24 February 2011, 21:53:24 UTC: Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) is launched on its final mission, STS-133. The mission was to dock the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module at the International Space Station, as well as to transport other sensors, materials and supplies. The launch had been “scrubbed” five times since 29 October 2010.
Mission STS-133 was commanded by Colonel Steven Wayne Lindsey, United States Air Force. This was Colonel Lindsey’s fifth space shuttle flight. The shuttle pilot was Colonel Eric Allen Boe, U.S. Air Force. There were four Mission Specialists aboard: Nicole Marie Passonno Stott, a structural engineer; Colonel Benjamin Alvin Drew, U.S. Air Force; Michael Reed Barratt, M.D., a NASA Aviation Medical Examiner (“flight surgeon”); and Captain Stephen Gerard Bowen, U.S. Navy.
Captain Bowen, a nuclear attack submarine officer, had replaced Mission Specialist Colonel Timothy Lennart Kopra, U.S. Army, who was injured in a bicycle accident. Bowen is the only NASA astronaut to have flown two consecutive missions. (STS-132 and STS-133)
Discovery docked at the International Space Station at 19:14 UTC, 26 February. Equipment and supplies were transferred.
Leonardo, which had previously been docked at the space station from March 2001 until April 2010, when it was returned to Earth to be modified and upgraded, was installed on the ISS on 1 March. Discovery remained docked at ISS for 8 days, 16 hours, 46 minutes.
The space shuttle returned to Earth on 9 March, landing at the Kennedy Shuttle Landing Facility at 16:58:14 UTC. The total duration of the mission was 12 days, 19 hours, 4 minutes, 50 seconds.
Discovery is the space shuttle fleet leader, having made 39 orbital flights, more than any other shuttle. It has spent 365 days, 22 hours, 39 minutes, 33 seconds in space flight, traveling 148,221,675 miles (238,539,663 kilometers).
On 19 April 2012, Discovery was placed on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
20 February 1962: At 9:47:39 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 6 lifted off from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the third launch of a manned Mercury spacecraft, and the first time that an Atlas rocket had been used.
Aboard the spacecraft was Lieutenant Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, an experienced fighter pilot and test pilot.
In his post-flight mission report, Glenn wrote,
When the countdown reached zero, I could feel the engines start. The spacecraft shook, not violently but very solidly. There was no doubt when lift off occurred, When the Atlas was released there was an immediate gentle surge to let you know you were on your way.
—Results of the First United States Orbital Space Flight (NASA-TM-108606), Manned Spacecraft Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, at Page 120, Column 1
2 minutes, 9.6 seconds after liftoff, the booster engines cut of and were jettisoned. 23 seconds later, the escape tower, no longer needed, was also jettisoned. The Atlas sustainer engine continued to burn until T+00:05:01.4. The spacecraft had now reached 17,544 miles per hour (28,234 kilometers per hour) and was in an elliptical orbit around the Earth. At T+00:05:03.6 the Mercury spacecraft separated from the Atlas booster. During the climb to orbit, John Glenn experienced a maximum acceleration of 7.7 gs.
Glenn’s orbit had an apogee of 162.2 statute miles (261 kilometers) and perigee of 100 miles (161 kilometers). The orbit was inclined 32.54° relative to Earth’s orbital plane. Friendship 7 completed an orbit every 88 minutes, 29 seconds.
Analysis showed that the Atlas had placed Friendship 7 in orbit at a velocity with 7 feet per second (2.1 meters per second) less than nominal. However, computer analysis showed that the orbital trajectory was good enough for nearly 100 orbits.
During the 4 hour, 55 minute, 23 second flight, the Mercury capsule orbited the Earth three times. John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. (Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had orbited the Earth 12 April 1961.)
After re-entry, the capsule parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean, only six miles from the recovery ship, USS Noa (DD-841).
The Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. It was the 13th Mercury capsule built. Designed to carry one pilot, it could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by steam thrusters fueled by hydrogen peroxide. The Mercury was 7 feet, 2.83 inches (2.206 meters) long, not including its retro rocket pack. The spacecraft was generally conical, and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.885 meters). It weighed 2,700 pounds (1,224.7 kilograms) at launch.
The rocket, a “1-½ stage” liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 109-D, was built by the Convair Division of General Dynamics at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force SM-65 Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle.
The LV-3B was 65 feet (19.812 meters) long from the base to the Mercury adapter section, and the tank section is 10 feet (3.038 meters) in diameter. The complete Mercury-Atlas orbital launch vehicle is 93 feet (28.436 meters) tall, including the escape tower. When ready for launch it weighed approximately 260,000 pounds (118,000 kilograms) and could place a 3,000 pound (1,360 kilogram) payload into low Earth orbit.
The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. Two Rocketdyne LR89-NA-5 engines and one LR105-NA-5 produced 341,140 pounds (1,517.466 kilonewtons) of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.
Friendship 7 is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
19 February 1986: The core module of the Mir space station (DOS-7) (Dolgovremennaya Orbitalnaya Stanziya) was launched from Site 200 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Proton 8K82K rocket. This was the first section of the space station. It consisted of living quarters and environmental systems, engines, and four air locks to which additional modules would be attached.
The Mir was unmanned when it was placed in low Earth orbit. The first two-man crew arrived 15 March 1986 and began bringing the space station systems online. The first expedition stayed aboard for 51 days.
The Mir Core Module was 13.13 meters (43.077 feet) long with a diameter of 4.15 meters (13.616 feet). The solar arrays had a span of 20.73 meters (68.012 feet). The habitable volume of the module was 90 cubic meters (3,178 cubic feet). At launch it had a mass of 20,400 kilograms (44,974.3 pounds).
The Proton 8K82K was a four-stage liquid-fueled heavy lift rocket. The first stage, Proton K-1, was 21.20 meters (69.554 feet) long with a diameter of 4.15 meters (13.616 feet). Fully fueled, it had a mass of 450,510 kilograms (993,205 pounds). It carried enough hypergolic fuel to power the six RD-253 engines for 124 seconds, producing 67,821.2 kiloNewtons (15,246,812 pounds) of thrust. The second stage, Proton K-2, was 14.00 meters (45.932 feet) long, with the same diameter as the first stage. Its fully-fueled mass was 167,828 kilograms (369,997 pounds). Its four RD-0210 engines burned for 206 seconds, producing 9,596.8 kiloNewtons (2,157,447 pounds) of thrust. The Proton K-3 stage was 6.50 meters (21.326 feet) long, and again, had a diameter of 4.15 meters. The gross mass of the third stage was 50,747 kilograms (111,878 pounds). The single RD-0212 engine burned for 238 seconds, producing 630.2 kiloNewtons (141,675 pounds) of thrust. The final, fourth stage, Proton 11S824, was 5.50 meters (18.045 feet) long with a diameter of 3.70 meters (12.139 feet). Gross mass was 13,360 kilograms (29,454 pounds). It had a single RD-58M engine which burned liquid oxygen and kerosene. It produced 85.02 kiloNewtons (19,113 pounds) of thrust for 610 seconds.
The Proton 8K82K could place a 20,000 kilogram (44,092 pound) payload into low Earth orbit. The rocket was first launched in 1965 and was used until 2003. More than 300 of them were launched.
The Mir space station was continually expanded. It was occupied for 4,592 consecutive days. It remained in orbit until 23 March 2001.
8 February 1974: At 02:33:12 UTC, the Skylab 4/Apollo command module undocked from the Skylab space station in Earth orbit, after 83 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes, 12 seconds. After several orbits, the Apollo capsule reentered the atmosphere and landed in the Pacific Ocean southwest of San Diego California, at 15:16:53 UTC. The crew was recovered by USS Okinawa (LPH-3), a helicopter carrier. Today, the Apollo capsule is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
Skylab was an orbital laboratory built from a Saturn S-IVB third stage. It was launched from Cape Canaveral 14 May 1973 as part of a modified Saturn V rocket. The Skylab 4 crew was the third and final group of astronauts to live and the space station. (The mission insignia incorporates the numeral 3.)
