The life sciences payload included verification tests for a rodent and primate facility, a Dynamic Environment Measurements System and a Biotelemetry System. The verification tests were performed to ensure that the Research Animal Holding Facility was a safe and adequate facility for housing and studying animals in the space environment. The objectives of the other experiments were to observe the animals reactions to the space environment and to evaluate the operations and procedures for in-flight animal care.
Two life sciences investigations on SL-3 studied human physiology. The first, called Autogenic Feedback Training, tested a treatment for space adaptation syndrome (space motion sickness which affects nearly half of all space travelers) and a technique for training people to control bodily processes voluntarily. Autogenic feedback training, a form of biofeedback, has been used in laboratory testing on the ground and has proven successful in helping people control motion sickness. If astronauts can learn to control the symptoms of motion sickness in preflight training sessions on Earth, they may be able to apply this training to control discomfort in space.
The objectives of the second human physiology investigation were to verify that the Urine Monitoring System functioned correctly, to test a system for preparing urine samples for postflight analysis and to develop a procedure for monitoring crew water intake. The Urine Monitoring System was a new piece of equipment designed to collect and measure urine samples for all crewmembers. After launch, the Urine Monitoring System was installed in the middeck near the Shuttle’s waste collection system for automatic measurements of urine volume. The urine volume measurements were compared to the fluid consumption recorded by each crewmember. Urine samples for two designated crewmembers were collected, stored and returned for analysis to determine if and how their body chemistry changed during the mission.
Other life sciences experiments performed during the STS-51B mission were those classified as Detailed Supplementary Objectives (DSOs). A DSO is a NASA-sponsored investigation performed by Space Shuttle crewmembers, who serve as the test subjects. These studies are designed to require minimal crew time, power and stowage. Biomedical DSOs focus on operational concerns, including space motion sickness, cardiovascular deconditioning, muscle loss, changes in coordination and balance strategies, radiation exposure, pharmacokinetics and changes in the body's biochemistry.
Materials science experiments on SL-3 studied the Solution Growth of Crystals in Zero-Gravity, Mercuric Iodide Growth and Mercury Iodide Crystal Growth. Fluid Mechanics investigations consisted of the Geophysical Fluid Flow Cell Experiment and the Dynamics of Rotating and Oscillating Free Drops. Four investigations fell under the science category of Atmospheric and Astronomical Observations: Atmospheric Trace Molecules Spectroscopy, Studies of the Ionization of Solar and Galactic Cosmic Ray Heavy Nuclei, the Auroral Imaging Experiment and studies involving the Very Wide Field Camera.
Spacelab 3 demonstrated again that it provided a useful laboratory for manned scientific missions in low Earth orbit.