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STS-61A launch.jpg
Challenger during the launch of STS-61A
Mission type Microgravity research
Operator NASA
COSPAR ID 1985-104A
SATCAT № 16230
Mission duration 7 days, 44 minutes, 51 seconds
Distance travelled 4,682,148 kilometers (2,909,352 mi)
Orbits completed 112
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft Space Shuttle Challenger
Launch mass 110,568 kilograms (243,761 lb)
Landing mass 97,144 kilograms (214,166 lb)
Payload mass 14,451 kilograms (31,859 lb)
Crew size 8
Members Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr.
Steven R. Nagel
Bonnie J. Dunbar
James F. Buchli
Guion S. Bluford
Reinhard Furrer
Ernst Messerschmid
Wubbo Ockels
Start of mission
Launch date October 30, 1985, 17:00:00 (1985-10-30UTC17Z) UTC
Launch site Kennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Landing date November 6, 1985, 17:44:51 (1985-11-06UTC17:44:52Z) UTC
Landing site Edwards Runway 17
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 319 kilometers (198 mi)
Apogee 331 kilometers (206 mi)
Inclination 57.0 degrees
Period 91.0 minutes

File:STS-61-A crew.jpg
Back L-R: Nagel, Bluford, Messerschmid, Ockels
Front L-R: Furrer, Dunbar, Buchli, Hartsfield

Space Shuttle program
← STS-51-J STS-61-B
The Grand Canyon from orbit

STS-61-A (also known as D-1) was the 22nd mission of NASA's Space Shuttle program. It was a scientific Spacelab mission, funded and directed by West Germany – hence the non-NASA designation of D-1 (for Deutschland-1). STS-61-A was the ninth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger. STS-61-A holds the current record for the largest crew - eight people - aboard any single spacecraft for the entire period from launch to landing.

The mission carried the NASA/ESA Spacelab module into orbit with 76 scientific experiments on board, and was declared a success.[1] Payload operations were controlled from the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, West Germany, instead of from the regular NASA control centers.[2]


Position Astronaut
Commander United States Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr. Member of Blue Team
Third spaceflight
Pilot United States Steven R. Nagel Member of Blue Team
Second spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 United States Bonnie J. Dunbar Member of Blue Team
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 United States James F. Buchli Member of Red Team
Second spaceflight
Mission Specialist 3 United States Guion S. Bluford Member of Red Team
Second spaceflight
Payload Specialist 1 Germany Reinhard Furrer Member of Blue Team, DLR
Only spaceflight
Payload Specialist 2 Germany Ernst Messerschmid Member of Red Team, DLR
Only spaceflight
Payload Specialist 3 Netherlands Wubbo Ockels Member of Blue Team, ESA
Only spaceflight

Backup crew

Position Astronaut
Payload Specialist 3 Germany Ulf Merbold Member of Blue Team, ESA
Second spaceflight

Crew seating arrangements

Seat[3] Launch Landing STS-121 seating assignments.png
Seats 1–4 are on the Flight Deck. Seats 5–7 are on the Middeck. Seat 8 is located directly ahead of Seat 5.[3]
S1 Hartsfield Hartsfield
S2 Nagel Nagel
S3 Dunbar Bluford
S4 Buchli Buchli
S5 Bluford Dunbar
S6 Furrer Furrer
S7 Messerschmid Messerschmid
S8 Ockels Ockels

Mission summary

Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off from Pad A of Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 12:00 EST on October 30, 1985. This was the first Space Shuttle mission largely financed and operated by another nation, West Germany. It was also the only shuttle flight to launch with a crew of eight. The crew members included Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr., commander; Steven R. Nagel, pilot; Bonnie J. Dunbar, James F. Buchli and Guion S. Bluford, mission specialists; and Ernst Messerschmid and Reinhard Furrer of West Germany, along with first Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels of the European Space Agency (ESA), all payload specialists.

The primary task of STS-61-A was to conduct a series of experiments, almost all related to functions in microgravity, in Spacelab D-1, the third flight of a Spacelab orbital laboratory module. Two other mission assignments were to deploy the Global Low Orbiting Message Relay Satellite (GLOMR) out of a Getaway Special canister in the cargo bay, and to operate five materials processing experiments, which were mounted in the orbiter's payload bay on a separate device called the German Unique Support Structure. The experiments included investigations into fluid physics, with experiments in capillarity, Marangoni convection, diffusion phenomena, and critical points; solidification experiments; single crystal growth; composites; biological studies, including cell functions, developmental processes, and the ability of plants to perceive gravity; medical experiments, including the gravitational perceptions of humans, and their adaptation processes in space; and speed-time interaction studies of people working in space.

Bluford, Furrer and Messerschmid at work in Spacelab.

One equipment item of unusual interest was the Vestibular Sled, an ESA contribution consisting of a seat for a test subject that could be moved backward and forward with precisely controlled accelerations and stops, along rails fixed to the floor of the Spacelab aisle. By taking detailed measurements on a human strapped into the seat, scientists gained data on the functional organization of the human vestibular and orientation systems, and the vestibular adaptation processes under microgravity. The acceleration experiments by the sled riders were combined with thermal stimulations of the inner ear and optokinetic stimulations of the eye.

NASA operated the shuttle, and was responsible for overall safety and control functions throughout the flight. West Germany was responsible for the scientific research carried out during the seven-day mission. To fulfill this function, German scientific controllers on the ground worked closely with the personnel in orbit, operating out of the German Space Operations Center at Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, West Germany. The orbiting crew was divided into two teams, working in shifts to ensure laboratory work was performed 24 hours a day. Communications were optimal throughout the mission and the ground and orbital crews were able to interact regularly. The overall system of one control center controlling spacecraft operations and a second controlling experiment functions worked smoothly in practice.

Clearwater Lakes of Canada (thought to be ancient meteor craters) as seen during the mission

The GLOMR satellite was successfully deployed during the mission, and the five experiments mounted on the separate structure behind the Spacelab module obtained useful data. Challenger landed, for what was to be the last time, on Runway 17 at Edwards Air Force Base on November 6, 1985. The wheels stopped rolling at 12:45 pm EST, after a mission duration of 7 days and 45 minutes.

STS-61-A marked the final successful mission of Space Shuttle Challenger, which was destroyed with all hands on board during the launch of the STS-51-L mission on January 28, 1986.

See also


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 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

External links