STS-78 Day 1 Highlights
Return to STS-78 Mission Summary
- On Thursday, June 20, 1996, 12:00 p.m. CDT, STS-78 MCC Status Report # 1
- The Space Shuttle Columbia blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space
Center on time at 9:49 a.m. CDT today on a 16-day medical research
mission that, if extended to 17 days as planned, would become the
longest shuttle mission in history.
- The seven member crew of U.S., French and Canadian astronauts will
conduct 41 major experiments on how human beings and other living
organisms along with various materials change in a weightless
- Crew members opened the shuttle's payload bay doors about 11:15
a.m. CDT, signaling the beginning of orbital operations and giving the
go-ahead to activate the pressurized Spacelab module which is housed
in Columbia's cargo bay.
- With all systems aboard Columbia performing well, the orbiter
continues to circle the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of 176
- On Thursday, June 20, 1996, 5:00 p.m. CDT, STS-78 MCC Status Report # 2
- Orbiting more than 170 miles over the surface of the Earth,
Columbia's astronauts successfully activated the Spacelab module
housing more than 40 life science and microgravity experiments in the
Shuttle's cargo bay.
- The experiments focus on the physiological changes that take place
in the human body during spaceflight and also on utilizing the unique
microgravity environment to study materials processing techniques.
For the next 16 days, the seven-member crew will devote their time to
- Commander Tom Henricks shared a unique view of Columbia's climb to
orbit with flight controllers today, replaying images from a small
camera that was mounted on the flight deck. The video followed
Columbia's flight from just before main engine start through main
engine cutoff, showing the force of main engine and solid rocket
booster ignition as experienced by the astronauts.
- Late this afternoon, flight controllers performed a dump of the
Backup Flight Software that experienced intermittent transients during
Columbia's launch this morning. With the dump complete, the flight
control team will assess and evaluate the data. The error seen on the
BFS this morning will not affect orbiter operations or mission
- With all systems aboard Columbia and in the Spacelab performing
well, work with the life and microgravity science payloads is underway
as the orbiter circles the Earth very 90 minutes.
- On Thursday, June 20, 1996, 6:30 p.m. CST, STS-78 Payload Status Report # 01
reports: (MET 0/09:00)
- The Life and Microgravity Spacelab mission, laying the foundation
for future long-term space exploration, is under way after a picture-
perfect launch of Space Shuttle Columbia at 9:49 a.m. CDT today.
- After achieving an intended altitude of 173 statute miles above
Earth, where Columbia will orbit for the next 16 days, the
seven-member flight crew began work immediately.
- In fact, they began ahead of schedule: Approximately an hour before
scheduled, the crew opened and set up their Spacelab laboratory -- the
astronauts' workplace for the next two-plus weeks.
- There they began setting up systems to conduct more than 40 diverse
experiments representing involvement in the mission of 11
nations. These experiments are designed to examine how human beings
and other organisms, as well as various materials, change in the
weightless environment of space.
- This first flight day has been a fast-paced one: LMS Mission
Scientist Dr. Patton Downey, characterizing the flight as a "marathon
mission," said "today was the busiest first shift of activities we've
ever had for Spacelab. Virtually every experiment on board either had
its equipment activated or checked out."
- Just two hours after launch, Payload Specialists Dr. Jean-Jacques
Favier of France and Dr. Robert Thirsk of Canada began the mission's
important human physiology studies by donning electrodes and sensors
to monitor their eye, head and torso movements.
- Because many astronauts experience motion sickness in space
particularly for the first several days of flight as they adapt to the
weightless environment researchers hope the results of this study
could help astronauts avoid movements that contribute to motion
sickness. That could also lead to practical ways on Earth to avoid
motion sickness in our cars, boats or on planes. The experiment,
called the Torso Rotation Experiment, was designed by Dr. Douglas Watt
of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
- Mission Specialists Dr. Charles E. Brady and Dr. Richard Linnehan,
who joined their two crew members in the early afternoon in the motion
sickness study, also participated with Favier and Thirsk in initial
flight tests to measure muscle strength and control.
- Researchers have found that muscle fibers become smaller, or
atrophy, in the absence of gravity. On previous missions, loss of
muscle and a reduction in fiber size have been documented in numerous
studies. Fortunately, these responses to microgravity seem to be
short-lived, disappearing when astronauts return to Earth. But the
effects of long- duration spaceflight on muscles and bones remains
unknown. A series of six tests on this mission three sponsored by NASA
and three by the European Space Agency will continue investigations in
- This series of experiments is conducted on the Torque Velocity
Dynamometer, a device somewhat akin to but more highly sophisticated
than exercise equipment found in a gym. The device provides precise
measurements to calculate levels of muscle performance and function,
including strength, the amount of force produced and fatigue.
- Initial blood samples have been drawn from four payload crew
members: Favier, Thirsk, Brady and Mission Specialist Dr. Richard
Linnehan. The blood samples will be used by scientists conducting the
human physiology investigations. Information collected from these life
science investigations will help prepare crews for longer duration
missions as human activity in space expands.
- Just as life science experiments onboard Columbia may unlock
secrets of microgravity's effect on humans, the LMS microgravity
experiments are focused on understanding the subtle influences at work
in the gravity- free environment during processing of various
materials, such as samples of specialized alloys. During previous
missions, scientists found that materials processed on orbit revealed
underlying secrets that were masked or distorted by gravity in
- Today, Favier activated the Advanced Gradient Heating Facility
furnace which will be used to solidify alloys and crystals in a number
of experiments designed to understand the conditions at which the
structures of freezing materials change in the solidifying process.
Researchers hope the investigations with this new furnace will
increase knowledge of the physical processes involved in
solidification, and lead to improvements in materials processing on
- For the mission's first experiment using this high-temperature
facility, Payload Commander Susan Helms this afternoon placed an
experiment cartridge into the furnace to study the transition in
solidifying metal mixtures from ordered, long, column-like grains to
unordered, round grains. The principal investigator for the experiment
is Dr. Denis Camel of the French Atomic Energy Commission in Grenoble,
- With today's launch of Columbia on the LMS mission, NASA and its
international partners are on the way toward a significant, short-term
goal to discover new applications in cutting-edge areas of science.
Similar to the way business will be conducted on the Space Station,
the international crew aboard Columbia is working together as a single
shift to ensure a consistent, daily pattern of activities. Also very
similar to future Space Station operations, LMS researchers from the
United States and abroad are sharing resources such as crew time and
- Some LMS science teams are huddled at Marshall Center's Spacelab
Mission Operations Control Center, as in previous missions. But for
the first time, most of the science teams are working from their bases
all over the world, and are linked to Marshall Center by a
sophisticated teleconferencing network.
- LMS Mission Manager Mark Boudreaux of Marshall summed up this
meticulously planned mission as having "the key ingredients to take us
into the next era of space exploration: the International Space
- With the Spacelab program moving toward its conclusion, Mission
Scientist Downey said, "The scientific investigations of this mission
resemble the operations envisioned for the Space Station more than any
previous mission. The mixture of scientific disciplines, international
participation, and shortened time for the development of this mission
are an ideal precursor for the Space Station."
Go to STS-78 Flight Day 2 Highlights: