Autor Wątek: [AmericaSpace] Dale Gardner, MMU Spacewalker, Dies Aged 65  (Przeczytany 280 razy)

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Dale Gardner, MMU Spacewalker, Dies Aged 65
By Ben Evans, on February 21st, 2014


Joe Allen (right, with red stripes on the legs of his suit) and Dale Gardner celebrate their success with a 'For Sale' sign, displayed high above Westar and Earth. The triumphant Mission 51A would cement the Shuttle's credentials as infallible...but it was an infallibility which would usher in a mistaken sense of complacency. The Shuttle, though capable of performing to near-perfection, was an imperfect machine. Photo Credit: NASA

Joe Allen (right, with red stripes on the legs of his suit) and Dale Gardner celebrate their success with a “For Sale” sign, displayed high above Westar and Earth. The triumphant Mission 51A would cement the shuttle’s credentials as infallible … but it was an infallibility which would usher in a mistaken sense of complacency. The shuttle, though capable of performing to near-perfection, was an imperfect machine. Photo Credit: NASA

Dale Gardner, a member of NASA’s first group of shuttle astronauts and one of only six men to fly the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) jet-propelled backpack on a spacewalk, died Wednesday, 19 February, reportedly following a sudden brain aneurysm. He was 65. Gardner flew aboard STS-8 in August-September 1983, which featured the shuttle program’s first nocturnal launch and landing, and aboard STS-51A in November 1984, which dramatically retrieved the errant Palapa-B2 and Westar-6 communications satellites and returned them to Earth for refurbishment and resale.

Dale Allen Gardner was born in Fairmont, Minn., on 8 November 1948. He began to over-achieve from a very young age, graduating as valedictorian—the highest-ranking academic member of his class—from Savanna Community High School in Savanna, Ill., in 1966. Gardner next entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study engineering physics, and upon receipt of his bachelor’s degree in 1970 he entered active duty with the U.S. Navy. As an ensign at the Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla., he soon established his credentials as the most promising naval officer in his class and graduated from basic officer training with the highest academic average ever achieved in the history of his VT-10 squadron.

Gardner then moved to the Naval Technical Training Center in Glynco, Ga., from which he emerged as a Distinguished Naval Graduate and earned his flight officer’s wings in May 1971. For the next two years, he was detailed to the Naval Air Test Center in Patuxent River, Md., working in the weapons systems test division, conducting initial development of the new F-14 Tomcat fighter. He later participated in two cruises to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, flying the Tomcat, and in December 1976 he joined Test and Evaluation Squadron Four at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif. Over the next 12 months, he was actively involved in the operational testing of advanced fighters for the Navy. It was whilst at Point Mugu that he spotted NASA’s call for shuttle astronaut candidates, and in November 1977 he found himself among 23 finalists invited to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, for screening.



The STS-8 crew, launched in August 1983, which included Dale Gardner (second from left) on his first flight. Photo Credit: NASA

That group of finalists was actually the ninth and second-to-last group to be interviewed by NASA, ahead of the selection of the first team of shuttle astronauts in January 1978. Interestingly, in addition to Gardner it included John Fabian, Norm Thagard, and Guy Bluford. “From what I later learned,” Bluford told the NASA oral historian, years later, “there were more astronaut candidates selected from that group than from any other astronaut finalist group.” Indeed, with Fabian, Thagard, Bluford, and Gardner selected in January 1978, two others from that ninth group of finalists—Bill Fisher and Bob Springer—were picked for the very next astronaut intake, two years later. Another interesting point was that four of the astronauts selected in January 1978 had been aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise when they spotted NASA’s call for applicants. In addition to Gardner himself, Rick Hauck was project test pilot for the carrier acceptance trials of the F-14, and he and two other aviators, Robert “Hoot” Gibson and John “J.O.” Creighton, also tendered their applications.

Selected as one of the “Thirty-Five New Guys” (TFNG) in January 1978, Gardner thus formed part of the largest astronaut group ever chosen by NASA at that time. In the following years, he worked as project manager for the shuttle’s flight software and served as a support crew member for Columbia’s final test mission, STS-4, in the summer of 1982. By the time this mission took place, he had already been assigned as a mission specialist on STS-8, becoming one of the first of his class to draw a flight assignment. This came as no surprise to fellow astronaut Joe Allen, who glowingly described Gardner in his 1986 book, Entering Space, as “a premier Navy test engineer.”

