Author Topic: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space  (Read 48303 times)

Offline Ares67

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Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« on: 01/22/2012 06:07 PM »

Offline Ares67

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #1 on: 01/22/2012 06:09 PM »
My first thought back then was: “First a politician, now a prince – okay, what’s next? The Pope? – And how on Earth are they going to place this name on a crew patch!”

But Mission 51-G not only became literally a royal effort in space, it was one of the smoothest Shuttle missions to date. The first flight of a crew consisting of representatives from three nations – USA, France and Saudi-Arabia – had a lot of tasks on their agenda: Launching three telecommunications satellites, releasing and retrieving a reusable science platform, performing a bulk of life sciences and geological studies – they even got shot at by the Air Force during an SDI-related laser-experiment…

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #2 on: 01/22/2012 06:13 PM »
France became the first nation making spaceflights with both the USA and the Soviet Union. Patrick Baudry had been Jean-Loup Chrétien’s backup during Soyuz T-6 in June 1982; three years later they took turns performing the same space adaptation syndrome experiments. This time Baudry could start data collection immediately after Discovery had reached orbit; due to cramped quarters aboard the Soyuz capsule Chrétien had to wait two days for that, until he had reached the Salyut 7 space station. 

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #3 on: 01/22/2012 06:16 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #4 on: 01/22/2012 06:18 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #5 on: 01/22/2012 06:21 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #6 on: 01/22/2012 06:23 PM »
His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud – and yes, his family name was short enough to be put on the crew patch – was the first member of a royal family to be sent into space. He was a nephew of then Saudi King Fahd; his father Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz was Governor of Riyadh at the time. Due to the launch contract between the Arabsat organization and NASA, one of its 22 member countries was permitted to select a payload specialist, which was to accompany Arabsat 1-B aboard the shuttle. Saudi Arabia was the largest funder of Arabsat, and so Prince Sultan, Acting Director of the Department of Advertising in the Saudi Ministry of Information, won the slot. In 1984 he already had represented his country as PR manager during the Los Angeles Olympiad.

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #7 on: 01/22/2012 06:26 PM »
At 28 years Prince Sultan would become the youngest astronaut aboard an American spacecraft (The all-time record is held by Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov, who was 25 when he was launched aboard Vostok 2 in 1961- four month after the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, who had been 27 when Vostok 1 left the Earth) By the way – during Mission 51-B in April 1985 American astronaut Bill Thornton at 56 had just retained his record as oldest person in space.

During his short training at Johnson Space Center Prince Sultan, himself a commercial pilot, was accompanied by 36-year old Saudi Air Force Major Abdul Mohsen Hamad Al-Bassam, who acted as his backup.

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #8 on: 01/22/2012 06:33 PM »
With the beginning of the Space Shuttle program NASA had invited spaceflight participants from several foreign countries. But for the first time cultural and religious aspects played a role in media reports about a Shuttle Mission – and I don’t mean Frenchman Patrick Baudry wearing a beret during O&C walkout and speculations that he may smuggle a bottle of red wine aboard the orbiter. The first Arab astronaut, though he had studied mass communications at the University of Denver, Colorado, and was no stranger to western lifestyle, represented a highly conservative and religious country. Saudi society segregates men and women in many aspects of public life – and here was Prince Sultan, sharing quarters with Shannon Lucid aboard Discovery. And Shannon would be wearing shorts… :o (More about that later)

June 17, 1985 – the day of Discovery’s launch – also marked the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan. The sighting of the new crescent moon at the end of the dawn-to-dusk fast and the start of the Id al-Fitr holiday was an important event to be observed by the first Muslim astronaut. And of course Prince Sultan had to explain to insisting press representatives how he would perform his other religious commitments aboard Discovery – floating in zero-g, circling the Earth every 90 minutes…

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #9 on: 01/22/2012 06:42 PM »
Mission STS 51-G made astronaut Steve Nagel the 100th American in space – here are his recollections as recorded by JSCs Oral History Project: ‘Oh, I’m trying to remember now. I think it was like in the summer or so of ’83, I think it was. And it wasn’t called 51-G then. I was assigned to 51-D, I believe was the first—there were so many changes on that assignment. I’ve lost track, actually, but I think we had a TDRS satellite first. We were going to start training for a TDRS satellite. There was so much turmoil in the manifest at that time, there was just no stability at all. The crew assigned was Dan Brandenstein, John Creighton, John Fabian, and myself and Shannon Lucid. And we had two payload specialists, I think, with us from the beginning, was Greg Jarvis and Charlie Walker. I think they were assigned with us from the beginning.

