during preparations for re-entry.

The first real space station didn’t last long. On October 11, 1971, engineers fired Salyut 1’s engines for the last time, bringing the structure lower and lower. The craft soon burned up in Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

A Reusable Spaceship: NASA’s Space Shuttle Era Begins

April 12 is a special day in the history of human spaceflight. On that date in 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. And exactly 20 years later, NASA’s space shuttle — humanity’s first reusable space plane — made its maiden flight.

When Columbia blasted off on April 12, 1981, it initiated the next phase of the United States’ human spaceflight program. Over the next three decades, the various shuttles were workhorses, launching on a total of 133 missions. Two of these — Challenger’s STS-51-L mission in 1986 and Columbia’s STS-107 flight in 2003 — ended in tragedy, with the total loss of the shuttles and their crew.

Only two shuttle missions are left, as the shuttle program is slated to retire later this year. When that happens, NASA will begin concentrating on exploring asteroids and Mars — counting on the emerging private spaceflight industry to ferry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit over the long haul.

Chapter 4

Nasa’s first attempt to achieve human space flight was called the

View of the moon from Apollo 8.

[ 97 ] NASA’s first four manned spaceflight projects were Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab. As the first U.S. manned spaceflight project, Project Mercury-which included two manned suborbital flights and four orbital flights-“fostered Project Apollo and fathered Project Gemini.” 1 The second manned spaceflight project initiated was the Apollo manned lunar exploration program. The national goal of a manned lunar landing in the 1960s was set forth by President John F. Kennedy 25 May 1961:

. . . I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goals, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon-if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. 2

The interim Project Gemini, completed in 1966, was conducted to provide spaceflight experience, techniques, and training in preparation for the complexities of Apollo lunar-landing missions. Project Skylab was originality conceived as a program to use hardware developed for Project Apollo in related manned spaceflight missions; it evolved into the Orbital Workshop program with three record-breaking missions in 1973-1974 to man the laboratory in earth orbit, producing new data on the sun, earth resources, materials technology, and effects of space on man.

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was an icebreaking effort in international cooperation. The United States and the U.S.S.R. were to fly a joint mission in 1975 to test new systems that permitted their spacecraft to dock with each other in orbit, for space rescue or joint research.

As technology and experience broadened man’s ability to explore and use space, post-Apollo planning called for ways to make access to space more practical, more economical, nearer to routine. Early advanced studies grew into the Space Shuttle program. Development of the reusable space transportation system, to be used for most of the Nation’s manned and unmanned missions in the 1980s, became the major focus of NASA’s program for the 1970s. European nations cooperated by undertaking development of Spacelab, a pressurized, reusable laboratory to be flown in the Shuttle.

Apollo 11 command and service module being readied for transport to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, in left photo. Apollo 11 Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., below, setting up an experiment on the moon next to the lunar module. Opposite: the Greek god Apollo (courtesy of George Washington University).

[ 99 ] APOLLO . In July 1960 NASA was preparing to implement its long-range plan beyond Project Mercury and to introduce a manned circumlunar mission project-then unnamed-at the NASA/Industry Program Plans Conference in Washington. Abe Silverstein, Director of Space Flight Development, proposed the name “Apollo” because it was the name of a god in ancient Greek mythology with attractive connotations and the precedent for naming manned spaceflight projects for mythological gods and heroes had been set with Mercury. 1 Apollo was god of archery, prophecy, poetry, and music, and most significantly he was god of the sun. In his horse-drawn golden chariot, Apollo pulled the sun in its course across the sky each day. 2 NASA approved the name and publicly announced “Project Apollo” at the July 28-29 conference. 3

Project Apollo took new form when the goal of a manned lunar landing was proposed to the Congress by President John F. Kennedy 25 May 1961 and was subsequently approved by the Congress. It was a program of three-man flights, leading to the landing of men on the moon. Rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit of Apollo spacecraft components were vital techniques for the intricate flight to and return from the moon.

The Apollo spacecraft consisted of the command module, serving as the crew’s quarters and flight control section; the service module, containing propulsion and spacecraft support systems; and the lunar module, carrying [ 100 ] two crewmen to the lunar surface, supporting them on the moon, and returning them to the command and service module in lunar orbit. Module designations came into use in 1962, when NASA made basic decisions on the flight mode (lunar orbit rendezvous), the boosters, and the spacecraft for Project Apollo. From that time until June 1966, the lunar module was called “lunar excursion module (LEM).” It was renamed by the NASA Project Designation Committee because the word “excursion” implied mobility on the moon and this vehicle did not have that capability. 4 The later Apollo flights, beginning with Apollo 15, carried the lunar roving vehicle (LRV), or “Rover,” to provide greater mobility for the astronauts while on the surface of the moon.

Beginning with the flight of Apollo 9, code names for both the command and service module (CSM) and lunar module (LM) were chosen by the astronauts who were to fly on each mission. The code names were: Apollo 9-“Gumdrop” (CSM), “Spider” (LM); Apollo 10-“Charlie Brown” (CSM), “Snoopy” (LM); Apollo 11-“Columbia” (CSM), “Eagle” (LM); Apollo 12-“Yankee Clipper” (CSM), “Intrepid” (LM); Apollo 13-“Odyssey” (CSM), “Aquarius” (LM); Apollo 14-“Kitty Hawk” (CSM), “Antares” (LM); Apollo 15-“Endeavour” (CSM), “Falcon” (LM); Apollo 16-“Casper” (CSM), “Orion” (LM); Apollo 17-“America” (CSM); “Challenger” (LM).

The formula for numbering Apollo missions was altered when the three astronauts scheduled for the first manned flight lost their lives in a flash fire during launch rehearsal 27 January 1967. In honor of Astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee, the planned mission was given the name “Apollo l ” although it was not launched. Carrying the prelaunch designation AS-204 for the fourth launch in the Apollo Saturn IB series, the mission was officially recorded as “First manned Apollo Saturn flight-failed on ground test. “

Manned Spacecraft Center Deputy Director George M. Low had urged consideration of the request from the astronauts’ widows that the designation “Apollo l”-used by the astronauts publicly and included on their insignia-be retained. NASA Headquarters Office of Manned Space Flight therefore recommended the new numbering, and the NASA Project Designation Committee announced approval 3 April 1967.

The earlier, unmanned Apollo Saturn IB missions AS-201, AS-202, and AS-203 were not given “Apollo” flight numbers and no missions were named “Apollo 2” and “Apollo 3.” The next mission flown, the first Saturn V flight (AS-501, for Apollo Saturn V No. 1), skipped numbers.

Lunar Rover parked on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission.

. 2 and 3 to become Apollo 4 after launch into orbit 9 November 1967. Subsequent flights continued the sequence through 17. 5

The Apollo program carried the first men beyond the earth’s field of gravity and around the moon on Apollo 8 in December 1968 and landed the first men on the moon in Apollo 11 on 20 July 1969. The program concluded with Apollo 17 in December 1972 after putting 27 men into lunar orbit and 12 of them on the surface of the moon. Data, photos, and lunar samples brought to earth- by the astronauts and data from experiments they left on the moon-still transmitting data in 1974-began to give a picture of the moon’s origin and nature, contributing to understanding of how the earth had evolved.

APOLLO-SOYUZ TEST PROJECT (ASTP) . The first international manned space project, the joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. rendezvous and docking mission took its name from the spacecraft to be used, the American Apollo and the Soviet Soyuz.

On 15 September 1969, two months after the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, the President’s Space Task Group made its recommendations on the future U.S. space program. One objective was broad international.

The Apollo spacecraft approaches the Soyuz for docking in orbit, in the artist’s conception at top. Cosmonaut Aleksey A. Leonov and Astronaut Donald K. Slayton check out the docking module in a 1974 training session.

