NASA Shuttle Specific Sections > Shuttle History - Pre-RTF

Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty

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Before we start…

The return to space of OV-102 Columbia in the summer of ’89 came almost exactly twenty years after another spaceship called “Columbia” had embarked on an epic journey to the Moon. Preparing this STS-28 thread, I already had planned to include the 20th anniversary festivities remembering the flight of Apollo 11. And while I was writing about Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon, the sad news of his death reached me on that last weekend in August 2012. Of course this is still a Space Shuttle mission report, but in memory of Neil Armstrong I’ve expanded the Apollo 11 part. And in the usual manner established during my previous threads, I’ve also included all the other interesting aerospace events that happened at the time of Columbia’s call back to duty. The summer of ’89 was a season for endings as well as beginnings, and also a moment that sparked dreams about our future in space… So, let’s start...

In memory of Neil A. Armstrong (1930 – 2012) – First Man on the Moon, July 1969

“You glorify the past when the future dries up”

U2, “God Part II”

That’s the danger, of course. You get so caught up in reliving the old days that you stop looking ahead.

I was talking to some NASA executives recently. I’d been boasting that one of “Final Frontier’s” objectives is to restore public interest in the space program to the level it was in the legendary 1960s, back when NASA was the envy of the world and astronauts were American heroes. Their response – that the space agency would prefer not to rest on its laurels – took me by surprise. Besides, they said, we were walking on the Moon in those days, for God’s sake.

I understood what they meant. As far as stirring up the public imagination goes, how do you top men on the Moon? These are different times. Today, media coverage of the space program means Space Station budget wars and crew wakeup calls by Robin Williams. It’s hard to imagine an episode of “Knot’s Landing” being interrupted by a shuttle launch.

But even though I’ve been accused of being an eternal optimist, I still believe the best is yet to come. I think we can top men on the Moon. As I write this, Voyager 2 is speeding towards Neptune, and the Magellan spacecraft is headed toward Venus. Both will open new worlds to the human imagination, and it is mind-boggling how that can be perceived as commonplace. If you ask me, those missions are miracles.

Looking ahead, there are plenty of worlds left to explore, including the 99.9 percent of the Moon’s surface that the Apollo astronauts didn’t visit. There are permanent Space Stations, Mars missions and the search for extraterrestrial life – all exciting, and all inevitable.

We celebrate the past by marking the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are modern-day heroes, and they and their fellow lunar explorers deserve our tribute. But don’t get us wrong. We don’t intend to sit in our rocking chairs talking about how “Joe Louis was the greatest boxer that ever lived.” Our real interest, and our responsibility, is to make sure the future doesn’t dry up.

(Editorial by William Rooney, Publisher, “Final Frontier” Magazine, July/August 1989)

Twenty years ago the “Eagle” landed on the surface of the Moon. Another eagle is a prominent feature on the STS-28 insignia designed by the crew. The astronauts said the patch portrays the pride the American people have in their manned spaceflight program. It depicts America (represented by the bald eagle) guiding the space program (the Space Shuttle) safely home from an orbital mission. The view looks south on Baja California and the west coast of the United States as the space travelers reenter the atmosphere. The hypersonic contrails created by the eagle and shuttle represent the American flag. The crew called the simple boldness of the design symbolic of American's unfaltering commitment to leadership in the exploration and development of space. (Description on STS-28 decal – edited)

Five for flight – a crew for Columbia

STS-28 is the first mission since the return to flight that rookies outnumber spaceflight veterans. The flight will provide the astronaut corps, recently hit by the resignation of astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson and Jon McBride, with three new spaceflight veterans at the close off the mission.

Dick Richards, selected as an astronaut candidate in May 1980, will be joined by two of the May 1984 selection class, Mark Brown and Jim Adamson. Richards will pilot Columbia on her first flight in almost 542 months, while Adamson and Brown will take on the duties of mission specialists, having a hand in the deployment of the Department of Defense’s secret military satellite. Both were members of the famous “Maggot” class of 1984.

The crew is not without seasoned veterans. Commander Brewster Shaw, veteran of the STS-9/Spacelab 1 mission aboard Columbia and STS 61-B aboard Atlantis, will be taking the commander’s seat for the second time. He led the 61-B crew, launched November 26, 1985, in their space construction tasks, which investigated possible Space Station construction methods.

Mission Specialist David Leestma, who will be making his second spaceflight, last flew aboard Challenger for mission 41-G. During STS 41-G, launched October 5, 1984, Leestma joined America’s first female spacewalker, Kathryn Sullivan, on her historic 3-hour-29-minute walk in space to simulate installation of a valve assembly into satellite fuel lines as part of an effort to investigate the feasibility of on-orbit refueling of satellites. He had been scheduled to fly on the mission after Challenger, the Astro 1 flight, which would have observed Halley’s Comet in March 1986.

Commander Brewster Hopkinson Shaw, Jr., Col. USAF, was born May 16, 1945, in Cass City, Michigan. He’s five feet eight inches tall and weighs 135 pounds. Shaw earned both Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Engineering Mechanics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1968 and 1969, respectively. He entered the Air Force in 1969 and attended undergraduate pilot training at Craig AFB, Alabama. Assigned to 352nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam, he served as an F-100 combat fighter pilot in March 1971. Shaw was later sent to the 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, where he flew F-4 combat missions. In 1975 he attended the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, where he served as instructor from August 1977 to July 1978. Brewster Shaw has logged more than 5,000 hours flying time, including 644 hours in combat aircraft. He was selected as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. His NASA assignments include support crew and entry CapCom for STS-3 and STS-4, staff member of the Roger’s Presidential Commission investigating the Challenger accident and head of the orbiter return to flight team responsible for implementing safety modifications to the shuttle fleet. Shaw piloted Columbia for the ten-day STS-9/Spacelab 1 mission and served as Commander of mission 61-B aboard Atlantis on his second mission, bringing his total time in space to 413 hours. “In November 1985 Shaw was named to command Mission 61-N, a Department of Defense shuttle mission then scheduled for launch in late 1986,” adds Michael Cassutt in ‘Who’s Who in Space (ISS Edition 1999). “The Challenger accident delayed the launch by three years, by which time 61-N had been renamed STS-28.”


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