STS-8, the third flight of the orbiter Challenger, was originally intended to deploy NASA’s second Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-B), but this payload was removed from the manifest when the TDRS-A mission in April 1983 suffered problems with its Air Force-built Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster. Consequently, in addition to India’s Insat-1B communications satellite, STS-8 was assigned the Payload Flight Test Article (PFTA), a giant dumb-bell to evaluate the performance and handling characteristics of the shuttle’s Remote Manipulator System (RMS) mechanical arm. As a member of the five-man crew, Gardner had prime responsibility for both the Insat-1B deployment and for the RMS activities, which he performed admirably.



“Dan, how do the engines look?” As Gardner worried, Challenger roared into the history books on the morning of 30 August 1983. Photo Credit: NASA

The mission made history as the first shuttle to launch and land in darkness … and this caused some consternation for Gardner as Challenger climbed into orbit under the power of her three main engines. Sitting on the flight deck, he could see through the overhead windows an apparent “fluttering” of the engines’ exhaust and, from his experience during training, such behavior tended to precede an explosion. Every so often, he asked STS-8 pilot Dan Brandenstein how the engines were performing, to which Brandenstein replied from his data tapes that all was well. “As you get higher in altitude,” Brandenstein later told the NASA oral historian, “and from the perspective Dale had, the flames from the engines seemed to be fluttering. You just have a different perspective as you get higher. The air pressure goes way down and you get into a vacuum, so basically what holds your flame real tight is the atmospheric pressure factors. When you get outside atmospheric pressure, they expand and flutter a little bit more.”

For the six days of STS-8, media attention focused overwhelmingly on the presence of Guy Bluford—NASA’s first African-American astronaut—on the crew, but the mission proved an enormous success. Within weeks of landing, Gardner was assigned to another crew, commanded by Rick Hauck, with launch planned in August 1984. Little could he have foreseen how dramatically that mission would morph into what it became. In February 1984, the crew of STS-41B deployed the Palapa-B2 and Westar-6 communications satellites, but the attached Payload Assist Module (PAM)-D boosters failed to fire correctly and left them stranded in low-Earth orbit. In the bulletproof days of the pre-Challenger era, a plan was formulated to execute a shuttle retrieval mission, using the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) jet-propelled backpack, to bring them back to Earth for refurbishment.



A day later than planned, Discovery springs away from Pad 39A on 8 November 1984—Dale Gardner’s 36th birthday—to begin one of the most spectacular and successful shuttle missions of all time. Photo Credit: NASA

By March, it seemed that Hauck’s crew would draw the plum mission. “I think there were a number of things that worked in our favour,” Hauck continued. “One was just the timing of our mission. I had flown proximity operations on STS-7. Clearly, proximity operations would be necessary to do this mission.” Then, the following month, the STS-41C crew demonstrated in spectacular fashion that it was indeed possible to retrieve a satellite from orbit and bring it into the payload bay for repairs. However, Hauck’s crew would not be repairing the satellites, but salvaging them and returning them to Earth. The MMU with its Trunnion Pin Attachment Device (TPAD) could be used to accomplish this feat, but some sort of mechanism would also be needed to snare the satellites.

One morning, Dale Gardner arrived at work in a state of excitement. He had been awake all night, he told them, thinking about possible salvage methods. Years later, Hauck could not be sure if it was Gardner, alone, or in conjunction with the EVA equipment team, who came up with the idea, but the consensus was to create a probe-like “stinger”—a six-foot-long (1.8-meter) Apogee Kick Motor Capture Device (ACD) —mounted onto the arms of the MMU . “The astronaut could then fly the stinger into the satellite’s rocket nozzle,” wrote crewmate Joe Allen in Entering Space. “Once inside, he could release a lever that would allow toggle fingers to expand, much like opening an umbrella inside a chimney. A hand-driven crank would shorten the length of the stinger and pull the satellite against a padded ring at the stinger’s base. The satellite would be held securely and the astronaut could then use the MMU’s thrusters to stop its tumbling and hold it while the [RMS] grabbed a grapple fixture on the stinger.”

It seemed fairly straightforward, but for one thing: Only the nozzle “end” of the satellites could be clamped into the payload bay for the return to Earth; therefore, some other technique would have to be employed to temporarily “hold” Palapa and Westar—each valued at $100 million by their insurance underwriters—whilst the stringer was detached and a cradling adaptor fitted. NASA’s solution was for an aluminum A-frame (properly termed the “Antenna Bridge Structure”) to be placed over the delicate antenna at the “top” of each satellite. “Next, the arm would take hold of a grappling pin on the A-frame,” concluded Allen, “keeping the satellite motionless while two astronauts manually fitted the adaptor at the nozzle end.” With the adaptor in place, the RMS would lower the satellite into position in the bay and the spacewalkers would finally remove the A-frame. It was a brilliant plan, which, if it were executed to perfection, would cement the shuttle’s credentials and demonstrate its capabilities in space.



