19 November 1996, 19:55:47 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-80. The veteran flight crew was led by mission commander, Captain Kenneth D. Cockrell, U.S. Navy, on his third space flight, with shuttle pilot Captain Kent V. Rominger, U.S. Navy, on his second. Mission Specialist Story Musgrave, M.D., was on his sixth flight; Thomas D. Jones, Ph.D., (formerly Captain, USAF, a B-52 aircraft commander) was on his third; Tamara E. Jernigan, Ph.D. was on her fourth.
On STS-80, Story Musgrave became the only person to have flown on all five space shuttles. At 61, he was the oldest person to have flown into space at the time.
STS-80 was the longest mission of any space shuttle flight, with a duration of 17 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes, 18 seconds. Columbia landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at Kennedy Space Center, 11:49:05 UTC, 7 December 1996.
16 November 1973: Skylab 4 lifted off from Launch Complex 39B, Kennedy Space Center, at 14:01:23 UTC. Aboard the Apollo Command and Service Module were NASA astronauts Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Paul Carr, U.S. Marine Corps, Mission Commander; Lieutenant Colonel William Reid Pogue, U.S. Air Force; and Edward George Gibson, Ph.D. This would be the only space mission for each of them. They would spend 84 days working aboard Skylab.
The launch vehicle was a Saturn IB, SA-208. This rocket had previously stood by as a rescue vehicle during the Skylab 3 mission. The Saturn IB consisted of an S-IB first stage and an S-IVB second stage.
The S-IB was built by Chrysler Corporation Space Division at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana. It was powered by eight Rocketdyne H-1 engines, burning RP-1 and liquid oxygen. Eight Redstone rocket fuel tanks, with 4 containing the RP-1 fuel, and 4 filled with liquid oxygen, surrounded a Jupiter rocket fuel tank containing liquid oxygen. Total thrust of the S-IB stage was 1,666,460 pounds (7,417.783 kilonewtons) and it carried sufficient propellant for a maximum 4 minutes, 22.57 seconds of burn. First stage separation was planned for n altitude of 193,605 feet, with the vehicle accelerating through 7,591.20 feet per second (2,313.80 meters per second).
The McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. S-IVB stage was built at Huntington Beach, California. It was powered by one Rocketdyne J-2 engine, fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The J-2 produced 229,714 pounds of thrust (1,021.819 kilonewtons), at high thrust, and 198,047 pounds (880.957 kilonewtons) at low thrust). The second stage carried enough fuel for 7 minutes, 49.50 seconds burn at high thrust. Orbital insertion would be occur 9 minutes, 51.9 seconds after launch, at an altitude of 98.5 miles (158.5 kilometers) with a velocity of 25,705.77 feet per second (7,835.12 meters per second).
The Skylab-configuration Saturn IB rocket was 223 feet, 5.9 inches (68.119 meters) tall. It had a maximum diameter of 22.8 feet (6.949 meters), and the span across the first stage guide fins was 40.7 feet (12.405 meters). Its empty weight was 159,000 pounds (72,122 kilograms) and at liftoff, it weighed 1,296,000 pounds (587,856 kilograms). It was capable of launching a 46,000 pound (20,865 kilogram) payload to Earth orbit.
23 July 1999: at 12:31 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (16:31:00 UTC), the Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) lifted off on its 26th mission, STS-93, to place the Chandra X-ray Observatory in orbit. The total mission duration was 4 days, 22 hours, 49 minutes, 37 seconds.
In command was Colonel Eileen Marie Collins, United States Air Force, on her third shuttle flight. This was the first time that a space shuttle mission had been commanded by a woman.
Colonel Collins had previously served as pilot aboard Discovery STS-63 and Atlantis STS-84. She would later command Discovery (STS-114), the “Return To Flight” mission following the loss of Columbia. She logged 38 days, 10 hours of space flight. Eileen Collins retired in 2006.
18 May 1969: At 16:49:00 UTC, Apollo 10 Saturn V AS-505 lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a full dress rehearsal for the landing on the Moon that would follow with Apollo 11, two months later. On board were Colonel Thomas P. Stafford, U.S. Air Force, Mission Commander, on his third space flight; Commander John W. Young, U.S. Navy, Command Module Pilot, also on his third mission; and Commander Eugene A. Cernan, U.S. Navy, Lunar Module Pilot, on his second space flight. This was the first Apollo mission in which all three flight crew members had previous space flight experience.
During the Apollo 10 mission, everything except an actual landing was done. The Lunar Module separated from the Command Service Module in lunar orbit and descended to within 47,400 feet (14,447.5 meters) of the surface. The CSM and LM were in lunar orbit for 2 days, 13 hours, 37 minutes, 23 seconds before returning to Earth. During the return, the CSM reached a maximum speed of 24,791 miles per hour (39,897 kilometers per hour).
At T+192:03:23 (16:52:25 UTC, 26 May) the Apollo capsule and the three astronauts splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 400 miles (643.7 kilometers) east of American Samoa. The duration of the mission was 8 days, 3 minutes, 23 seconds.
24 April 1990, 12:33:51 UTC: Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-31) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Florida, on a mission to place the Hubble Space Telescope in Earth Orbit.
The STS-31 flight crew were Loren J. Shriver, Commander; Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Pilot; Steven A. Hawley, Mission Specialist; Kathryn D. Sullivan, Mission Specialist; Bruce McCandless II, Mission Specialist.
The Hubble Space Telescope is named after Edwin Hubble, an early 20th century astronomer who discovered galaxies beyond our own Milky Way galaxy. It is an optical Ritchey–Chrétien telescope (an improved Cassegrain reflector). Star light enters the telescope and is collected by a large 7 foot, 10.5 inch (2.400 meter) diameter hyperbolic mirror at the back end. The light is reflected forward to a smaller hyperbolic mirror, which focuses the light and projects it back through an opening in the main reflector. The light is then gathered by the electronic sensors of the space telescope. These mirrors are among the most precise objects ever made, having been polished to an accuracy of 10 nanometers.
The Hubble Space Telescope is 43.5 feet (13.259 meters long. The light tube has a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters) and the aft equipment section is 14 feet (4.267 meters) in diameter. The spacecraft weighs 27,000 pounds (12,247 kilograms).
The HST orbits the Earth every 97 minutes at an altitude of 320 nautical miles (593 kilometers). The telescope was last serviced in 2009. Originally designed to operate for 15 years, the HST is now in its 26th.
¹ Colonel Bolden reached the rank of Major General, United States Marine Corps, before retiring in 2003. He was served as Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration, 17 July 2009–20 January 2017.
² Lieutenant Commander Sullivan left NASA in 1993, and retired from the U.S. Navy with the rank of Captain, in 2006. She served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere/Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 28 February 2013–20 January 2017.