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Mission or Study ID:   STS-61A
Shuttle Program
Launch/Start Date:
Landing/End Date:
7 days
STS-61A Crew Patch

The German Spacelab Mission D-1 was a joint mission between German and U.S. space agencies that used the orbiting laboratory Spacelab to carry out various scientific experiments. The orbiter crew included Commander Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr., Pilot Steven R. Nagel, Mission Specialists James F. Buchli, Guion S. Bluford, and Bonnie J. Dunbar, and Payload Specialists Reinhard Furrer, Ernst Messerschmid, and Wubbo J. Ockels. D-1 was launched aboard STS-61A on October 30, 1985 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and landed on November 6, 1985 at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During its 7 day flight, the Space Shuttle Challenger traveled approximately 2,909,352 miles. D-1 was the only Space Shuttle flight to date that launched with 8 astronauts on board.

The scientific program of the D-1 mission placed emphasis on microgravity research. The 77 experiments conducted during the flight represent the scientific areas of materials science, fluid physics, life sciences and navigation.

The German organization DFVLR was responsible for payload management and payload operations during the mission and supplied the majority of the equipment for the D-1 Spacelab module. The mission was also performed with international cooperation: three payload elements were supplied by ESA, and NASA submitted a Materials Science Experiment Package (MEA).

Overall, 27 life sciences investigations were conducted during the D-1 mission. The experiments encompassed a broad spectrum of science disciplines, including human life sciences, human psychology, plant and animal physiology, cell biology and radiation biology. Biorack was the facility used for the seventeen biology experiments; it was equipped with incubators, centrifuges, a cooler/freezer unit, a microscope and a glove box. The biology experiments investigated cell functions, physiological development of drosophila eggs and paramecia, the development of the vestibular organ in frog embryos and graviperception in plants.

The human life sciences investigations focused on the vestibular organ and the changes in its function occurring when exposed to microgravity. Additional research studied changes in the human body occurring during space flight, such as changes in central venous pressure, intraocular pressure and differences in reaction time, gesture and speech of the astronauts.

The American portion of the human vestibular investigation was managed by a joint Canadian-American team of researchers called the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-Canadian Vestibular Group. The experiments studied changes in human spatial orientation caused by the exposure to microgravity. The experiment was an extension of studies carried out on the earlier Spacelab-1 mission in 1983. The investigators used the ESA Vestibular Sled to apply linear acceleration to the test subject. The experiment demonstrated that the sensitivity of the astronauts to acceleration was greatly reduced during space flight, but recovered immediately postflight.

Forty-eight experiments, more than 60% of the total number of experiments flown on board the D-1 mission, were materials science experiments. They investigated solidification processes of metal alloys, fluid physics and protein crystal growth. Three major payload elements of the D-1 Spacelab were equipped with furnaces and modules to conduct these investigations.

The 77 experiments performed on the German D-1 mission represented many varied scientific research fields. The human life sciences investigations measured several different parameters simultaneously, such as venous and intraocular pressure, and vestibular perception of acceleration and movement. Data from investigations on D-1 provided more complete information on the human adaptation to microgravity, greatly influencing the existing knowledge base. Several advanced investigations on later missions, like the IML-1, IML-2 and D-2 missions, were based on the results from D-1.

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