Equipped with a stinger mechanism on the arms of his MMU, Dale Gardner carefully approaches Westar-6 for retrieval. Photo Credit: NASA

Indeed, it was a brilliant plan, but a plan which Hauck considered had no guarantee of success. The story of its success on STS-51A in November 1984 has been described in two AmericaSpace history articles, which may be accessed here and here, and saw Gardner and Allen perform two spectacular EVAs, utilizing the MMU backpacks to capture both Palapa and Westar and anchor them into the payload bay of shuttle Discovery. In Entering Space, Allen paid tribute to Gardner’s diligence and persistence, working alone to manually tighten nine bolts to secure Palapa into its cradle. The next day, on the second spacewalk, Gardner flew the MMU out to Westar, grappled it with the TPAD and brought it back to Discovery for positioning in the payload bay. To celebrate their triumph, Gardner famously untaped and displayed a sign, emblazoned with the legend, For Sale.

The success of STS-51A cemented the shuttle’s credentials, but marked the final mission of the MMU. In January 1985, Gardner was assigned to STS-62A, which would have been the first launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., to deploy the Teal Ruby experimental infrared imaging satellite. At the time of the Challenger tragedy, its launch was anticipated sometime in mid-July 1986. However, Gardner’s NASA career ended in October 1986, when he returned to active Navy duty. For two years, he served as deputy chief of the Space Control Operations Division in Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., and was promoted to captain in June 1989. He retired from the Navy a year later to join TRW as a program manager in the Space and Defense Sector. In 2003, he joined the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., and over the next decade worked on research and development of biofuels, fuel cells, and advanced transportation. Divorced, and with two children, Gardner accrued 14 days in space, across his two shuttle missions, and more than 12 hours of EVA time in two spacewalks.


Source: https://www.americaspace.com/2014/02/21/dale-gardner-mmu-spacewalker-dies-aged-65/

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Odp: [AmericaSpace] Dale Gardner, MMU Spacewalker, Dies Aged 65
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Halcyon Days: 30 Years Since the Rescue of Westar and Palapa (Part 1)
By Ben Evans, on November 8th, 2014


Joe Allen (right, with red stripes on the legs of his suit) and Dale Gardner celebrate their success with a "For Sale" sign, displayed high above Westar and Earth. Photo Credit: NASA

Early in February 1984, astronaut Joe Allen was at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, watching his former crewmate Vance Brand rocket into orbit aboard Challenger on Mission 41B. The pair had flown together on STS-5, and Allen later wrote in his book Entering Space that he remembered thinking “as I wistfully watched the spaceship Challenger climb into the clear morning sky, that Vance had left without me.” Allen had been assigned to another shuttle mission, but his own launch date and cargo remained in question. In September 1983, he had been named to Mission 41G, along with fellow astronauts Rick Hauck, Dave Walker, Anna Fisher, and Dale Gardner. Their initial task was to launch two communications satellites—SBS-4 for Satellite Business Systems and Telstar-3C for AT&T—and fly a unique astronomy platform called “Spartan.” Two months later, in November, NASA reassigned the crew to Mission 41H and instead assigned them either a classified Department of Defense payload or deployment of the second Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The January 1984 manifest looked much the same, but by May Mission 41H (and with it Allen and his crew) had vanished entirely. Little could they have guessed that the mission they ended up flying would tie in with Brand’s flight … and turn into one of NASA’s greatest successes of the 1980s. Thirty years ago, today, on 8 November 1984, Shuttle Discovery launched into orbit to begin the spectacular salvage of Westar and Palapa.

Westar-6 and Palapa-B2 were two large communications satellites, the first owned by Western Union and the second by the Indonesian government. When fully deployed in their operational 22,000-mile (35,000-km) geostationary orbits, they each measured 22 feet (6.7 meters) tall by 7 feet (2.1 meters) wide and took the form of enormous cylinders, coated with hundreds of solar cells. Westar ended up on the shuttle as a result of a contract between Western Union and both NASA and Arianespace. When an Ariane rocket was lost in a launch accident in 1982, one Westar had to be rescheduled and Western Union reconsidered its relationship with the Europeans and opted for the shuttle instead. By March 1983, they had contracted with McDonnell Douglas to use one of its Payload Assist Module (PAM)-D boosters … and agreed to hold the aerospace giant “harmless” for any damage inflicted upon their satellite. Instead, Western Union received insurance from Lloyds of London to deal with any loss of assets. It was a significant decision.

Less than a year later, as Vance Brand and his 41B crew settled into orbit, Westar-6 was spun-up and released from Challenger’s payload bay. Fifteen minutes later, Brand and his pilot, Robert “Hoot” Gibson, pulsed the orbiter’s thrusters to move to a safe separation distance, and at first it seemed that everything was going smoothly. The PAM-D engine appeared to ignite, beginning the boost of Westar to its correct orbit … but, all at once, extinguished itself. “It was in only a slightly higher orbit,” wrote Joe Allen. “It was a long way from geostationary orbit; a terrible disappointment.” Westar had been left in a lopsided orbit, with an apogee of about 650 miles (1,050 km) and a perigee of just 160 miles (260 km). Sitting behind Westar in Challenger’s payload bay—and now awaiting its own deployment—was Palapa-B2. Might it fall victim to the same fault?




Rick Hauck, Dave Walker, Joe Allen, Anna Fisher and Dale Gardner were first assembled as a crew in September 1983, but their payload swung variously between a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS), a Department of Defense mission...and eventually became one of the most spectacular shuttle flights of the 1980s. Image Credit: NASA

A decision was taken to accept the risk. The Indonesian government concurred and Palapa was duly sent spinning into space. Unfortunately, the lightning of bad luck did strike twice as Palapa’s PAM-D fired, spluttered, and died. The loss was a major disappointment, not just for Indonesia, but also for the member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea, who would have used its services as a critical communications tool.

In the months and years which followed, the owners of both Westar and Palapa filed insurance claims—worth $180 million overall—although the former was dismissed because Western Union had already signed a disclaimer with McDonnell Douglas to cover PAM-D problems. The Indonesians, however, proceeded before a jury, and the court agreed that a case of negligence could go ahead. Throughout the proceedings, evidence of possible poor design in the PAM-D was heard and Thiokol, the manufacturer of the rocket engine, was held ultimately liable.

Court proceedings were far into the future in February 1984, as NASA mulled over its shuttle manifest, several of whose payloads were booked to ride PAM-Ds into orbit. “Preliminary investigation suggests that the solid-propellant motor stopped burning prematurely,” Flight International explained on 18 February, “and that this may have been caused by the separation of the nozzle.” It was suggested that sub-standard materials or components might have been to blame. Thankfully, the satellites themselves were healthy, although a plan to use Westar’s own attitude thrusters to raise its orbit was described as “unworkable.” NASA, however, had something up its sleeve. On Mission 41B, a unique jet-propelled backpack—the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU)—had been test-flown and on Mission 41C had demonstrated its usefulness in recovering the Solar Max satellite. “The seed of an idea had been planted,” wrote Joe Allen. “Could the dramatic debut of the MMU lead to the recovery of Palapa and Westar?”

As time went on, it seemed that the very crew to which Allen was assigned might receive the plum task. Rick Hauck had earlier described his mission as “a plain vanilla flight,” but by March 1984 George Abbey—then-head of Flight Crew Operations—was looking specifically at them to attempt the salvage. “I think there were a number of things that worked in our favour,” said Hauck in his NASA oral history. “One was just the timing of our mission. I had flown proximity operations on STS-7. Clearly, prox ops would be necessary to do this mission.” The successful retrieval of Solar Max was another. Finally, the MMU, equipped with a Trunnion Pin Attachment Device (TPAD), offered yet more stimulus.



The Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) was first trialed by Bruce McCandless on Mission 41B in February 1984. Photo Credit: NASA

However, there remained a problem. Some sort of mechanism was needed to actually snare Westar and Palapa and anchor them into the shuttle’s payload bay for the return to Earth. One morning, Dale Gardner arrived at work in a state of excitement. Years later, Hauck could not be sure if it was Gardner alone or in conjunction with the EVA equipment team which came with the idea, but the consensus was to build a probe-like “stinger.” Measuring 6 feet (1.8 meters) long, it was called the Apogee Kick Motor Capture Device (ACD) and would be attached to the arms of the MMU.

“The astronaut could then fly the stinger into the satellite’s rocket nozzle,” wrote Allen. “Once inside, he could release a lever that would allow toggle fingers to expand, much like opening an umbrella inside a chimney. A hand-driven crank would shorten the length of the stinger and pull the satellite against a padded ring at the stinger’s base. The satellite would be held securely and the astronaut could then use the MMU’s thrusters to stop its tumbling and hold it while the [shuttle’s Remote Manipulator System arm] grabbed a grapple fixture on the stinger.” It seemed fairly straightforward, but for one thing: only the nozzle “end” of the satellites could be clamped into the payload bay for the return to Earth; therefore, some other technique would be needed to temporarily “hold” them in place whilst the stringer was detached and a cradle adaptor fitted.

