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‘Commander: John W. Young
Pilot: Brewster H. Shaw, Jr.
Mission Specialists: Owen K. Garriott, Robert A. R. Parker
Payload Specialists: Byron K. Lichtenberg (MIT), Ulf Merbold (Germany)
Dates: November 28-December 8, 1983
Vehicle: Columbia OV-102
Landing site: Runway 17 dry lakebed at Edwards AFB, CA
NASA film JSC-848
Originally a public domain film from NASA, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
STS-9 (also referred to as STS-41-A and Spacelab 1) was the ninth NASA Space Shuttle mission and the sixth mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Launched on November 28, 1983, the ten-day mission carried the first Spacelab laboratory module into orbit.
STS-9 was also the last time the original STS numbering system was used until STS-26, which was designated in the aftermath of the 1986 Challenger disaster of STS-51-L. Under the new system, STS-9 would have been designated as STS-41-A. STS-9’s originally planned successor, STS-10, was cancelled due to payload issues; it was instead followed by STS-41-B.
STS-9 sent the first non-U.S. citizen into space on the Shuttle, Ulf Merbold, becoming the first ESA and first West German citizen to go into space…
STS-9 launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center at 11 am EST on November 28, 1983.
The shuttle’s crew was divided into two teams, each working 12-hour shifts for the duration of the mission. Young, Parker and Merbold formed the Red Team, while Shaw, Garriott and Lichtenberg made up the Blue Team. Usually, Young and Shaw were assigned to the flight deck, while the mission and payload specialists worked inside the Spacelab.
Over the course of the mission, 72 scientific experiments were carried out, spanning the fields of atmospheric and plasma physics, astronomy, solar physics, material sciences, technology, astrobiology and Earth observations. The Spacelab effort went so well that the mission was extended an additional day to 10 days, making it the longest-duration shuttle flight at that time. In addition, Garriott made the first ham radio transmissions by an amateur radio operator in space during the flight. This led to many further space flights incorporating amateur radio as an educational and back-up communications tool.
The Spacelab 1 mission was highly successful, proving the feasibility of the concept of carrying out complex experiments in space using non-NASA persons trained as payload specialists in collaboration with a POCC. Moreover, the TDRS-1 satellite, now fully operational, was able to relay significant amounts of data through its ground terminal to the POCC.
During orbiter orientation, four hours before re-entry, one of the flight control computers crashed when the RCS thrusters were fired. A few minutes later, a second crashed in a similar fashion, but was successfully rebooted. Young delayed the landing, letting the orbiter drift. He later testified: « Had we then activated the Backup Flight Software, loss of vehicle and crew would have resulted. » Post-flight analysis revealed the GPCs (General Purpose Computers) failed when the RCS thruster motion knocked a piece of solder loose and shorted out the CPU board. A GPC running BFS may or may not have the same soldering defect as the rest of the GPCs. Switching the vehicle to the BFS from normal flight control can happen relatively instantaneously, and that particular GPC running the BFS could also be affected by the same failure due to the soldering defect. If such a failure occurred, switching the vehicle back to normal flight control software on multiple GPCs from a single GPC running BFS takes a lot longer, in essence leaving the vehicle without any control at all during the change.
Columbia landed on Runway 17 at Edwards Air Force Base on December 8, 1983, at 3:47 pm PST, having completed 166 orbits and travelled 4.3 million miles (6.9×106 km) over the course of its mission. Right before landing, two of the orbiter’s three auxiliary power units caught fire due to a hydrazine leak, but the orbiter nonetheless landed successfully…