[ 103 ] . participation, and President Nixon included this goal in his March 1970 Space Policy Statement. The President earlier had approved NASA plans for increasing international cooperation in an informal meeting with Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Presidential Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry A. Kissinger, and NASA Administrator Thomas 0. Paine aboard Air Force One while flying to the July Apollo 11 splashdown. 1

The United States had invited the U.S.S.R. to participate in experiments and information exchange over the past years. Now Dr. Paine sent Soviet Academy of Sciences President Mstislav V. Keldysh a copy of the U.S. post-Apollo plans and suggested exploration of cooperative programs. In April 1970 Dr. Paine suggested, in an informal meeting with Academician Anatoly A. Blagonravov in New York, that the two nations cooperate on astronaut safety, including compatible docking equipment on space stations and shuttles to permit rescue operations in space emergencies. Further discussions led to a 28 October 1970 agreement on joint efforts to design compatible docking arrangements. Three working groups were set up. Agreements on further details were reached in Houston, Texas, 21-25 June 1971 and in Moscow 29 November-6 December 1971. NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low and a delegation met with a Soviet delegation in Moscow 4-6 April 1972 to draw up a plan for docking a U.S. Apollo spacecraft with a Russian Soyuz in earth orbit in 1975. 2

Final official approval came in Moscow on 24 May 1972. U.S. President Nixon and U.S.S.R. Premier Aleksey N. Kosygin signed the Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes, including development of compatible spacecraft docking systems to improve safety of manned space flight and to make joint scientific experiments possible. The first flight to test the systems was to be in 1975, with modified Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft. Beyond this mission, future manned spacecraft of the two nations would be able to dock with each other. 3

During work that followed, engineers at Manned Spacecraft Center (renamed Johnson Space Center in 1973) shortened the lengthy “joint rendezvous and docking mission” to “Rendock,” as a handy project name. But the NASA Project Designation Committee in June 1972 approved the official designation as “Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP),” incorporating the names of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. spacecraft. The designation was sometimes written “Apollo/Soyuz Test Project,” but the form “Apollo Soyuz Test Project” was eventually adopted. NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences announced the official ASTP emblem in March 1974. The circular emblem displayed the English word “Apollo” and the Russian [ 104 ] word ” Soyuz” on either side of a center globe with a superimposed silhouette of the docked spacecraft. 4

Scheduled for July 1975, the first international manned space mission would carry out experiments with astronauts and cosmonauts working together, in addition to testing the new docking systems and procedures. A three-module, two-man Soviet Soyuz was to be launched from the U.S.S.R.’s Baykonur Cosmodrome near Tyuratam on 15 July. Some hours later the modified Apollo command and service module with added docking module and a three-man crew would lift off on the Apollo-Skylab Saturn IB launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center, to link up with the Soyuz. The cylindrical docking module would serve as an airlock for transfer of crewmen between the different atmospheres of the two spacecraft. After two days of flying joined in orbit, with crews working together, the spacecraft would undock for separate activities before returning to the earth. 5

GEMINI . In 1961 planning was begun on an earth-orbital rendezvous program to follow the Mercury project and prepare for Apollo missions. The improved or “Advanced Mercury” concept was designated “Mercury Mark II” by Glenn F. Bailey, NASA Space Task Group Contracting Officer, and John Y. Brown of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. 1 The two-man spacecraft was based on the one-man Mercury capsule, enlarged and made capable of longer flights. Its major purposes were to develop the technique of rendezvous in space with another spacecraft and to extend orbital flight time.

NASA Headquarters personnel were asked for proposals for an appropriate name for the project and, in a December 1961 speech at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., then NASA Associate Administrator, described Mercury Mark II, adding an offer of a token reward to the person suggesting the name finally accepted. A member of the audience sent him the name “Gemini.” Meanwhile, Alex P. Nagy in NASA’s Office of Manned Space Flight also had proposed ” Gemini.” Dr. Seamans recognized both as authors of the name. 2

“Gemini,” meaning “twins” in Latin, was the name of the third constellation of the zodiac, made up of the twin stars Castor and Pollux. To Nagy it seemed an appropriate connotation for the two-man crew, a rendezvous mission, and the project’s relationship to Mercury. Another connotation of the mythological twins was that they were considered to be the patron gods of voyagers. 3 The nomination was selected from several made in NASA Headquarters, including “Diana,” “Valiant,” and “Orpheus”.

The Gemini 7 spacecraft was photographed from the window of Gemini 6 during rendezvous maneuvers 15 December 1965. Castor and Pollux, the Gemini of mythology, ride their horses through the sky (courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

. from the Office of Manned Space Flight. On 3 January 1962, NASA announced the Mercury Mark II project had been named “Gemini.” 4

After 12 missions-2 unmanned and 10 manned-Project Gemini ended 15 November 1966. Its achievements had included long-duration space flight, rendezvous and docking of two spacecraft in earth orbit, extravehicular activity, and precision-controlled reentry and landing of spacecraft.

The crew of the first manned Gemini mission, Astronauts Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young, nicknamed their spacecraft “Molly Brown.” The name came from the musical comedy title, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and was a facetious reference to the sinking of Grissom’s Mercury-[ 106 ] Redstone spacecraft after splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean 21 July 1961. “Molly Brown” was the last Gemini spacecraft with a nickname; after the Gemini 3 mission, NASA announced that “all Gemini flights should use as official spacecraft nomenclature a single easily remembered and pronounced name.” 5

Astronaut Edward H. White floats in space, secured to the Gemini 4 spacecraft.

MERCURY . Traditionally depicted wearing a winged cap and winged shoes, Mercury was the messenger of the gods in ancient Roman and (as Hermes) Greek mythology. 1 The symbolic associations of this name appealed to Abe Silverstein, NASA’s Director of Space Flight Development, who suggested it for the manned spaceflight project in the autumn of 1958. On 26 November 1958 Dr. T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator, and Dr. Hugh .

Full-scale mockups of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.

. L. Dryden, Deputy Administrator, agreed upon “Mercury,” and on 17 December 1958 Dr. Glennan announced the name for the first time. 2

On 9 April 1959 NASA announced selection of the seven men chosen to be the first U.S. space travelers, “astronauts.” The term followed the semantic tradition begun with “Argonauts,” the legendary Greeks who traveled far and wide in search of the Golden Fleece, and continued with “aeronauts”-pioneers of balloon flight. 3 Robert R. Gilruth, head of the Space Task Group, proposed “Project Astronaut” to NASA Headquarters, but the suggestion lost out in favor of Project Mercury “largely because it [Project Astronaut] might lead to overemphasis on the personality of the man.” 4

In Project Mercury the United States acquired its first experience in conducting manned space missions and its first scientific and engineering knowledge of man in space. After two suborbital and three orbital missions, Project Mercury ended with a fourth orbital space flight-a full-day mission by L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., 15-16 May 1963.

In each of Project Mercury’s manned space flights, the assigned astronaut chose a call sign for his spacecraft just before his mission. The choice of [ 108 ] “Freedom 7” by Alan B. Shepard, Jr., established the tradition of the numeral “7,” which came to be associated with the team of seven Mercury astronauts. When Shepard chose “Freedom 7,” the numeral seemed significant to him because it appeared that “capsule No. 7 on booster No. 7 should be the first combination of a series of at least seven flights to put Americans into space.” 5 The prime astronaut for the second manned flight, Virgil I. Grissom, named his spacecraft “Liberty Bell 7” because “the name was to Americans almost synonymous with ‘freedom’ and symbolical numerically of the continuous teamwork it represented.” 6

John Glenn, assigned to take the Nation’s first orbital flight, named his Mercury spacecraft “Friendship 7.” Scott Carpenter chose “Aurora 7,” he said, “because I think of Project Mercury and the open manner in which we are conducting it for the benefit of all as a light in the sky. Aurora also.

Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr., is hoisted out of the Friendship 7 spacecraft after splashdown in the Atlantic 20 February 1962. The god Mercury, poised for flight, at right (courtesy of the National Gallery of Art).

[ 109 ] . means dawn-in this case the dawn of a new age. The 7, of course, stands for the original seven astronauts.” 7 Walter M. Schirra selected “Sigma 7” for what was primarily an engineering flight-a mission to evaluate spacecraft systems; “sigma” is an engineering symbol for summation. In selecting “sigma,” Schirra also honored “the immensity of the engineering effort behind him.” 8 Cooper’s choice of “Faith 7” symbolized, in his words, “my trust in God, my country, and my teammates.” 9

SKYLAB . Planning for post-Apollo manned spaceflight missions evolved directly from the capability produced by the Apollo and Saturn technologies, and Project Skylab resulted from the combination of selected program objectives. In 1964, design and feasibility studies had been initiated for missions that could use modified Apollo hardware for a number of possible lunar and earth-orbital scientific and applications missions. The study concepts were variously known as “Extended Apollo (Apollo X)” and the “Apollo Extension System (AES).” 1 In 1965 the program was coordinated under the name “Apollo Applications Program (AAP)” and by 1966 had narrowed in scope to primarily an earth-orbital concept. 2

Projected AAP missions included the use of the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM). In one plan it was to be launched separately and docked with an orbiting workshop in the “wet” workshop configuration. The wet workshop-using the spent S-IV B stage of the Saturn I launch vehicle as a workshop after purging it in orbit of excess fuel-was later dropped in favor of the ” dry” configuration using the Saturn V launch vehicle. The extra fuel carried by the S-IV B when used as a third stage on the Saturn V, for moon launches, would not be required for the Skylab mission, and the stage could be completely outfitted as a workshop before launch, including the ATM. 3

The name “Skylab,” a contraction connoting “laboratory in the sky,” was suggested by L/C Donald L. Steelman (USAF) while assigned to NASA. He later received a token reward for his suggestion. Although the name was proposed in mid-1968, NASA decided to postpone renaming the program because of budgetary considerations. “Skylab” was later referred to the NASA Project Designation Committee and was approved 17 February 1970. 4

Skylab 1 (SL-1), the Orbital Workshop with its Apollo Telescope Mount, was put into orbit 14 May 1973. Dynamic forces ripped off the meteoroid shield and one solar array wing during launch, endangering the entire program, but the three astronauts launched on Skylab 2 (SL-2)-the first manned mission to crew the Workshop-were able to repair the spacecraft and completed 28 days living and working in space before their safe return.