The TDRS, at some point in time that flight changed to be LDEF retrieve. Do you remember what that was? The Long Duration Exposure Facility. So we trained for that one with those two PSs, right up to—this is kind of funny, because we did our preflight press conference, which we’re talking like a month or less, three to four weeks before the flight. We did our preflight press conference about the LDEF, walked back to the Astronaut Office, and we didn’t have the flight anymore. It was gone.’

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #10 on: 01/22/2012 06:45 PM »
‘And so we’re shuffling, and I can’t remember the reasons for all this. But anyway, okay, so we’re shuffling again. This is like March of ’85 by that time. Dan, I owe Dan a lot. He is a real people person, and before I even thought about it—I’m jumping ahead here. Sorry. But somewhere in that process when I was training for 51-G, Mr. Abbey assigned me to another flight. So I had two flights going. He assigned me to 61-A, a German Spacelab flight. Great, as a pilot. And the two flights were sitting about a year apart or so. The spacing was nice.

Well, 51-D, then G, just kept slipping, and the other one didn’t. So we just kept crowding the other flight, so when we got back from this press conference and lost our flight, and now we’re going to be in the summer, now those two flights are like four months apart. Before I even thought about that, I wasn’t even thinking about it yet, Dan said, “You’re in trouble here.” So he went over and talked to Mr. Abbey about it that day, and negotiated for me to stay on both flights, that I could train for both for a while, then stop training for the second one, finish out the first one. I don’t think they’d ever do that today. So I owe Dan—the fact that I was able to hang on to both of those. That worked out nicely.’

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #11 on: 01/22/2012 06:49 PM »
'So anyway, then we pick up two other PSs. Just because of change in flights, we lost Greg and Charlie, and we picked up Sultan and Patrick. Sultan al-Saud. There’s a “Bin” with a lot of other names in the middle. I can’t remember. And so that whole experience was funny, too, because a different mission—okay. Here it is March. We’re going to fly in June. It’s a different mission. We had different satellites. We’ve got all this other stuff to train for, and now we’ve got two other PSs, and one is from Saudi Arabia. And Dan, again, being the people person he is, is worried about a cultural gap. So he arranged for ARAMCO, Arab American Oil Company, to come down and give us some briefings on the cultural differences.

This is humorous. I remember they were good briefings, very good briefings. But I remember he says, “No camel jokes. No harem jokes. Don’t do that around them.” So after all that, we go over and we meet Sultan over in Building 32 there, and the first thing he told us was a camel joke and a harem joke. :D

He had gone to school at the University of Denver he’d been around the world. I mean, he was more western in some ways, anyway, than most of us. Very well educated. Really nice guy. He gets with Dan. All of us were sitting around the table, and he said—we don’t even know each other yet, and he said, “I want to fly a camel.” And Dan thought he said “camera.” And Dan said, “No, no, it’s okay. NASA provides all the cameras. You don’t need to bring your own camera.” He said, “No, I want to fly a camel, so I can have the fastest camel in the world.” There’s camel races over in Saudi Arabia. It’s a really big deal. It’s a national thing. So that’s how Sultan was. He was a funny guy.

Patrick was a test pilot from France, and he was fine. So we all got along fine. We had a very short time to train together, just two to three months at the most, and we flew. We picked up 51-G as a mission that had belonged to Joe Engle and his crew, and we got that mission and flew it.’

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #12 on: 01/22/2012 06:56 PM »
Steven Nagel remembers: ‘See, 51-G had three satellites in it that were PAMs, payload assist module. John Fabian had already done that on a mission, so he was well experienced in that. So that wasn’t that hard for him to do, to train. So he was the primary person on that. You divide all this up. No one person knows it all or does it all, or is the expert on all that. So John did that.