NASA’s solution was for an aluminum A-frame (properly termed the “Antenna Bridge Structure”) to be placed over the delicate antenna at the “top” of each satellite. “Next, the arm would take hold of a grappling pin on the A-frame,” concluded Allen, “keeping the satellite motionless while two astronauts manually fitted the adaptor at the nozzle end.” With the adaptor in place, the RMS would lower the satellite into position in the bay and the spacewalkers would finally remove the A-frame. It was a brilliant plan and, if successful, promised to cement the shuttle’s credentials and vindicate its capabilities.

It also turned Rick Hauck’s mission from “vanilla” to chocolate. …

Having already trained for EVAs on their respective first flights, it made sense for Allen and Gardner to be assigned to perform a pair of six-hour spacewalks to retrieve Palapa and Westar. Meanwhile, the other crew members of the flight—which the August 1984 manifest had by now redesignated Mission 51A and scheduled for launch in early November—set to work in the simulators, refining rendezvous procedures. Hauck was joined on the flight deck by his pilot, Dave Walker, and flight engineer Anna Fisher. Their work together provided a breeding ground for some banter. During training for “transatlantic aborts,” simulating an engine failure, late in the ascent, that necessitated an emergency landing in North Africa, Walker would jokingly offer to trade Fisher for camels in exchange for the rest of them getting out. “Nowadays,” Fisher told the NASA oral historian, “people would think that’s probably not very politically correct. Then, Dave gave me this neat collection … of camels; all different kinds. These are guys who are trained in a different era. They were pilots in Vietnam. They saw all kinds of things. I’d gone to medical school. In histology class as they were doing their slide lectures, they would stick in Playboy centerfolds. It’s just a way of breaking the ice.”



The 51A crew departs their quarters on the morning of 8 November 1984. Photo Credit: NASA

Only months before the flight, Fisher had given birth to her first daughter, Kristen, and by mid-1984 was working around-the-clock to prepare for her mission. “Rick, Anna and Dave immediately began to log long hours in the shuttle simulators in Houston,” wrote Joe Allen, “practicing rendezvous procedures that would allow our ship, Discovery, to come within a few feet of each satellite without ‘pluming’ it out of reach with bursts … from the orbiter’s [thrusters] or, even worse, causing it to tumble like a wildly gyrating top.” There were other contingencies for which to prepare themselves. If Allen or Gardner experienced an MMU malfunction—a stuck-on nitrogen thruster, perhaps—it might be necessary to maneuver the shuttle in order to perform a rescue. “Timing was critical,” Hauck explained, “because orbital mechanics propagates differential velocities very quickly and I think we figured that if that were to happen and if he were to go off … if I didn’t maneuver the shuttle within 15 seconds and go after him, he was gone.”

Two weeks after Discovery returned from Mission 41D, in early September 1984, NASA announced its plans for the salvage flight: Allen and Gardner had been certified as proficient with the MMU, recovery contracts had been signed with Palapa and Westar’s insurance underwriters, equipment had passed vacuum-chamber tests, and the crew and flight control team were comfortable with the intricacies of the rendezvous. Rick Hauck was livid. To him, the announcement that his crew would “just” deploy two satellites and salvage two others did nothing but trivialize the mission; it made it sound easy. “If we get one of these satellites back,” he told the NASA press affairs office, “it’ll be amazing, and if we get both of them back, it’ll be a miracle!”

In Hauck’s mind, the space agency had shot itself in the foot by creating the illusion that Mission 51A would be a piece of cake, a walk in the park. “There’s no sense in trying to tell the American people and the taxpayers that what you’re doing is easy,” he said, “because it isn’t easy. Any implication that it’s easy is a disservice to everybody.” To Joe Allen, it was another indication that it considered itself bulletproof. “NASA was still in its halcyon days,” he told the oral historian, “still riding on the coat-tails of the successful Apollo missions, successful Skylab, successful Apollo-Soyuz, successful first tests of the orbiter.” Hauck was right in his assertion that Mission 51A was far from simple. Yet the success that he and his crew achieved in November 1984 would further cement the flawed assumption that NASA was infallible … a sense of infallibility which would soon be torn apart.