Skylab Orbital Workshop photographed from the Skylab 2 command module during fly-around inspection. The Workshop’s remaining solar array wing, after second wing was ripped off during launch, is deployed below the ATM’s four arrays. The emergency solar parasol erected by the astronauts is visible on the lower part of the spacecraft. The cutaway drawing shows crew quarters and work areas.

[ 111 ] They were followed by two more three-man crews during 1973 . The Skylab 3 crew spent 59 days in space and Skylab 4 spent 84. Each Skylab mission was the longest-duration manned space flight to that date, also setting distance in-orbit and extravehicular records. Skylab 4, the final mission (16 November 1973 to 8 February 1974) recorded the longest in-orbit EVA (7 hours 1 minute), the longest cumulative orbital EVA time for one mission (22 hours 21 min in four EVAs), and the longest distance in orbit for a manned mission (55.5 million kilometers).

The Skylab missions proved that man could live and work in space for extended periods; expanded solar astronomy beyond earth-based observations, collecting new data that could revise understanding of the sun and its effects on the earth; and returned much information from surveys of earth resources with new techniques. The deactivated Workshop remained in orbit; it might be visited by a future manned flight, but was not to be inhabited again.

SPACE SHUTTLE . The name ” Space Shuttle” evolved from descriptive references in the press, aerospace industry, and Government and gradually came into use as concepts of reusable space transportation developed. As early NASA advanced studies grew into a full program, the name came into official use. * 1

From its establishment in 1958, NASA studied aspects of reusable launch vehicles and spacecraft that could return to the earth. The predecessor National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and then NASA cooperated with the Air Force in the X-15 rocket research aircraft program in the 1950s and 1960s and in the 1958-1963 Dyna-Soar (“Dynamic-Soaring”) hypersonic boost-glide vehicle program. Beginning in 1963, NASA joined the USAF in research toward the Aerospaceplane, a manned vehicle to go into orbit and return, taking off and landing horizontally. Joint flight tests in the 1950s and 1960s of wingless lifting bodies-the M2 series, HL-10, and eventually the X-24-tested principles for future spacecraft reentering the atmosphere.

Marshall Space Flight Center sponsored studies of recovery and reuse of the Saturn V launch vehicle. MSFC Director of Future Projects Heinz H. Koelle in 1962 projected a “commercial space line to earth orbit and the.

The Space Shuttle lifts off in the artist’s conception of missions of the 1980s, at left, with booster jettison and tank jettison following in sequence as the orbiter heads for orbit and its mission.

. moon,” for cargo transportation by 1980 or 1990. Leonard M. Tinnan of MSFC published a 1963 description of a winged, flyback Saturn V. 2 Other studies of “logistics spacecraft systems,” “orbital carrier vehicles,” and “reusable orbital transports” followed throughout the 1960s in NASA, the Department of Defense, and industry.

[ 113 ] As the Apollo program neared its goal, NASA’s space program objectives widened and the need for a fully reusable, economical space transportation system for both manned and unmanned missions became more urgent. In 1966 the NASA budget briefing outlined an FY 1967 program including advanced studies of “ferry and logistics vehicles.” The President’s Science Advisory Committee in February 1967 recommended studies of more economical ferry systems with total recovery and rescue possibilities. 3 Industry studies under NASA contracts 1969-1971 led to definition of a reusable Space Shuttle system and to a 1972 decision to develop the Shuttle.

The term “shuttle” crept into forecasts of space transportation at least as early as 1952. In a Collier’s article, Dr. Wernher von Braun, then Director of the U.S. Army Ordnance Guided Missiles Development Group, envisioned space stations supplied by rocket ships that would enter orbit and return to earth to land “like a normal airplane,” with small, rocket-powered “shuttle-craft,” or “space taxis,” to ferry men and materials between rocket ship and space station. 4

In October 1959 Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and Hughes Aircraft Company reported plans for a space ferry or “commuter express,” for ” shuttling” men and materials between earth and outer space. In December, Christian Science Monitor Correspondent Courtney Sheldon wrote of the future possibility of a “man-carrying space shuttle to the nearest planets.” 5

The term reappeared occasionally in studies through the early 1960s. A 1963 NASA contract to Douglas Aircraft Company was to produce a conceptual design for Philip Bono’s “Reusable Orbital Module Booster and Utility Shuttle (ROMBUS),” to orbit and return to touch down with legs [ 114 ] like the lunar landing module’s. Jettison of eight strap-on hydrogen tanks for recovery and reuse was part of the concept. 6 The press-in accounts of European discussions of Space Transporter proposals and in articles on the Aerospaceplane, NASA contract studies, USAF START reentry studies, and the joint lifting-body flights-referred to “shuttle” service, “reusable orbital shuttle transport,” and “space shuttle” forerunners. **

In 1965 Dr. Walter R. Dornberger, Vice President for Research of Textron Corporation’s Bell Aerosystems Company, published “Space Shuttle of the Future: The Aerospaceplane” in Bell’s periodical Rendezvous. In July Dr. Dornberger gave the main address in a University of Tennessee Space Institute short course: “The Recoverable, Reusable Space Shuttle.” 7

NASA used the term “shuttle” for its reusable transportation concept officially in 1968. Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller briefed the British Interplanetary Society in London in August with charts and drawings of “space shuttle” operations and concepts. In November, addressing the National Space Club in Washington, D.C., Dr. Mueller declared the next major thrust in space should be the space shuttle. 8 By 1969 “Space Shuttle” was the standard NASA designation, although some efforts were made to find another name as studies were pursued. 9 The “Space Shuttle” was given an agency-wide code number; the Space Shuttle Steering Group and Space Shuttle Task Group were established. In September the Space Task Group appointed by President Nixon to help define post-Apollo space objectives recommended the U.S. develop a reusable, economic space transportation system including a shuttle. And in October feasibility study results were presented at a Space Shuttle Conference in Washington. Intensive design, technology, and cost studies followed in 1970 and 1971. 10

[ 115 ] On 5 January 1972 President Nixon announced that the United States would develop the Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle would be a delta-winged aircraftlike orbiter about the size of a DC-9 aircraft, mounted at launch on a large, expendable liquid-propellant tank and two recoverable and reusable solid-propellant rocket boosters (SRBs) that would drop away in flight. The Shuttle’s cargo bay eventually would carry most of the Nation’s civilian and military payloads. Each Shuttle was to have a lifetime of 100 space missions, carrying up to 29 500 kilograms at a time. Sixty or seventy flights a year were expected in the 1980s.

Flown by a three-man crew, the Shuttle would carry satellites to orbit, repair them in orbit, and later return them to earth for refurbishment and reuse. It would also carry up to four scientists and engineers to work in a pressurized laboratory (see Spacelab) or technicians to service satellites. After a 7- to 30-day mission, the orbiter would return to earth and land like an aircraft, for preparation for the next flight.

At the end of 1974, parts were being fabricated, assembled, and tested for flight vehicles. Horizontal tests were to begin in 1977 and orbital tests in 1979. The first manned orbital flight was scheduled for March 1979 and the complete vehicle was to be operational in 1980.