There was the first flight of the SPARTAN, the little satellite that you grapple. It was an in-house project that you can put different scientific payloads, and this had a little telescope in it, so it was the first flight of the SPARTAN, but I mean Dan had already trained. We, as a crew, had already trained to do the rendezvous and everything, so to release the SPARTAN to fly away from us, it’s not hard to come back and rendezvous. It’s very similar to the rendezvous you train for the LDEF. So it’s not like you start from scratch; you’ve just got to learn some differences. So it was a lot to do, but it wasn’t that difficult, either.

I guess we must have picked up new mid-deck experiments. We had to learn some things like that. It was a crunch, but it was very doable. It wasn’t that bad. So we flew in June, mid June of 1985.‘

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #13 on: 01/22/2012 07:01 PM »
Here are the events leading to the launch of STS 51-G as reported by Brevard County’s “Today” newspaper:

May 16: A 200-pound steel I-beam was knocked from its mountings by a crane and crashed in Discovery's open cargo bay, but did not damage the shuttle's aluminum fuselage, NASA sources said. Results of an investigation into a similar accident which occurred March 8 are expected next week. In the latest incident, the steel beam was mounted near the aft of the shuttle cargo bay, where it is used as part of a system to calibrate the orbiter's Ku-band communications system. "The beam was installed and it was in the raised position, so that when the overhead crane was moved, it hit the beam," said Jim Ball, NASA spokesman. NASA and Lockheed Space Operations Co. officials said there the force of the crane hitting the beam broke two welds that hold the beam on its pedestal. When the beam fell, the platform broke its fall and its electrical cables helped stabilize it, Ball said.

The Spartan experiment platform, scheduled to be carried aboard the shuttle next month, was in Discovery's cargo bay when the accident occurred. It was in the front bay and not near the impact area, officials said. None of the other three satellites scheduled to go into space June 12 were in the bay when the accident happened, Ball said. Since no injuries or major damage was incurred, there will be no formal inquiry into the latest accident, he said. The incident is not expected to affect Discovery's processing timetable.

Gary Sutherland, 35, of Port St. John, said he is ready to go back to work at Kennedy Space Center where he was injured by a falling work bucket on March 8. Sutherland, a Lockheed Space Operations Co. employee, sustained two breaks in his left leg and a bruised shoulder. Sutherland said his employer and NASA have been helpful during his rehabilitation period. "I got a nice big picture from the astronauts; they all signed it for me," he said. "It didn't help my broken leg any, but it made me feel better."

May 22: Kennedy Space Center workers expect to roll Discovery from its hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building early on the morning of May 28. NASA said the June 12 launch window runs from 7:31 to 7:35 a.m. At the VAB, Discovery will switch places with Atlantis, the newest NASA shuttle, which has been stored there since its arrival at KSC earlier this month. Atlantis is being outfitted for its first mission in September. Work also continues on Discovery's wing flap, damaged when a tile loosened during its last flight. This allowed superheated air to flow underneath protective tiles and burn through its aluminum skin.

May 23: A mechanical problem with two of the satellites Discovery is scheduled to deploy on its next mission has delayed the shuttle's launch date to no earlier than June 17, Kennedy Space Center officials said. Engineers at Hughes Aircraft Co., manufacturer of the satellite involved in the delay, discovered a potential problem with an antenna positioning mechanism during routine tests of similar spacecraft, said KSC spokeswoman Lisa Malone. "This problem could affect the in-orbit performance of the AT&T Telstar 3D and Morelos satellites scheduled for launch aboard Discovery," Malone said. Morelos is the communications satellite being placed into orbit for the Mexican government.

May 28: NASA officials indefinitely ruled out any shuttle landings at Kennedy Space Center. "We're not scheduled to go into KSC under any circumstances," Discovery Commander Daniel Brandenstein said, discussing NASA's decision to avoid a Florida landing at all costs until a shuttle brake problem is better understood. NASA sources in Washington said the decision on using the virtually endless dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base in California is being made on a flight by flight basis, but may extend for the next five missions. The announcement that KSC won't be considered even as a bad weather backup site is unprecedented.

