STS-83 Day 1 Highlights
Return to STS-83 Mission Summary
- On Friday, April 4, 1997, 5:00 p.m. CST, STS-83 MCC Status Report # 1
- The shuttle Columbia, carrying seven astronauts on board, blasted off
at 1:21 p.m. Central time from the Kennedy Space Center.for the start
of a 16-day Spacelab microgravity research mission.
- Commander Jim Halsell, Pilot Susan Still, Mission Specialists Janice
Voss, Mike Gernhardt and Don Thomas and Payload Specialists Roger
Crouch and Greg Linteris blasted off into the mid-afternoon Florida
skies en route to an orbit about 170 statute miles above the
Earth. The crew will spend more than two weeks studying the behavior
of metals, materials and fluids in the absence of gravity and the
properties of combustion. The astronauts will be split into two teams
to conduct that work on a round-the-clock basis in the pressurized
Spacelab science module in Columbia's cargo bay.
- After the astronauts opened up Columbia's cargo bay, Voss and Crouch
began to activate Spacelab and experiment systems before entering the
Spacelab about 2 and a half hours into the mission. The Red team,
consisting of Halsell, Still, Thomas and Linteris, began a 7-hour
sleep period at 5 p.m. They'll be will be awakened at midnight to pick
up experiment work from Blue team members Voss, Crouch and Gernhardt,
who are scheduled to begin a full 8-hour sleep period at 1:21
- On Friday, April 4, 1997, 6:00 p.m. EST, STS-83 Payload Status Report # 01
reports: (MET 0/04:39)
- This afternoon's picture-perfect launch of Space Shuttle Columbia
began a 16-day joint effort by the United States and 23 other
countries to explore a variety of scientific mysteries.
- Just before 6 p.m. CST this evening, Payload Commander Dr. Janice
Voss and Payload Specialist Dr. Roger K. Crouch floated into the
Spacelab module aboard Columbia and began setting up their orbiting
- "Everything's going great" said Mission Manager Teresa Vanhooser
from the Spacelab Mission Operations Control Center at the Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "We've planned and practiced
for this mission for a long time and it's wonderful to see it coming
together so well."
- Mission Scientist Dr. Mike Robinson of the Marshall Center said,
"We're tremendously excited about the opportunities that await us. We
can't wait to get down to business -- the business of fundamental
scientific research in space."
- Over the next 12 hours, working with the science control team at
Marshall, Columbia's crew will begin their research by initiating
the protein crystal growth experiments, and firing up the onboard
furnace that uses electromagnetic force to suspend and mix various
samples of molten metals and alloys. They will also start recording
how small disturbances aboard the Shuttle's laboratory affect the
experiments conducted onboard.
- This mission, Microgravity Science Laboratory 1, is primarily
dedicated to 33 experiments being conducted in the low-gravity
environment of space. These investigations concentrate on unraveling
mysteries in three main areas: protein crystals, combustion and the
study of metals and alloys. Also, this mission will test some of the
hardware, facilities and procedures that will be used on the
International Space Station.
- The unique benefit of research in microgravity is that important
scientific processes normally masked by gravity can be studied and
experiments which are impossible to conduct on the ground become
- A major thrust of this mission's overall scientific effort is in
the area of protein crystal growth. Grown in space, proteins ranging
from insulin to HIV-Reverse-Transcriptase have been produced as
larger, purer and new, never-before-seen crystal structures. Only by
obtaining the highest possible quality of crystals can scientists
achieve the ultimate goal of this research -- determining the
three-dimensional structure or blueprint of the proteins. By
unlocking the structural details, scientists can better understand how
they fit into the overall biology of the human body.
- Protein crystal growth is a recurring Space Shuttle experiment
because there are over 300,000 proteins in the human body and
scientists know the structure of less than 1 percent of them.
- The three Protein Crystal Growth Experiments on this mission will
attempt to grow a record number of nearly 1,500 protein crystal
- Knowledge from these studies will help to address the social costs
of illnesses and diseases -- now estimated at $900 billion annually
just in the United States. These include cancer, diabetes,
alcoholism, Alzheimer's and AIDS. Proteins associated with all of
these illnesses either have been studied in space or continue to be
part of ongoing experiments.
- Other experiments to be conducted aboard Columbia involve combustion
science -- the study of burning. These are designed to help
researchers gain an understanding of the characteristics of fuels and
fires, which can lead to increased efficiency and reduced emissions in
internal combustion engines.
- In the United States, the yearly expenditure on crude oil is
estimated by the American Petroleum Institute as nearly $200 billion.
A mere 1 percent increase in fuel efficiency -- for instance,
improving a car's gas mileage from 25 mpg to 25.25 mpg - - would
translate into an overall savings for the United States of nearly 100
million barrels of oil a year, or roughly $5.5 million per day.
- In another category of experiments, scientists will study the mixing
of constituents in molten metals and alloys and the "undercooling" of
these mixed metals. Undercooling followed by rapid freezing or
solidification is the process by which snowflakes are made. A drop of
liquid can be cooled to a temperature below its normal freezing point,
yet still remain liquid. The freezing process, when it occurs for
these undercooled liquids, is very rapid. When these metals solidify,
unique materials result that cannot be made or studied in any other
way. Understanding the undercooling mixing process could lead to
better aircraft, car and truck engines, stronger construction
materials, as well as better foundry methods. This research could
also lead to better welding, casting and soldering techniques.
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