SPACE TUG. Missions to orbits higher than 800 kilometers would require an additional propulsion stage for the Space Shuttle. A reusable “Space Tug” would fit into the cargo bay to deploy and retrieve payloads beyond the orbiter’s reach and to achieve earth-escape speeds for deep-space exploration. Under a NASA and Department of Defense agreement, the Air Force was to develop an interim version-the “interim upper stage (IUS),” named by the Air Force the “orbit-to-orbit stage (OOS),” to be available in 1980. NASA meanwhile continued planning and studies for a later full-capacity Space Tug. 11

Joseph E. McGolrick of the NASA Office of Launch Vehicles had used the term in a 1961 memorandum suggesting that, as capabilities and business in space increased, a need might arise for “a space tug-a space vehicle capable of orbital rendezvous and . . . of imparting velocities to other bodies in space.” He foresaw a number of uses for such a vehicle and suggested it be considered with other concepts for the period after 1970. McGolrick thought of the space tug as an all-purpose workhorse, like the small, powerful tugboats that moved huge ocean liners and other craft. The name was used frequently in studies and proposals through the years, and in September 1969 the Presidential Space Task Group’s recommendation for a [ 116 ] new space transportation system proposed development of a reusable, chemically propelled space tug, as well as a shuttle and a nuclear stage. 12

LARGE SPACE TELESCOPE. Among Shuttle payloads planned-besides Spacelab and satellites like those launched in the past by expendable boosters-was the Large Space Telescope (LST), to be delivered to orbit as an international facility for in-orbit research controlled by scientists on the ground. The LST would observe the solar system and far galaxies from above the earth’s atmosphere. On revisits, the Shuttle would service the orbiting telescope, exchange scientific hardware, and-several years later-return the LST to the earth.

LONG-DURATION EXPOSURE FACILITY. Another payload was to be placed in orbit for research into effects of exposure to space. The unmanned, free-flying Long-Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) would expose a variety of passive experiments in orbit and would later be retrieved for refurbishment and reuse.

SPACELAB . A new venture in space flight made possible by the Space Shuttle, Spacelab was to be a reusable “space laboratory” in which scientists and engineers could work in earth orbit without spacesuits or extensive astronaut training. The program drew the United States and Europe into closer cooperation in space efforts.

The name finally chosen for the space laboratory was that used by the European developers. It followed several earlier names used as NASA’s program developed toward its 1980s operational goal. In 1971 NASA awarded a contract for preliminary design of “Research and Applications Modules” (RAMs) to fly on the Space Shuttle. A family of manned or “man-tended” payload carriers, the RAMs were to provide versatile laboratory facilities for research and applications work in earth orbit. Later modules were expected to be attached to space stations, in addition to the earlier versions operating attached to the Shuttle. The simplest RAM mode was called a “Sortie Can” at Marshall Space Flight Center. It was a low-cost simplified. pressurized laboratory to be carried on the Shuttle orbiter for short “sortie” missions into space. 1 In June 1971 the NASA Project Designation Committee redesignated the Sortie Can the “Sortie Lab,” as a more fitting name. 2

When the President’s Space Task Group had originally recommended development of the Space Shuttle in 1969, it had also recommended broad international participation in the space program, and greater international cooperation was one of President Nixon’s Space Policy Statement goals in March 1970. NASA Administrator Thomas 0. Paine visited European.

A Spacelab module and pallet fill the payload bay of a scale-model Space Shuttle orbiter. The laboratory module is nearest the cabin.

. capitals in October 1969 to explain Shuttle plans and invite European interest, and 43 European representatives attended a Shuttle Conference in Washington. One area of consideration for European effort was development of the Sortie Lab. 3

On 20 December 1972 a European Space Council ministerial meeting formally endorsed European Space Research Organization development of Sortie Lab. An intergovernmental agreement was signed 10 August 1973 and ESRO and NASA initialed a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum was signed 24 September 1973. Ten nations-Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom-would develop and manufacture the units. The first unit was to be delivered to NASA free in the cooperative program, and NASA would buy additional units. NASA would fly Spacelab on the Shuttle in cooperative missions, in U.S. missions, and for other countries with costs reimbursed. 4

In its planning and studies, ESRO called the laboratory “Spacelab.” And when NASA and ESRO signed the September 1973 memorandum on cooperation NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher announced that NASA’s Sortie Lab program was officially renamed “Spacelab,” adopting the ESRO name. 5

[ 118 ] Spacelab was designed as a low-cost laboratory to be quickly available to users for a wide variety of orbital research and applications. Almost half the civilian Space Shuttle payloads were expected to fly in Spacelab in the 1980s. It was to consist of two elements, carried together or separately in the Shuttle orbiter: a pressurized laboratory, where scientists and engineers with only brief flight training could work in a normal environment, and an instrument platform, or “pallet,” to support telescopes, antennas, and other equipment exposed to space.

Reusable for 50 flights, the laboratory would remain in the Shuttle hold, or cargo bay, while in orbit, with the bay doors held open for experiments and observations in space. Seven-man missions, many of them joint missions with U.S. and European crew members, would include a three-man Shuttle crew and four men for Spacelab. Up to three men could work in the laboratory at one time, with missions lasting 7 to 30 days. At the end of each flight, the orbiter would make a runway landing and the laboratory would be removed and prepared for its next flight. Racks of experiments would be prepared in the home laboratories on the ground, ready for installation in Spacelab for flight and then removal on return. 6

One of the planned payloads was NASA’s AMPS (Atmospheric, Magnetospheric, and Plasmas-in-Space) laboratory, to be installed in Spacelab for missions in space. 7

At the end of 1974, life scientists, astronomers, atmospheric physicists, and materials scientists were defining experiment payloads for Spacelab. The first qualified flight unit was due for delivery in 1979 for 1980 flight. A European might be a member of the first flight crew. 8

* In January 1975, NASA’s Project Designation Committee was considering suggestions for a new name for the Space Shuttle, submitted by Headquarters and Center personnel and others at the request of Dr. George M. Low, NASA Deputy Administrator. Rockwell International Corporation, Shuttle prime contractor, was reported as referring to it as “Spaceplane.” (Bernie M. Taylor, Administrative Assistant to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, NASA, telephone interview, 12 Feb. 1975; and Aviation Week & Space Technology, 102 [20 January 1975], 10.)

** The Defense/Space Business Daily newsletter was persistent in referring to USAF and NASA reentry and lifting-body tests as “Space Shuttle” tests. Editor-in-Chief Norman L. Baker said the newsletter had first tried to reduce the name “Aerospaceplane” to “Spaceplane” for that project and had moved from that to “Space Shuttle” for reusable, back-and-forth space transport concepts as early as 1963. The name was suggested to him by the Washington, D.C., to New York airline shuttle flights. (Telephone interview, 22 April 1975.)

Application of the word “shuttle” to anything that moved quickly back and forth (from shuttlecock to shuttle train and the verb “to shuttle”) had arisen in the English language from the name of the weaving instrument that passed or “shot” the thread of the woof from one edge of the cloth to the other. The English word came from the Anglo-Saxon “scytel” for missile, related to the Danish “skyttel” for shuttle, the Old Norvegian “skutill” for harpoon, and the English “shoot.” (Webster’s International Dictionnary, ed.2 unabridged).

Space milestones: here are the missions to look forward to in 2020

Space milestones: here are the missions to look forward to in 2020


Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Space Science, University of Birmingham

Lecturer in Physics, Nottingham Trent University

Disclosure statement

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of Birmingham provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

Nottingham Trent University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

Last year was an excellent year for space exploration, with the icing on the Christmas cake the first ever image acquired of a black hole by the Event Horizon Telescope.

This year, 2020, is set to be interesting too. Here’s what to look out for.

Human spaceflight

The year 2020 is set to be quite a big one for human spaceflight, especially for private companies. Both SpaceX’s Dragon 2 and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft are due to conduct their first crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Both of these projects have been beset with delays, however in recent months both companies have completed a series of successful pre-flight tests.

These include multiple parachute drop tests and the ability of the capsules to rocket themselves free of their launcher in the event of some catastrophic failure. That said, an uncrewed orbital test flight for the Starliner in December failed to reach the ISS as planned, due to a software problem. SpaceX, on the other hand, has already completed an uncrewed orbital test flight of the Dragon 2, and currently expect to launch their first crewed ISS mission in the first quarter of 2020.

Not to be outdone, NASA is scheduled to launch Artemis-1 in November. This will be the first attempted flight of its new Space Launch System, and the Orion spacecraft built jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

This flight, though uncrewed, will take a human-rated spacecraft well beyond the orbit of the moon, before returning to Earth several weeks later. This will be a vital milestone on the road to returning people to the moon. It will also, if successful, be the furthest distance from Earth that a spacecraft which is capable of carrying humans has ever flown. The Orion spacecraft is comprised of the crew capsule, built by Lockheed Martin, with sufficient space to accommodate up to six people, and a service module built in Europe, by Airbus.