June 2: NASA is considering sanding or painting part of the 15,000-foot Kennedy Space Center runway to prevent its rough concrete surface from damaging rear shuttle tires so badly that they can't be reused after a landing. Most landings at Edwards Air Force Base in California have been on the dirt lake bed rather than the concrete runway. To insure good traction, the concrete runway surface at KSC was roughened by brushing as it dried, and that is what may be causing excess tire wear. (THE ORLANDO SENTINEL, Jun. 3, 1985)

June 3: It will be at least October before Rockwell International engineers can redesign the shuttle's steering system and NASA is ready to resume KSC landings. Once the new system is in place, however, KSC landings are expected to become "99 percent routine," with or without crosswinds. The steering redesign is intended to reduce the stress put on the shuttle's braking system when the vehicle lands at Kennedy Space Center. U.S. Rep. Bill Nelson (D-Melbourne, FL), head of a congressional committee that oversees NASA, said he agrees with its decision to avoid shuttle landings at KSC for the near future. "Until we get the brakes fixed, it's prudent to land at Edwards," he said in an interview from France, where he is attending the Paris Air Show.

June 4: The seven-member crew for Discovery's June 17 mission arrived at Kennedy Space Center to watch the shuttle roll out to its launch pad. The six-man, one-woman crew consists of Cmdr. Daniel Brandenstein, Pilot J. O. Creighton; mission specialists John Fabian, Steven Nagel and Shannon Lucid; and payload specialists Patrick Baudry (France) and Prince Sultan Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia).

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #14 on: 01/22/2012 07:04 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #15 on: 01/22/2012 07:08 PM »
June 6: The seven astronauts who will fly the June 17 shuttle mission aboard Discovery went through a countdown rehearsal and their commander Dan Brandenstein said "we hope to leave a big streak in the sky in about a week." The crew, which includes a Saudi Arabian prince, climbed into the cabin of the shuttle for the final two hours of the test, running through procedures for launch day. "We had a dry countdown that went perfectly," Brandenstein told reporters after the practice was completed. "I very much wish we could have launched today," said Sultan Salman Al-Saud, one of two foreigners flying on the international crew. "We have 11 days to go. It seems like 11 years." The other foreign astronaut is Patrick Baudry, a French military pilot who will conduct medical experiments. (THE ORLANDO SENTINEL, Jun. 7, 1985)

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #16 on: 01/22/2012 07:11 PM »
June 14: The seven crew members of Discovery's STS 51-G mission landed on the KSC runway shortly after 1:00 p.m. declaring themselves fit and ready for the June 17 liftoff. At their landing field press conference the weather became the main topic of interest. Daniel Brandenstein, mission commander, said the crew was "trained and ready to go if the weather would cooperate." Payload specialist Sultan Salman Al-Saud, who will be the first Arabian in space, offered a solution for better weather on launch day. Speaking in both English and Arabic, he said he wanted to exchange the rain along the Space Coast for the sunny weather of his native Saudi Arabia. French payload specialist Patrick Baudry said he knows he is the envy of many of his fellow Frenchmen. "I'm glad the first Frenchman (aboard the Space Shuttle) is me," he said. The other crew members are Steven Nagel, John Fabian, Shannon Lucid and John Creighton.

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #17 on: 01/22/2012 07:12 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #18 on: 01/22/2012 07:15 PM »
And on a personal note: STS 51-G was the first Space Shuttle flight I wasn’t able to follow at home, recording TV and radio reports on audio tapes (!), collecting newspaper clippings and borrowing Time, Newsweek and Discover magazines from my English teacher Mr. Fabry. Although I enjoyed a 3-week family vacation in Sweden – which started on June 17, the day of Discovery’s launch – I had to improvise this time. A friend of mine already owned a video recorder and helped me out. Remember – it was the 1980s, so there was no internet. It was at that time that I started listening to “Voice of America” on shortwave radio. Thanks to radio host Alan Silverman I stayed in contact with the space program for the following months and years to come – until my family got cable TV in the early 1990s and we were able to receive CNN shortly after that. That’s when I switched from Silverman to Holliman… :)

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Re: Discovery STS 51-G / A Royal Effort in Space
« Reply #19 on: 01/22/2012 07:18 PM »
June 17, 1985 - Launch Day

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