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Overmyer, Lind, van den Berg, and Thornton in Spacelab Module LM1 during flight
NamesSpace Transportation System-17
Spacelab 3
Mission typeMicrogravity research
COSPAR ID1985-034A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.15665
Mission duration7 days, 0 hour, 8 minutes, 46 seconds (achieved)
Distance travelled4,651,621 km (2,890,383 mi)
Orbits completed111
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftSpace Shuttle Challenger
Launch mass111,980 kg (246,870 lb)
Landing mass96,373 kg (212,466 lb)
Payload mass15,610 kg (34,410 lb)
Crew size7
Start of mission
Launch dateApril 29, 1985, 16:02:18 UTC
RocketSpace Shuttle Challenger
Launch siteKennedy Space Center, LC-39A
ContractorRockwell International
End of mission
Landing dateMay 6, 1985, 16:11:04 UTC
Landing siteEdwards Air Force Base,
Runway 17
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Perigee altitude346 km (215 mi)
Apogee altitude352 km (219 mi)
Period91.50 minutes

STS 51-B mission patch

(Sitting): Robert F. Overmyer, Frederick D. Gregory
(Standing): Don L. Lind, Taylor G. Wang, Norman E. Thagard, William E. Thornton, Lodewijk van den Berg
← STS-51-D (16)
STS-51-G (18) →
Launch of STS-51-B

STS-51-B was the 17th flight of the NASA Space Shuttle program and the seventh flight of Space Shuttle Challenger. The launch of Challenger on April 29, 1985, was delayed by 2 minutes and 18 seconds, due to a launch processing failure. Challenger was initially rolled out to the pad to launch on the STS-51-E mission. The shuttle was rolled back when a timing issue emerged with the TDRS-B satellite. When STS-51-E was canceled, Challenger was remanifested with the STS-51-B payloads. The shuttle landed successfully on May 6, 1985, after a week-long mission.


Position Astronaut
Commander Robert F. Overmyer Member of Gold Team
Second and last spaceflight
Pilot Frederick D. Gregory Member of Silver Team
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 Don L. Lind Member of Gold Team
Only spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 Norman E. Thagard Member of Silver Team
Second spaceflight
Mission Specialist 3 William E. Thornton Member of Gold Team
Second and last spaceflight
Payload Specialist 1 Lodewijk van den Berg Member of Silver Team
Only spaceflight
Payload Specialist 2 Taylor G. Wang Member of Gold Team
Only spaceflight

Backup crew

Position Astronaut
Payload Specialist 1 Mary Helen Johnston Member of Silver Team
Payload Specialist 2 Eugene H. Trinh Member of Gold Team

Crew seating arrangements

Seat[1] Launch Landing
Seats 1–4 are on the Flight Deck. Seats 5–7 are on the Middeck.
S1 Overmyer Overmyer
S2 Gregory Gregory
S3 Lind Lind
S4 Thagard Thagard
S5 Thornton Thornton
S6 van den Berg van den Berg
S7 Wang Wang

Mission insignia


The mission insignia features the Challenger with her payload doors open, to show the onboard Spacelab 3. The orbiter rides over the American flag. The seven crewmembers are represented by the 7 stars on the patch, that indirectly refer to the Mercury Seven as a nod to their legacy. Behind the orbiter, the contours of Pegasus can be seen, as a reference to the European Space Agency (ESA). The white board surrounding it all has the appearance of a space suit helmet, with the names of the two respective teams grouped around them on a round band encircling the insignia , and the two mission specialists on an added section below. To further create some sort of contrast, the team colors are reprised for each member's name.

Mission summary

Overmyer using a treadmill on Challenger's middeck.

Challenger lifted off from Kennedy Space Center (KSC)'s launch pad 39A at 12:02:18 p.m. EDT on April 29, 1985. The crew members included Robert F. Overmyer, commander; Frederick D. Gregory, pilot; Don L. Lind, Norman E. Thagard and William E. Thornton, mission specialists; and Lodewijk van den Berg, of EG&G Energy Management, Inc., and Taylor G. Wang, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), both payload specialists.[2] Average age of 48.6 was the oldest for an American space mission.[3] Similar to the previous Spacelab mission (STS-9), the crew was divided roughly in half to cover 12-hour shifts, with Overmyer, Lind, Thornton and Wang forming the Gold team, and Gregory, Thagard and van den Berg as the Silver team.

STS-51-B was the second flight of the European Space Agency (ESA)'s Spacelab pressurized module, and the first with the Spacelab module in a fully operational configuration. Spacelab's capabilities for multi-disciplinary research in microgravity were successfully demonstrated. The gravity gradient attitude of the orbiter proved quite stable, allowing the delicate experiments in materials processing and fluid mechanics to proceed normally. The crew operated around the clock in two 12-hour shifts. Two squirrel monkeys and 24 rats were flown in special cages,[4] the second time American astronauts flew live non-human mammals aboard the shuttle. The crew members in orbit were supported 24 hours a day by a temporary Payload Operations Control Center, located at the Johnson Space Center.

On the mission, Spacelab carried 15 primary experiments, of which 14 were successfully performed. Two Getaway Special (GAS) experiments required that they be deployed from their canisters, a first for the program. These were NUSAT (Northern Utah Satellite) and GLOMR (Global Low Orbiting Message Relay satellite). NUSAT deployed successfully, but GLOMR did not deploy, and was returned to Earth.

A Cosmic Ray Experiment by Indian Space Research Organisation, named Anuradha was launched onboard the mission. It measured the ionization states of low energy cosmic rays in near-earth space. It consisted of a Barrel shaped recorder consisting of plastic sheets. It detected cosmic rays at the rate of seven a minute for 64 hours and produced 10000 sheets of data

Challenger landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base at 12:11:04 p.m. EDT on May 6, 1985, after a mission lasting 7 days, 0 hour, 8 minutes, and 46 seconds.

Connection to the Challenger disaster


While participating in the investigation into the destruction of Challenger during STS-51L in 1986, Overmyer discovered that a problem with the shuttle's O-rings, similar to that which led to the disaster, had emerged during the launch of STS-51B. Morton-Thiokol engineers told Lind after the mission that "you came within three-tenths of one second of dying".[5] It was the problem with the O-rings on the left solid rocket motor (SRM) on this launch (SRM-16A) that prompted Roger Boisjoly to write a memo to Bob Lund about the potential for the O-rings to cause catastrophic failure.[6]

See also



  1. ^ "STS-51B". Spacefacts. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  2. ^ Fichtl, George H.; Theon, John S.; Hill, Charles K.; Vaughan, Otha H. (February 1987). "Spacelab 3 Mission Science Review". Proceedings of a symposium held at NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama December 4, 1985. Marshall Space Flight Center. hdl:2060/19870012670 – via NASA Technical Reports Server. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ Kennedy, J. Michael (April 29, 1985). "Shuttle Flight Is Lind's First Mission: Astronaut's 19-Year Wait for Space Trip Ends Today". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  4. ^ Programs, Missions, and Payloads STS-51B/Spacelab 3 Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, NASA Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project". Don L. Lind oral history transcript. May 27, 2005. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ See "Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident". Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

Further reading