Source: https://www.americaspace.com/2014/11/08/halcyon-days-25-years-since-the-rescue-of-westar-and-palapa-part-1/

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Odp: [AmericaSpace] Dale Gardner, MMU Spacewalker, Dies Aged 65
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'Stop the Clock': 30 Years Since the Rescue of Westar and Palapa (Part 2)
By Ben Evans, on November 9th, 2014


Discovery thunders into orbit on 8 November 1984 to begin the first shuttle mission to deploy and retrieve two pairs of spacecraft. Photo Credit: NASA

By the summer of 1984, the space shuttle had enjoyed success and disappointment in equal measure. Astronauts had successfully tested a new jet-propelled backpack, the Manned Manoeuvring Unit (MMU), and spacewalkers had retrieved and repaired NASA’s crippled Solar Max satellite. The maiden voyage of the new orbiter Discovery had gone well, but the failure of two Payload Assist Module (PAM)-D boosters to properly insert Western Union’s Westar-6 and the Indonesian government’s Palapa-B2 communications satellites into their proper orbits on Mission 41B had raised an interesting possibility: Could the versatile shuttle and its astronauts be used to effect a salvage operation? For NASA—still “riding on the coat-tails of the successful Apollo missions, successful Skylab, successful Apollo-Soyuz,” according to astronaut Joe Allen—there was a simple answer: yes. And 30 years ago, this week, as described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, one of the most spectacular shuttle missions of all time unfolded high above Earth.

Over a period of several weeks in the spring of 1984, the lopsided orbits of Palapa and Westar were lowered from an apogee of around 620 miles (1,000 km) to some 220 miles (350 miles), thereby enabling the shuttle to reach them. “During this process,” read NASA’s Mission 51A press kit, “the spin rates of the satellites will have been reduced to around 1 rpm. The satellites will be in near-identical orbits, with Palapa trailing Westar by about 600 miles (960 km).” Launch requirements were constrained not only by the need to insert Shuttle Discovery into the same orbital plane as the satellites, but also by the requirements of 51A’s other two customers, another pair of communications satellites, the U.S. Navy’s Syncom 4-1 and Telesat Canada’s Anik-D2.

Liftoff was originally scheduled for the opening of a tight, 18-minute “window” on 7 November 1984, but was scrubbed when it became evident that predicted wind speeds at altitude would impose shear loads in excess of the design limits of the vehicle. Next day, the situation improved and Discovery—carrying Commander Rick Hauck, Pilot Dave Walker, and Mission Specialists Joe Allen, Anna Fisher, and Dale Gardner—thundered aloft at precisely 7:15 a.m. EST. “History now shows we were also possibly very lucky,” Joe Allen told the oral historian, “because both of the tragic accidents, that of the Challenger and that of Columbia, involved launching through very high wind shear conditions and there’s some thinking now that high wind shears and space shuttles do not go safely together.”

Deployment of Anik-D2 followed on the second day of the mission, and its attached PAM-D successfully boosted it toward geostationary orbit. So similar was this satellite to Westar and Palapa that, in the weeks before launch, Allen and Gardner had been cheekily told by their fellow astronauts not to confuse them. “In other words,” Allen recalled wryly, “don’t bring home the satellites that we’d just taken there!” The third day of the mission was devoted to Syncom 4-1, which rolled, frisbee-fashion, out of the payload bay and propelled perfectly into geostationary orbit.

With two satellites safely deployed, the next task was to rendezvous with Palapa. Hauck and Fisher were first to spot it as a steadily-brightening star, from a distance of more than 90 miles (145 km), on the morning of the 12th. The rendezvous was officially completed at 8:00 a.m. EST. By this time, Allen and Gardner were already clad in their water-cooled underwear and Dave Walker was getting their suits ready in the airlock. Years later, Allen would recall Walker’s intense focus on ensuring that every aspect of the checklist was followed; the pilot came away with a fearsome headache and was forced to dig into the medical supplies for a pill. At length, with the two spacewalkers in the airlock, Walker was almost ready to pass Allen his helmet, when he stopped.

“Dave, I’m hungry,” said Allen. “I really need a cookie or something to eat.”

“Oh, Joe, how could you? We’re slightly … ”

Allen was indignant. “Dave, I need a butter cookie.”

It was not idle gossip, nor a minor grumble on Allen’s part. According to the timeline, he and Gardner would be outside for at least six hours and simply operating in their bulky suits demanded enormous reserves of energy and stamina. “So he goes off into the food pantry,” Allen recalled, “and comes back with a butter cookie. I open my mouth. Keep in mind, I can’t use my hands now. He puts the butter cookie into [my mouth] … then he hits my jaw shut!” Walker clicked Allen’s helmet into place and then sealed the two men into the airlock. “We could feel the hatch being sealed,” Allen wrote, “and we waited quietly for 25 more minutes, whilst the airlock was depressurised.” The plan was for the EVA to begin during a period of orbital daylight to allow them to set up their tools and prepare the MMUs.