China is also planning to launch the first section of a new orbital space station in 2020. When complete, China’s new space station is expected to have about the same dimensions as the former Russian Mir, including a number of orbital laboratory modules and enough space to comfortably accommodate three crew members for extended periods in orbit.

Life on asteroids?

The Japanese Space agency (JAXA) launched the Hayabusa 2 mission in 2014, which managed to collect a few samples from the asteroid 162173 Ryugu. This should be arriving back at Earth this year. The procedure for achieving this was incredible. As the gravity of the asteroid is tiny, no force can hold a lander to the surface. The first sample of the surface involved firing a small pellet at the asteroid which caused regolith (soil) to be ejected from the surface. At the same time, the satellite approached the surface to collect the dust.

The mission also collected a sample from the inside of the asteroid – a region that hasn’t been exposed to the interstellar medium or the solar wind. This trickier task involved firing a 2.5kg object at high speed into the asteroid from a safe distance and then briefly landing to collect the material.

The samples will allow a detailed look at asteroid composition, giving us some idea of where they might have come from and whether they are capable of carrying life. This is important as it could provide evidence for or against the panspermia theory – the idea that life exists throughout the universe, and is spread by asteroids and meteorites.

Magnetic Mars

The China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) plans for 2020 are extensive. One of their most ambitious projects is a Mars rover – despite having not sent an orbiter to Mars to date.

The rover is aimed for launch in the summer, and should arrive in 2021. It has ground penetrating radar to give a view of the internal structure of Mars. This type of radar is also planned for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, due to launch in July. A combination of subsurface information from multiple sites and rovers will boost our knowledge of how Mars was formed.

Mars 2020 rover. Rawpixel Ltd/Flickr , CC BY-SA

Mars 2020 is set to be the first in a series of missions which will eventually return samples of Martian soil to Earth. The rover will also be measuring the climate and magnetic conditions of Mars. The planet lacks a global protective magnetic field, which leaves its atmosphere vulnerable to the effects of the solar wind.

ESA’s Rosalind Franklin Rover, Europe’s first ever attempted landing of a rover on the red planet, is also scheduled to launch in July. The rover will carry a suite of instruments designed to look for signs of past and present life on Mars. It will include a large drill which can burrow down to two metres to extract samples from well beneath the surface. Here, delicate organic structures are much better protected from the harsh radiation environment of the Martian surface.

A close up look at our star

In February, ESA will be launching a flagship solar mission: Solar Orbiter.

This spacecraft will join NASA’s Parker Solar Probe as a dedicated close range solar observatory. While not getting as close to the Sun as Parker, the Solar Orbiter will still spend much of its life well inside the orbit of Mercury, enduring temperatures of hundreds of degrees.

It will also, by way of numerous gravity assists from Venus, incline its orbit by up to 30° – enabling its array of instruments to peer at higher latitude regions of our star. It will conduct detailed observations of the sun’s magnetic field, and the outflow of plasma into the surrounding solar system called the solar wind.

These higher latitude observations should help scientists to more fully understand the magnetic solar activity cycle, which is still not fully understood. It is also hoped that by observing active regions in detail that extreme space weather event prediction can be improved.

NASA: 60 Years of Space Exploration, Space

NASA: 60 Years of Space Exploration

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is the U.S. government agency responsible for leading the nation’s explorations of space. Its mission is “to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.” Since its formation in 1958, NASA has taken to the skies both on and off Earth.

Today, NASA consists of 10 different centers spread around the country. But it got its start by scrapping together pieces from existing agencies.

Getting off the ground

As part of the International Geophysical Year (from July 1, 1957, to Dec. 31, 1958), a cooperative effort to gather scientific data about the Earth, President Dwight Eisenhower approved a plan to put into orbit a scientific satellite. The Soviet Union quickly announced its own intentions, and then surprised the world by launching Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, on Oct. 4, 1957.

“This had a Pearl Harbor effect on American public opinion, creating an illusion of a technological gap and provided the impetus for increased spending on aerospace endeavors,” NASA’s history website says.

The United States wasn’t far behind their Cold War rivals. After some setbacks and failed rocket launches, the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, reached orbit on Jan. 31, 1958. Not content to simply circle the Earth, Explorer 1 sought to study the planet and its environment.

“Explorer 1 was also a science mission,” Willis Jenkins, the program scientist for NASA’s Explorer Program, said on the agency’s website. “This wasn’t just launched to get a satellite up in space, it was meant to bring science data back down.”

Explorer 1 contained experiments that helped to identify the Van Allen radiation belts that surround the planet.

On Oct. 1, 1958, the United States consolidated its space exploration operations under a new agency, NASA, which replaced the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), founded in 1915 to explore aeronautical research when airplanes were just starting to take flight. Also absorbed by NASA were Langley Research Center in Virginia and Ames Research Center in California, both still operational today. NASA also incorporated other science groups, such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratoryin Pasadena, California, and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama.

Since then, NASA has launched a series of satellites, orbiters and landers to explore Earth, the moon, other planets and the distant reaches of space. [Space.com Topic: Space History Photos]

John Glenn aboard the spacecraft Friendship 7 during his historic orbital mission of Feb. 20, 1962. (Image credit: NASA/Chris Cohen)

Human explorers

On May 25, 1961, only 20 days after Alan Shepard had become the first American to reach space, President John F. Kennedy told the United States, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

With Kennedy’s announcement, getting to the moon became NASA’s priority. The Mercury and Gemini programs tested U.S. technology and human endurance in space. The Apollo program was designed to take the final steps toward the moon. There were challenges and setbacks, such as a fire that killed three Apollo 1 astronauts, but by 1968, the agency sent astronauts around the moon, with Apollo 8. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon, famously declaring, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The Apollo program continued until 1972, with 12 astronauts walking on the lunar surface over 6 landing missions.

A remote camera at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A captured this scene as the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia begins on April 12, 1981. Astronauts John W. Young, STS-1 commander, and Robert L. Crippen, pilot, were aboard Columbia as it begins a 54-hour orbital mission. (Image credit: NASA)

After the moon

Although humans had finished walking on the moon — at least temporarily — NASA continued to send them into space. In 1973, NASA’s Skylab program sent three human missions to stay aboard a relatively small workshop orbiting the Earth. “The Skylab program also served as a successful experiment in long-duration human spaceflight,” NASA’s website says.

In 1975, NASA and the Soviet Union cooperated to achieve the first international human spaceflight, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which successfully tested joint rendezvous and docking procedures for spacecraft from the two nations.

On April 12, 1981, NASA launched Columbia, the first space shuttle. The shuttle fleet eventually added four more ships — Atlantis, Challenger, Discovery and Endeavor — as well as Enterprise, a test shuttle that never made it to space. Two ships were lost in explosions, Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003, but when the program concluded in 2011, it had launched 135 missions and put more than 300 astronauts into space. [Photos: The Milestone Space Missions Launched from NASA’s Historic Pad 39A]

The United States began work on what would become the International Space Station (ISS) in 1984, with Russia and other international partners joining the venture in 1993. On Nov. 2, 2000, the first humans began to inhabit the ISS.

(Image credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com)

NASA, NASA everywhere

NASA headquarters are in Washington, D.C. Agency leaders there oversee activities conducted at the 10 research centers scattered around the country:

  • Ames Research Center, in Moffett Field, Calif., leads “research and development in aeronautics, exploration technology and science.”
  • Armstrong Flight Research Center, in Edwards, Calif., is NASA’s “lead center for atmospheric flight research, operations and testing.”
  • Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, Ohio, “designs and develops innovative technology to advance NASA’s missions in aeronautics and space exploration.”
  • Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., manages operations for the Hubble Space Telescope and communications between mission control and astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., is the leading center for robotic exploration of the solar system. Its missions include the Juno spacecraft, Kepler Space Telescope and the Mars Curiosity rover.
  • Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, is the home of NASA’s astronaut corps and center of mission control. NASA astronauts have long used “Houston” when addressing their handlers in Mission Control, exemplified by Jack Swigert’s famous utterance during 1970’s harrowing Apollo 13 moon mission: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
  • Kennedy Space Center, near Titusville, Fla., is America’s spaceport, hosting all of the federal government’s manned spaceflights since the late 1960s.
  • Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Va., has studied the challenges of flight for more than 100 years. Researchers at Langley designed the plane that broke the sound barrier, figured out how to stay in contact with astronauts in space, hunted for the best lunar landing spots and helped develop the space shuttle.
  • Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Ala., is where researchers design and build the engines, vehicles, space systems, instruments and science payloads for missions.
  • Stennis Space Center, in southern Mississippi, is a test site for rocket engines, including the Saturn V rockets that sent astronauts to the moon and the new Space Launch System.

