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Ups and Downs for April

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1993 STS-55 launch

Crew: Steve Nagel (CDR); Terry Henricks (P); Jerry Ross, Charles Precourt, Bernard Harris (MS); Ulrich Walter, Hans Schlegel [both Germany] (PS)


55th Shuttle mission; 14th flight of Columbia

This was Spacelab D-2, the second mission financed by the German Space Agency. However eleven nations participated in the experiments, which included fluid physics, materials, life and biological sciences, technology, Earth observations, atmospheric physics and astronomy. To allow round-the-clock operations the crew worked in two shifts: Nagel, Henricks, Ross and Walter formed the Blue Team, with the other three making up the Red Team.



2003 Soyuz TMA-2 launch

Crew: Yuri Malenchenko (CDR); Edward Lu (FE)


This was ISS Expedition 7, the first flight since the Columbia accident and thus carrying a reduced caretaker crew. With the Shuttle grounded, supply flights would be confined to Progress freighters and operations had to be scaled back: thus the ISS would operate with only two residents for the time being. Docking was achieved two days into the mission and the new arrivals worked in conjunction with the returning Expedition 6 crew until their departure on 4 May. This was actually the second time that Malenchenko and Lu had flown together: they were both members of the STS-106 crew in 2000, one of the last flights to the ISS before it began permanent operations,

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1972 Apollo 16 splashdown

Crew: John Young (CDR); Charlie Duke (LMP); Ken Mattingly (CMP)

Splashdown site: 0° 70' S, 156° 22' W (2000 km south of Hawaii)


The Command Module landed safely with no recurrence of the parachute problem suffered by Apollo 15. While in lunar orbit the CSM had carried out a scientific survey including surface photography, and during the flight home Mattingly got his turn in the spotlight by performing an EVA to retrieve the film cassettes from the SIMBAY in the Service Module. Duke stood with his upper body projecting from the Command Module hatch and was thus credited with a Stand-up EVA; this lasted 1h 23m.



1989 Soyuz TM-7 landing

Crew: Aleksandr Volkov (CDR); Sergei Krikalev (FE); Valeri Polyakov (RC)

Landing site: 140 km NE of Dzheskasgan


Volkov and Krikalev had been Mir Expedition 4; their flight time was 151d 11h 8m, 2,396 orbits. Polyakov had been aloft even longer, having been launched aboard Soyuz TM-6 the previous August: he was also part of Expedition 3 and had been in space for 240d 22h 34m and 3,812 orbits.



2012 Soyuz TMA-22 landing

Crew: Anton Shkaplerov (CDR); Anatoli Ivanishin, Daniel Burbank [USA] (FE)

Landing site:  50°57'20.40"N, 67°09'51.80"E (88 km north-northeast of Arkalyk)


ISS Expeditions 29/30. Flight time 165d 7h 32m; 2,580 orbits. This was the last flight of the Soyuz TMA craft: it would be replaced by the TMA-M variant, which had already flown twice and would be in service for the next four years.


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1961 Little Joe 5B


Three days after the MA-3 fiasco, the engineers made one last attempt to simulate a Max-Q abort on the final Little Joe flight, using the refurbished capsule which first flew on Little Joe 5A. But even now their efforts were thwarted as one of the four solid-fuel rockets failed to fire and the vehicle followed a trajectory somewhat shallower than planned: a peak altitude of a mere 4.5km, just a third of what was expected. But the LES was set off at the planned time, 33 seconds after lift-off, with the result that the dynamic forces on the spacecraft were twice the worst that an Atlas would experience. The capsule landed safely in the ocean, having been subjected to three times the anticipated G-forces, though again an astronaut would have survived the experience.



1991 STS-39 launch

Crew: Michael Coats (CDR); Lloyd Hammond (P); Greg Harbaugh, Don McMonagle, Guy Bluford, Charles Veach, Rick Hieb (MS)


40th Shuttle mission; 12th flight of Discovery

This was a Department of Defense flight, the first not to be classified. An experiment pallet was deployed and later retrieved, carrying various instruments including one which monitored the Orbiter's engine firings drom a distance, allowing the infrared signature to be analysed. The mission also carried an Air Force package which observed targets such as the atmosphere, the aurora and stars in infrared, far ultraviolet, ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths. 



2001 Soyuz TM-32 launch

Crew: Talgat Musabeyev (CDR); Yuri Baturin (FE); Dennis Tito [USA] (SP)


This was the first Taxi Flight to the ISS: the crew would return to Earth aboard TM-31, leaving their fresher Soyuz behind for use by the Expedition 2 crew. Dennis Tito became the first space tourist, paying $20 million for his trip to space. NASA was unhappy about this: Administrator Daniel Goldin felt it was inappropriate for paying visitors to be present on the station, particularly while it was still under construction, feeling it was an unacceptable risk. However the Russians were determined, not least because they needed the cash injection, and NASA agreed to the flight on certain conditions, including that Tito be accompanied if he entered certain areas of the station--in practice this meant the US segments.

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1985 STS-51B launch

Crew: Robert Overmyer (CDR); Drew Gregory (P); Don Lind, Norm Thagard, William Thornton (MS); Taylor Wang, Lodewijk van den Berg (PS)


17th Shuttle mission; seventh flight of Challenger

Carried Spacelab 3, actually only the lab’s second flight and the first in a fully operational configuration. Fifteen different experiments were carried out in five scientific disciplines: materials science, life sciences, fluid mechanics, atmospheric physics and astronomy. As part of the life sciences studies, two monkeys were carried, though they were deliberately not given names.


Though it was not revealed at the time, it was discovered that the vehicle had suffered an O-ring problem identical to that which caused the STS-51L tragedy: an engineer from Morton Thiokol (builders of the SRBs) told Don Lind that “you came within three-tenths of one second of dying".



1990 STS-31 landing

Crew: Loren Shriver (CDR); Charlie Bolden (P); Bruce McCandless, Steve Hawley, Kathy Sullivan (MS)

Landing site: Edwards AFB


This mission had deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as carrying a number of secondary payloads studying Protein Crystal Growth and one researching polymers, catalysts and superconductors. Flight time was 5d 1h 16m.

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2004 Soyuz TMA-3 landing

Crew: Aleksandr Kaleri (CDR); Michael Foale [USA], André Kuipers [Netherlands] (FE)

Landing site: 50° 39' N, 67° 27' E (59 km northeast of Arkalyk)


Kaleri and Foale had been the caretaker ISS Expedition 8 crew, with a flight time of 194d 18h 33m and 3,054 orbits. Kuipers had been launched alongside their replacements, and had been in space for 10d 20h 52m, 171 orbits.

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