Every person who has performed a spacewalk has come back with their own stories about it, with many regarding it as incomparably surpassing any other experience on a mission. For Allen, when he pushed open the outer hatch and poked his helmeted head into the payload bay at 8:25 a.m. EST, his first view quite literally took his breath away: for there was Palapa, slowly spinning, directly beyond the forward bulkhead. “I fastened myself into the MMU as darkness fell,” he wrote, “tested its two propulsion systems, released the lever that held it to the bulkhead and I glided across the bay. Dale helped me to attach the stinger and, once it was secure, I made another short test flight to see how the MMU flew.”



Dale Gardner extends the stinger, prior to capturing Westar-6. Photo Credit: NASA

As the Sun rose on another 45-minute period of orbital daylight, Walker gave the call—“Let’s go get it”—and Allen flew crisply over to Palapa. With the stinger mounted on the front of the MMU’s arms, he looked not dissimilar to a medieval knight, about to enter a joust. Back on Earth, in the water tank and at prime contractor Martin Marietta’s facility in Denver, Colo., it had been quite ungainly, but now, in space, it flew magically. At first, as he headed around the “base” of the satellite, he was struck full in the face by blazing sunlight, but as he drifted closer and closer and finally entered Palapa’s shadow, he could instantly see clearly and was able to guide the tip of the stinger directly into the throat of the nozzle. Allen waited a few seconds as the stinger moved further and further inward, then pulled the lever to open the toggles.

It worked. “Stop the clock,” he yelled, triumphantly. “I’ve got it tied!”

After stabilizing both himself and the satellite with the MMU’s thrusters, Allen watched as Anna Fisher guided the grapple fixture of the shuttle’s Remote Manipulator System (RMS) mechanical arm over a pin on the stinger. Returning to the payload bay, he doffed the MMU and positioned himself in a portable foot restraint on the end of the mechanical arm, then watched as Dale Gardner proceeded to attach the A-frame over Palapa’s fragile antenna. Suddenly, they hit a glitch. A rigid structure, part of the satellite’s wave guide equipment, was protruding further outboard than had been expected … and the A-frame would not fit. It was Dave Walker who suggested that their only option was for Allen to physically grab the antenna “end” of Palapa and hold it steady, whilst Gardner single-handedly attached the adaptor. “Dave Walker … was the keeper of all the Plan Bs that we had devised,” Allen told the oral historian, “and we’d written them down. It was, sad to say, written on Dave’s piece of paper just as Improvise!”

For 90 minutes—a full circuit of the globe—Gardner worked, finally declaring success by manually tightening nine bolts around the edge of the adaptor. Shortly thereafter, the two men moved Palapa into a vertical position and lowered it into the bay, securing it in place with payload retention latches. Years later, Allen paid tribute to Gardner’s diligence and persistence in getting the job done, working alone. The astronauts returned inside Discovery, repressurizing the airlock at 2:25 p.m., after an EVA which had lasted precisely six hours.

Their next step was to rendezvous with Westar and Mission Control brought the troubling news that it, too, had wave guide equipment in the same place. Consequently, it was decided that Gardner would fly the MMU out to the satellite and Allen would act as a “human” A-frame, holding the antenna end of Westar, whilst the adaptor was fitted. The second EVA duly got underway at 6:09 a.m. EST on 14 November, and Gardner quickly captured Westar and returned it to the payload bay. The second retrieval would proceed more smoothly than the first and, in total, the astronauts would spend five hours and 42 minutes outside.



Dale Gardner holds up the famous “For Sale” sign to commemorate the successful salvage operation. Photo Credit: NASA

On this occasion, Allen spent a considerable amount of time with his feet secured on the end of the RMS, which gave him a quite different perspective … and made him feel peculiarly precarious. “Flying the MMU,” he wrote, “much like piloting an airplane, had not imparted an ominous sense of height to me; I was in control and at ease with the responsive machine. But riding the end of the arm, high above the cargo bay, was like standing on the tip of the world’s highest diving board – and a movable board at that.” His limited visibility of his helmet meant that he could not see his feet, nor the rail by his side. “Only my knock-kneed stance kept me in the foot restraint,” he continued, “and my ride was as nerve-wracking as anything I had ever done before.”

Intellectually, Allen knew that he would not fall, but the sensation persisted that if he slipped his restraint, he might either plunge into the payload bay or else directly to Earth. “It was a relief to take hold of the satellite when Dale brought it within my reach,” Allen concluded. “I felt like a man on a high wire, being handed a balance bar, and the round end of the cylindrical satellite provided some comfort and security.” Gardner finished laboring to attach the adaptor, and the two men proceeded to secure Westar into the bay. It was a triumphant moment. They were out of radio communication with Houston at the time and, from the flight deck, Rick Hauck told the spacewalkers that he wanted them to announce success at Acquisition of Signal.