Additional resources

  • NASA: A Brief History of NASA
  • NASA: Stories of Missions Past: Early Explorers
  • Sputnik and the Creation of NASA: A Personal Perspective — Eilene Galloway, often called “the grand matriarch of space law,” tells how she came to work for Lyndon B. Johnson and helped him bring NASA into existence.

India On Mars? Despite Failed Moon Landing Expect Orbital Spaceflight And Missions To Venus And Mars

India On Mars? Despite Failed Moon Landing Expect Orbital Spaceflight And Missions To Venus And Mars

Dr K Sivan, widely known as the Rocket Man of India, is a 62 year old home grown aerospace engineer, . [+] currently Chairman of the Indian space agency and head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) stands next to a diorama of space on August 26, 2019 in Bengaluru, India. The Indian space agency successfully lofted its second mission to the moon named Chandrayaan-2 or Moon Vehicle. The successful launch took place on July 22, 2019 from the Island of Sriharikota.(Photo by Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images)

UPDATE: India’s first attempt to land on the moon ended in failure on Friday, September 6, when contact was lost with the spacecraft when it was 2.1km above the lunar surface.

Despite the failure of Chandrayaan-2, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has ambitious plans for the exploration of space in the coming decade.

Next up comes a landmark mission to put Indian “gaganaut” astronauts into low-Earth orbit, balloons on Venus, and even an attempt to land on Mars.

Here’s everything you need to know about India in space.

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August 15, 2022. The 75th anniversary of India’s independence’s from the U.K. is ISRO’s target date to put three Indian astronauts into orbit for the first time. Its Gaganyaan (“Orbital Vehicle”) mission will put as many as three Indian “Gaganauts” into space. “India calls it human spaceflight rather than ‘manned’ spaceflight because it plans to send a woman,” says Pallava Bagla, science editor at New Delhi Television and an expert on the Indian space industry. “There is a crew module that has already been tested in a sub-orbital flight, and it can carry three people in space for up to seven days.” ISRO has a budget of US$1.4 billion for this mission.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants India’s Gaganauts in orbit by 2022, but it may happen sooner. Either way, before sending people there will likely be two uncrewed flights to tests systems.

The northern hemisphere is displayed in this global view of the surface of Venus. The north pole is . [+] at the center of the image. Magellan. (Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Shukrayaan-1: India on Venus

ISRO is also working on an exciting mission to send a probe to the planet Venus. “There’s a mission to Venus being planned that will have an orbiter that will release some metallic balloons into the atmosphere,” says Bagla. “It’s under planning, and they’re hoping to have the mission some time in the near future.” Possibly called Shukrayaan-1, it will be a mission primarily to study the surface and atmosphere of Venus.

Mars Orbiter Mission 2 (MOM2): India lands on Mars

“A return to Mars is also in the offing,” says Bagla. “The configuration has not been announced, but I presume it will be an attempt to put lander on Mars.” That would be one-up on India’s original Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan (“Mars-craft” in Sanskrit), a space probe that orbited Mars from 2014.

True-color image of Mars acquired by India’s Mars Orbiter mission on October 10, 2014, from an . [+] altitude of 76000 km.

ISRO / ISSDC / Justin Cowart

Mars Orbiter Mission 1 (MOM): India on Mars

ISRO’s proudest moment, Mangalyaan/MOM launched in November 2013 and arrived at the Red Planet in 2014. During its five-year mission it achieved much, but it’s gone down in history largely for its stunning affordability. Mangalyaan cost just $74 million, which is so much cheaper than anything NASA or ESA can achieve. For example, NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter cost around $672 million, while ESA’s Mars Express cost $329 million. NASA’s latest InSight lander cost $828 million.

However, Mangalyaan wasn’t just about saving money. It took some incredible images and was a source of much national pride and wonder in India, much like the original Chandrayaan-1 mission that orbited the moon in 2009 and helped to discover evidence of water on the lunar surface. “Some of the best pictures of the moon came from Chandrayaan-1 and the best pictures of the disk of Mars came from Mangalyaan,” says Bagla. MOM’s Mars Colour Camera captured over 980 images (many of which can be downloaded by the public), and graced the cover of National Geographic in 2016. Designed to last six months, Mangalyaan lasted until September 2018.

Mars Orbiter Mission image of the Tharsis volcano Arsia Mons, with an orographic cloud streaming . [+] away to the southeast. This image was taken by the orbiter on January 4, 2015, while the spacecraft was at an altitude of 10800 km.

ISRO / ISSDC / Justin Cowart

If you thought the Chandrayaan-2 mission to land near the moon’s south pole was ambitious, ISRO’s real tricks are coming up. “The chicken-hearted can’t do planetary missions,” says Bagla. “It’s only the brave hearted space agencies that do missions to other planets.”

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

NASA, Apollo, and the Outdated Language of Spaceflight – The Atlantic

The Outdated Language of Space Travel

“Manned” spaceflight doesn’t make sense anymore.

Peggy Whitson, the American record holder for time spent in space NASA

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series reflecting on the Apollo 11 mission, 50 years later.

Half a century ago, there was only one kind of astronaut in the United States. Men launched atop rockets to space. Men maneuvered landers down to the surface of the moon. Men guided spacecraft safely home. From start to finish, they were at the controls. So it makes sense that the effort to send people to orbit and beyond was called “manned” spaceflight.

But when Peggy Whitson hears someone call the spaceflight program “manned” today, she can’t stifle her physical reaction.

“I cringe a little bit,” Whitson says.

The terminology is simply no longer accurate, and Whitson, a former astronaut at NASA, is just one example why. Whitson served as commander on two missions to the International Space Station, and spent 665 days in space, more than any other American astronaut, man or woman. NASA retired the description years ago, saving it for historical references to its early days, and now uses human and crewed. But as the country commemorated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing last week, the obsolete language cropped up in discussions about the modern American spaceflight program and its future, in congressional hearings, national headlines (some of which were edited quietly after publication), and elsewhere.

It shouldn’t happen again. Manned is a woefully outdated choice of vocabulary to describe the actions of an organization that has employed female astronauts for the majority of its existence. Language matters, and this particular vernacular reinforces the notion, once held to be true, that space exploration is for men only. It does a disservice to the dozens of women who became astronauts after Apollo, and to those who dream of doing the same. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, once said. The same is true of what you can’t hear or read.

In 1962, Congress convened a hearing to discuss the possibility of training female astronauts, after a group of 13 women successfully completed the same tests NASA gave its male candidates, in some cases doing better than the men. “I think this gets back to the way our social order is organized, really,” John Glenn, who had become the first American to orbit Earth only months earlier, told members of Congress. “The men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes and come back and help design and build and test them. The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order.”

The group of female trainees was disbanded, and NASA went on to send dozens of men into orbit around Earth and to the moon, their journeys carefully monitored from Mission Control in the appropriately named Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.

That facility was renamed the Johnson Space Center in 1973, several months after the end of the sixth and final mission to touch down on the moon’s surface. The rebranding was a better match for NASA’s next chapter; the agency had just started sending robotic, passenger-free spacecraft beyond the moon and deeper into the solar system, the first in a long line of machines that would take over the work of exploring the cosmos. Of course, the agency had new terminology to go along with these new spacecraft, programmed and piloted from afar: unmanned.

The push into deep space coincided with the development of NASA’s next generation of astronaut transportation, the space-shuttle program. The massive shuttle could carry far more people than the cramped Apollo capsules, which meant the passenger list didn’t have to be limited, as it had been, to mostly military pilots such as Neil Armstrong. Suddenly, there was room for the astronaut corps to more closely resemble the general population, including the half who had long been excluded.

When NASA selected its first female astronauts in 1978, “manned” was still the standard label for spaceflight that included humans. It did not help that the needs of this new class of astronauts were often, and sometimes astonishingly, misunderstood. Before Ride became the first American woman in space, in 1983, NASA staffers asked her whether 100 tampons would be enough for her one-week mission in orbit.

“When you’re a bloke, terms such as ‘mankind’ automatically include you. You don’t have to think about it at all; you’re already in there,” Alice Gorman, an archaeologist who studies the history and heritage of space exploration, wrote on her blog in 2014. “Women have to ‘think themselves into’ such expressions, even if it happens at a subconscious level.”

