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

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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).

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Pitts, John A. The Human Factor: Biomedicine in the Manned Space Program to 1980. (NASA SP­4213, 1985).

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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).

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