Allen and Gardner declined. After all, it was the captain of a salvage vessel who traditionally must assume such responsibilities. “Rick, that’s the commander’s job,” they told him. “When we come AOS, you report that we have two satellites safely aboard … and you can also use the words F**king Miracle.”

Hauck chuckled at this “inside” joke. It originated in crew quarters, a few days before launch. As the commander, he was already irritated by the media assumption that 51A would be a piece of cake, with two “easy” satellite deployments and two “easy” retrievals. When a high-ranking NASA official from the agency’s Office of Public Affairs called a meeting with them, it was with some trepidation that the crew entered the conference room. Hauck asked for the agenda. The official responded that there was no specific agenda; he had merely come along to wish them good luck.

“We were all surprised,” recalled Joe Allen, “because this really was occupying a good chunk of our morning and time was very important to us right then.” At this point, Hauck recalled the comments from the media that 51A was an “easy” mission. “There is something that you can do,” he told the official, and proceeded to cite the “easy” news reports. “I can assure you that none of us said that, nor do we believe it … and I will personally tell you that my assessment is: if we successfully capture one satellite, it will be remarkable, and if we get both satellites, it will be a f**king miracle! You can quote me on that!”

With scarcely another word, he ended the meeting.



The 51A crew celebrates their success, after deploying two satellites and retrieving two others. Photo Credit: NASA

Now, with this achieved, Hauck opted to keep his language somewhat more appropriate. “Houston,” he radioed at Acquisition of Signal, “we’ve got two satellites, locked in the bay!” All five of them could hear in their headsets the shouts and cheers from Mission Control. They had done it.

Hovering above Palapa and Westar, Gardner now untaped and displayed a sign, emblazoned with the statement: For Sale. “The satellites would be returned and would then be in the ownership and the possession of insurance companies,” wrote Allen, “which had every intention of selling them as brand-new satellites.” From inside the flight deck, Fisher manoeuvred them for photographs. The insurers—Lloyds of London and International Technology Underwriters—loved it, although NASA would mildly rebuke the astronauts after the flight. Lloyds actually rang the Lutine Bell in the rostrum of their Lime Street headquarters, marking only the third time since the end of the Second World War that it had been rung to announce good news. (The bell was traditionally struck once in instances of bad news, such as the loss of a ship, or twice to celebrate good news, such as a safe recovery). In recent years, it has rung for more bad news than good: the deaths of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the 2004 tsunami, and the 2005 London bombings.

In the months after 51A, Hauck and his crew were flown, first-class, aboard Concorde, to London to address the Lloyds underwriters in the Captain’s Room … and took tea with Prince Charles at Kensington Palace. Hauck was fascinated, when he used the toilet in the palace and found a page from the prince’s logbook, detailing his first solo flight in a helicopter. The page was framed on the wall. When he saw the prince, he asked about it.

“Oh,” replied Charles with a grin, “you’ve been to the loo, have you?”

The humor and the state dinners and the meetings with presidents and princes and prime ministers did nothing to detract from the truly remarkable accomplishment of recovering two satellites which had never been intended for retrieval, let alone retrieval by spacewalkers. The expectation was that Palapa and Westar would be relaunched in a year or so. In February 1985, however, Flight International told its readers that Lloyds had been unsuccessful in securing a buyer, although NASA kept Mission 51L—then scheduled for November of that year—as an available “slot” for Palapa.

After the Challenger tragedy, Westar was sold to the Asiasat consortium and placed into orbit by a Chinese Long March 3 rocket in April 1990. Meanwhile, Palapa was sold by its insurers to Sattel Technologies and eventually resold back to its original operator, Perumtel, and launched atop another Delta rocket in April 1990, under the new name of Palapa-B2R. Perumtel retained ownership of the satellite until 1993, when it passed to a private Indonesian company. All this was in the future when Hauck and Walker expertly guided Discovery onto the shuttle runway at the Kennedy Space Center at 6:56 a.m. EST on 16 November 1984, just a few minutes short of eight full days since leaving Pad 39A. It was exactly two years to the day since Allen landed from his first flight, STS-5. “I landed twice on the 16th of November,” he said, “once on the East Coast and once on the West Coast!”


Source: https://www.americaspace.com/2014/11/09/stop-the-clock-30-years-since-the-rescue-of-westar-and-palapa-part-2/