Skylab’s orbit gradually decayed and it re-entered the atmosphere near Perth, Australia, 11 July 1979.
7 February 1984: During mission STS-41-B, NASA astronauts Captain Bruce McCandless II, United States Navy, and Colonel Robert L. Stewart, United States Air Force, left the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) on the first untethered space walk.
McCandless tested each of the Manned Maneuverung Units (MMU) while Stewart tested a work station. For 5 hours, 55 minutes, they used the nitrogen-fueled Manned Maneuvering Units (MMU) to move about the outside of the space ship. At the farthest, McCandless was 320 feet (98 meters) away from Challenger.
The Manned Maneuvering Unit was designed and built by Martin Marietta Corporation (now, Lockheed Martin). It is constructed primarily of aluminum. The MMU is powered by two batteries with 852 watts at full charge, and propelled by 24 gaseous nitrogen thrusters, providing 1.4 pounds of thrust (6.2 newtons), each. The astronaut controls the MMU with two hand controllers. It has six-axis motion and automatic attitude hold. Including a full supply of nitrogen, the MMU weighs approximately 338 pounds (153.3 kilograms). It is designed for a maximum of 6 hours of operation. The unit is 50.0 inches (127.0 centimeters) high, 33.3 inches (84.6 centimeters) wide and with control arms extended, has a maximum depth of 48.0 inches (121.9 centimeters).
Bruce McCandless II was born 8 June 1937 at Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Rear Admiral Bruce McCandless, United States Navy, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions aboard USS San Francisco (CA-38) at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12–13 November 1942, and grandson of Commodore Byron McCandless. His mother was Sue Worthington Bradley McCandless.
McCandless graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, Long Beach, California, in 1954. As the son of a Medal of Honor awardee, he was qualified for an automatic appointment as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. He entered the Academy as a member of the Class of 1958. He stood first in his class in his Plebe year. He studied electronics, and photography, and was a member of the Academy’s sailing team. Aboard Royano, he competed in the annual Newport to Bermuda race.
Midshipman McCandless graduated second in his class at the United States Naval Academy, 4 June 1958 and was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Navy. He trained as a Naval Aviator at Pensacola, Florida. McCandless was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) 4 December 1959
Lieutenant (j.g.) McCandless married Miss Bernice Doyle, 6 August 1960, at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel. They would have two children, Bruce McCandless III and Tracy McCandless. She died in 2014. They had been married for 53 years.
Lieutenant (j.g.) McCandless flew the Douglas F4D-1 Skyray (F-6A after 1962) and the McDonnell F-4B Phantom II with Fighter Squadron 102 (VF-102, “Diamondbacks”), serving aboard the supercarrier USS Forrestal (CV-59), and then the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65). On 1 June 1962 McCandless was promoted to lieutenant.
Lieutenant Bruce McCandless II was accepted into the NASA’s Astronaut Group 5 astronaut, 4 April 1966, and assigned to the Apollo Program. He was promoted to lieutenant commander, 1 November 1966 He served a Mission Control communicator to Apollo 11 during the first Moon Walk, 21 July 1969.
McCandless was promoted to commander, 1 November 1972. On 1 October 1979, he advanced to the rank of Captain, United States Navy.
Captain McCandless did not fly until the space shuttle became operational. He served as a Mission Specialist aboard Challenger (STS-41-B) in 1984, and Discovery (STS-31) in 1990.
Captain McCandless logged more than 5,200 hours of flight; 312 hours, 31 minutes, 1 second in space; and completed 208 orbits of the Earth.
Captain Bruce McCandless II, United States Navy (Retired), NASA Astronaut, died 21 December 2017 at the age of 80 years. He is buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery, Annapolis, Maryland.