Research has found that this feeling of exclusion can have real, measurable effects. Studies by the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1970s, when NASA first began to recruit women astronauts, showed that women were significantly less likely to apply for jobs with titles that ended in man rather than person. A similar effect was found among men, who avoided professions with feminine-sounding names.

Such thinking is difficult to dispel. A study of college students in 1988 found that those instructed to complete sentences about professionals using he and him were more likely to imagine men, even when the researchers said the pronouns applied to both men and women. When the students used gender-neutral language, they pictured fewer men as they wrote.

This subconscious reasoning can take root early. In a 2013 study, when elementary-school teachers described male-dominated professions, such as astronaut, using masculine rather than gender-neutral language, their female students were more likely to think that women in those roles were less successful.

Astronauts who joined NASA in the 1990s say the agency had shifted away from manned and toward gender-neutral language by the time they arrived. But vestiges of Apollo-era vernacular still floated around, in part because many engineers who worked those missions were still at NASA. “There was still a lot of the same—I don’t want to say mind-set in a negative sense—but, ‘We call it this because we call it this, and no one’s ever questioned it,’” says Danny Olivas, who became an astronaut in 1998.

Pamela Melroy, another now-retired astronaut, remembers the terminology coming up in jokes. She joined NASA in 1995, after working as a pilot in the Air Force. When Melroy and a female colleague boarded a T-38, a sleek two-seater jet that astronauts often use for commuting, “the guys out on the flight line would tease me that it was an unmanned mission,” Melroy says.

NASA formally codified its preference for crewed and human over manned to describe spaceflight in the early 2000s, as part of a “major overhaul” of the agency’s internal style guide, says Stephanie Schierholz, a NASA spokesperson. Today the entry appears as follows:

manned, unmanned. Avoid use. In many cases, the distinction is unnecessary or implied. Substitute terms such as autonomous, crewed, human, piloted, unpiloted, robotic, remotely piloted.

“Now if we could just get others to follow suit,” Schierholz says.

The shift in NASA nomenclature did not prompt a massive revision of history books, or a frantic rush to wipe any mention of manned from Apollo mission reports. It sought to capture the reality of the changing organization, an effort that is more common and less fraught than you might think. For example, in 2016, after the Pentagon opened all military combat roles to women, the Marine Corps removed man from 19 job titles.

These days, the idea of an American manned-spaceflight program is a phantom. The proposal for the next moon mission not only includes women astronauts; it is named for Artemis, Apollo’s sister in Greek mythology—a woman, albeit an imaginary one. Donald Trump’s administration has stressed that the crew of the next lunar journey, targeted for 2024, will include the first woman to walk on the moon. NASA needs buckets of money from Congress to carry out the effort, so its immediate future remains uncertain. But whether the next American trip to the moon launches five years from now or 50, it will not be a manned mission.

India s First Human Space Mission Planned For 2022: NPR

India Announces Plans For Its First Human Space Mission

Members of the press cover the launch of the solar-powered rover Chandrayaan-2 in September. The goal was a moon landing, but the craft crashed. Another attempt to send a rover to the moon is underway. Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Members of the press cover the launch of the solar-powered rover Chandrayaan-2 in September. The goal was a moon landing, but the craft crashed. Another attempt to send a rover to the moon is underway.

Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

India’s space agency says that four astronaut candidates have been selected for its first human mission, targeted to launch by 2022, but they’ve not been publicly named or identified.

India hopes to join the United States, Russia and China as the world’s fourth nation capable of sending people to space. It has been developing its own crewed spacecraft, called Gaganyaan (or “sky vehicle” in Sanskrit), that would let two to three people orbit Earth on a weeklong spaceflight.

K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, held a press briefing on New Year’s Day and told reporters that the four astronauts would start their training in Russia in a few weeks.

A Press Meet was organised today, January 01, 2020, at ISRO Headquarters, Bengaluru on the New Year’s Day. Dr K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO addressed and interacted with over hundred media persons during the meet.

He also said his agency had government approval for its next robotic moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, and that work is already underway. That mission could launch in 2021.

Sivan told reporters that this lunar effort would include a lander and a rover, much like the Chandrayaan-2 mission. Last year, India made an unsuccessful attempt to put a small solar-powered rover on the moon. Its landing system malfunctioned, and it crashed.

K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, announced plans for a moon mission and for the country’s first human space flight at a press conference Wednesday. Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, announced plans for a moon mission and for the country’s first human space flight at a press conference Wednesday.

Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

Last month, NASA released an image showing the debris field left on the moon by the doomed lander.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission also included an orbiting spacecraft, however, that is still circling the moon and functioning well. That means it can be used by Chandrayaan-3’s rover to relay communications back to Earth.

India’s first successful lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, put a spacecraft in orbit around the moon in 2008 and then later sent a probe hurtling toward the moon’s south pole, where it deliberately crashed and released material that got analyzed by the orbiter’s scientific instruments, helping to confirm the presence of water ice on the moon.

That orbiter stopped functioning after less than a year, but the success was a huge boost for India’s space program.

Then, in 2014, India put a satellite in orbit around Mars, beating its space rival China to the red planet and becoming the fourth national space agency to reach Mars.

So far, however, the only citizen of India to fly in space is Rakesh Sharma, an Indian Air Force pilot who traveled on a Russian spacecraft in 1984.

Apollo 11: 50 years after moon landing, here – s every mission explained – Business Insider

NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon 50 years ago. Here’s every historic Apollo mission explained.

  • NASA’s Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s landed the first humans on the moon.
  • Astronauts haven’t returned in more than 46 years. But NASA hopes to send robots there by 2022, followed by crewed missions in 2024.
  • Here’s a list of every Apollo mission and the highlights of what each one accomplished.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Fifty years ago this month, humans stepped onto the moon for the first time in history.

On July 16, 1969, the crew of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission — astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins — launched on a daring adventure. Four days later, on July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin landed a small spaceship on the lunar surface, crawled outside, and planted their boots into the ground along with an American flag and some scientific instruments.

Apollo 11 often hogs the history books, but many Apollo missions before it made the astronauts’ conquest possible, and the missions that followed added to the program’s long list of accomplishments. In total, NASA wound up putting 12 astronauts on the moon’s surface . In the roughly five decades since then, however, no US spacecraft has returned with people.

That may soon change, though.

In March, Vice President Mike Pence vowed that the US would put astronauts back on the moon by 2024. The first year of the program may cost $1.6 billion, and the goal is to eventually build a permanent lunar base, mine ice from craters, and split that water into fuel for more ambitious space exploration, like crewed visits to Mars.

In November 2018, NASA also announced that it was offering up to $2.6 billion in contracts to nine American companies that could land robotic probes on the moon by 2022. NASA does not want to buy the lunar landers or take responsibility for launching, landing, or controlling them. Instead, the space agency wants the private sector to deal with those challenges and bid on the opportunity to take NASA’s experiments to the moon.

NASA has since selected demonstration payloads that could go to the moon as part of that program — perhaps even by the end of this year.

Until new moon missions take off, here’s a look back at all of NASA’s Apollo missions, which flew between 1968 and 1972 and succeeded in putting the first humans on the moon.

The Apollo 1 mission was designed to launch a spacecraft into low-Earth orbit. But it ended in tragedy when a fire killed three astronauts in their spaceship during a routine pre-launch test.

Thick smoke filled the crew module of the Apollo 1 capsule on January 27, 1967. Three NASA astronauts — Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Edward White — were inside performing a routine test and were unable to open the hatch in time to escape the fire.

Emergency rescue teams rushed to the launchpad (located where the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is today), but they were too late.

An investigation revealed several issues with the capsule’s design, including an electrical wiring problem and flammable materials inside the crew cabin.

On the 50th anniversary of Apollo 1’s fatal fire, NASA displayed the hatch at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The deadly fire led NASA to postpone other planned crewed launches. No missions were labeled Apollo 2 or 3.

In the spring of 1967, NASA announced it would keep the designation of Apollo 1 for the mission that never occurred.

The rocket meant for Apollo 1 was later reassembled and used to launch Apollo 5.

The Apollo 4, 5, and 6 missions launched no astronauts but were critical in paving the way for crewed missions. They occurred between November 1967 and April 1968.

Apollo 4, which launched on November 9, 1967, was the first uncrewed test flight of NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which was developed to bring astronauts to the moon.

The mission was the first-ever launch from the Kennedy Space Center. It was a success for NASA, as it proved that Saturn V worked. At the time, the 363-foot-tall vehicle was the largest spacecraft to ever attempt flight.

Apollo 5 launched a few months later, on January 22, 1968. The mission successfully tested the ability of the Apollo Lunar Module — the spacecraft designed to land on the moon’s surface — to perform descent and ascent maneuvers.

The Apollo 6 launch followed on April 4, 1968. The mission aimed to show that the Saturn V rocket was capable of trans-lunar injection, which puts a spacecraft on its path to the moon. But the system quickly ran into problems: Two of the five engines shut down unexpectedly, and the spacecraft could not propel itself into orbit.

Despite the issues with Apollo 6, NASA pushed ahead with plans for its first crewed launch.

Apollo 7 launched on October 11, 1968, and it was the first crewed test of the spaceship that was built to orbit the moon. It was also the first live-TV broadcast of Americans in space.

The Apollo 7 crew, comprised of astronauts Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham, achieved the original goal of Apollo 1: launching a spacecraft with people inside into low-Earth orbit.

Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham spent more than 10 days in space while orbiting Earth 163 times. At the time, t hat was more time in space than all of the previous Soviet missions combined, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum,

To lower the risk of a cabin fire during liftoff, NASA designed the command module’s atmosphere to have 60% oxygen and 40% nitrogen. (A higher percentage of oxygen would have increased the risk.) The cabin atmosphere gradually adjusted to pure oxygen shortly after liftoff.

On Christmas Eve of 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Jim Lovell, William Anders, and Frank Borman became the first people to orbit the moon.

The purpose of the Apollo 8 mission was to study and take pictures of the moon’s surface.

In addition to achieving a historic and important space-travel milestone, Apollo 8 also became known for the famous “Earthrise” photo that the astronauts captured.

It was the first time humans saw what our planet looks like from space, a moment that one Apollo-era astronaut describes as humanity’s “cosmic birth” as space travellers.

Earthrise has become one of the most reproduced space photos in history, appearing on posters, US postage stamps, and even Time magazine’s cover in 1969.

The Apollo 9 mission stayed in low-Earth orbit and tested all the major components that would be essential for a lunar landing. It featured the first crewed test of the spacecraft designed to land on the moon.

Apollo 9 launched on March 3, 1969, carrying astronauts James McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell Schweickart.

After a successful 10-day mission, the astronauts splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean.

Apollo 10, the first of three crewed moon missions that took place in 1969, was described as a “dress rehearsal” for the first lunar landing.

Astronauts John Young, Thomas Stafford, and Eugene Cernan launched atop a Saturn V rocket on May 18, 1969. The men came closer to the lunar surface than any astronaut before them.

Young, Stafford, and Cernan also got farther from Earth than anybody before.

The Apollo 10 mission included a test of a lunar lander that was similar to the one later used for the first moon landing. The lander, named Snoopy, was designed to travel most of the way down to the surface (but not all the way) so the astronauts could test its performance and use it to survey the future landing site.

Stafford and Cernan successfully piloted Snoopy to about 50,000 feet above the moon’s surface before returning to the main spaceship, where Young had remained.

An estimated 530 million people around the world watched as Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Armstrong famously called the historic achievement a “giant leap for mankind.” Buzz Aldrin followed him onto the lunar surface, while their crew mate Michael Collins stayed on the main spacecraft in orbit around the moon.

After the three astronauts returned to Earth, they were quarantined for 21 days to make sure they did not bring home any lunar contagions. Armstrong turned 39 during the confinement.

Until the Apollo 11 mission, Russian cosmonauts had been ahead of the US at almost every turn in the Cold War space race. At the time, many Americans did not believe spending $24.5 billion on the Apollo missions was worth it, and some people protested NASA’s eight-year effort to land on the moon. Newly publicized documents suggest today that a once-classified anomaly risked killing the Apollo 11 crew during their return to Earth.

Astronauts had other near-death experiences in the years leading up to the moon landing, too. In March 1966, Armstrong and co-pilot David Scott were almost lost in space during the Gemini 8 mission. This was the first attempt to dock one spacecraft with another while in orbit, an essential step in a moon landing. But soon after takeoff, a thruster malfunctioned, which sent Armstrong and Scott spinning out of control. Luckily, they found a way to regain control of the spacecraft by powering thrusters.

A few months after Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, NASA sent another spacecraft to the lunar surface in the Apollo 12 mission.

The Apollo 12 mission was neither as historic as its predecessor nor as scary as the near-disaster of Apollo 13. But Apollo 12 was not without drama.

The mission, which launched on November 14, 1969, was almost aborted minutes of takeoff because lightning struck the spacecraft and scrambled the rocket’s instruments. Many of the instruments were disabled completely after a second lightning strike.

At the time, NASA was unsure whether the mission could safely continue. But the mission wound up being successful — a stronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean landed on the lunar surface while Richard Gordon circled the moon.

The Apollo 13 mission blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970, but things went terribly wrong about 56 hours into the trip to the moon.

An oxygen tank exploded and damaged the cabin of the spaceship that housed a stronauts Fred Haise, Jack Swigert, and Jim Lovell. The blast caused the spacecraft to lose its ability to generate water and power within three hours of this malfunction, and the astronauts’ oxygen stores were lost, too.

The lunar module, which was supposed to land two of the men on the moon, became the astronauts’ “lifeboat” as they abandoned the main spaceship. But that small spacecraft was only built for two people, so the lithium hydroxide canisters that absorbed carbon dioxide gas from the air were used up quickly.

The astronauts were at risk of dying from high levels of the gas but managed to retrofit the main ship’s gas-absorbing canisters to fit into openings on the lunar module. They circled the moon but did not attempt the landing that had been planned. The crew landed safely in the South Pacific on April 17, 1970, and NASA called the mission a “successful failure.”

NASA made another successful lunar landing the following year. Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa launched from the Kennedy Space Center on January 31, 1971.

The spacecraft’s destination was the same as the aborted Apollo 13 mission’s: the moon’s Fra Mauro highlands.

Apollo 14 collected more lunar material and data than originally planned to make up for Apollo 13’s failure to reach the moon’s surface.

Astronauts used a wheeled Lunar Roving Vehicle for the first time during the Apollo 15 mission to study the moon’s geology.

NASA astronauts David Scott, James Irwin, and Alfred Worden made up the Apollo 15 crew.

Using a vehicle helped Scott and Irwin to travel farther from the lunar lander than others before them. The samples that the Apollo 15 astronauts brought back included a rock estimated to be 4 billion years old.

Apollo 15, along with the two missions that followed it, featured a television camera on the lunar rover, an updated lunar module that let crews stay on the moon for longer than before, and redesigned backpacks that let astronauts spend more time on the lunar surface.

NASA used the Apollo 16 mission to explore the moon’s highlands for the first time.

Astronauts John Young, Thomas Mattingly, and Charles Duke comprised the crew.

On April 20, 1972, 36-year-old Duke became the youngest human in history to walk on the lunar surface. Duke also made headlines for leaving a photo of him, his two sons, and his wife on the moon.

“I’d always planned to leave it on the moon,” Duke previously told Business Insider. “So when I dropped it, it was just to show the kids that I really did leave it on the moon.”

After more than 20 hours of experiments on the lunar surface, Young and Duke collected roughly 210 pounds of samples. But Duke said he had a brush with death while trying to pull off a “Moon Olympics” high jump on the lunar surface.

“I learned a lesson: Never do anything in space that you haven’t practiced,” Duke said.

Apollo 17 was the last mission to bring people to the moon.

Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan is still the last person to walk on the lunar surface. Compared to previous missions, this trip collected the most rock and soil samples from the moon.

During the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, astronauts also installed heat-flow experiments to gather data on the moon’s temperature. Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research analyzed that data and concluded that NASA astronauts likely warmed up the moon’s surface temperature by as much as 6 degrees Fahrenheit by walking around.

According to the study, walking on the moon and driving rovers around caused dark moon dust called regolith to be exposed. This likely prompted the moon’s surface to heat up, the scientists said, because darker materials absorb more light.

Nearly half a century has passed since the Apollo 17 mission, but NASA is now working to get astronauts back to the moon’s surface.

President Donald Trump has directed NASA to put astronauts on the moon again by 2024.

“We’ve been given an ambitious and exciting goal. History has proven when we’re given a task by the president, along with the resources and the tools, we can deliver,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a release. “We are committed to making this happen.”

NASA is planning to build a lunar landing system for astronauts in a public-private partnership with US companies. The agency has already partnered with SpaceX and Boeing to develop spaceships that can carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The first crewed launches of those ships could happen later this year.

Correction: A previous version of this story suggested that Apollo 13 turned around. The astronauts circled the moon but did not land.