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Mission Insignia
Mission Statistics
Launch Pad:39-B
Launch: April 5, 1991, 9:22:44 a.m. EST.
Landing: April 11, 1991, 6:55:29 a.m. PDT, Runway 22, Edwards AFB, Calif.
Duration:5 days, 23 hours, 32 minutes, 44 seconds.
Orbit altitude:248 nautical miles (459 km)
Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees
Distance traveled:2,456,263 miles (3,952,972 km)
Crew photo


Mission parameters

Space walks

  • Ross and Apt - EVA 1
  • EVA 1 Start: April 7, 1991
  • EVA 1 End: April 7, 1991
  • Duration: 4 hours, 26 minutes
  • Ross and Apt - EVA 2
  • EVA 2 Start: April 8, 1991
  • EVA 2 End: April 8, 1991
  • Duration: 5 hours, 47 minutes

Mission highlights

April 5, 1991, 9:22:44 a.m. EST. Launch set for 9:18 a.m., April 5th. Was briefly delayed due to low-level clouds in area. Launch weight: 255,824 lb (116,040 kg).

Primary payload, Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO), deployed on flight day three. GRO high-gain antenna failed to deploy on command; finally freed and manually deployed by Ross and Apt during unscheduled contingency space walk, first since April 1985. Following day, two astronauts performed first scheduled space walk since November 1985 to test means for astronauts to move themselves and equipment about while maintaining planned Space Station Freedom. GRO science instruments were Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE), Imaging Compton Telescope (COMPTEL), Energetic Gamma Ray Experiment Telescope (EGRET) and Oriented Scintillation Spectrometer Experiment (OSSEE). Secondary payloads included Crew and Equipment Translation Aids (CETA), which involved scheduled six-hour space walk by astronauts Ross and Apt (see above); Ascent Particle Monitor (APM); Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment II (SAREX II); Protein Crystal Growth (PCG); Bioserve/instrumentation Technology Associates Materials Dispersion Apparatus (BIMDA); Radiation Monitoring Equipment III (RME Ill); and Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) experiment.

GRO is the second of NASA's four Great Observatories. The Hubble Space Telescope, deployed during Mission STS-31 in April 1990, was the first. GRO was launched on a two-year mission to search for the high-energy celestial gamma ray emissions, which cannot penetrate Earth's atmosphere. At about 35,000 pounds, GRO was the heaviest satellite to be deployed into low-Earth orbit from the Shuttle. It is also the first satellite that can be refueled in orbit by Shuttle crews. Five months after deployment, NASA renamed the satellite the Arthur Holly Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, or Compton Observatory, after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who did important work in gamma ray astronomy.

The first U.S. extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk since 1985 was performed by Mission Specialists Jerry L. Ross and Jay Apt after six failed attempts to deploy the satellite's high-gain antenna. Repeated commands by ground controllers at the Payload Operations Control Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, and maneuvering of Atlantis and its Remote Manipulator System (RMS) robot arm, as well as GRO's antenna dish, were to no avail in dislodging the boom. Ross and Apt were prepared for such a contingency, and Ross freed the antenna boom within 17 minutes after beginning the spacewalk. It was the first unscheduled contingency EVA since STS 51-D in April 1985. Deployment occurred about 6:35 p.m. EST, approximately 4 1/2 hours after it was scheduled.

The following day, on April 8, Ross and Apt made the first scheduled EVA since Mission STS 61-B in November 1985. The spacewalk was to test methods of moving crew members and equipment around the future Space Station Freedom. One of the experiments was to evaluate manual, mechanical and electrical power methods of moving carts around the outside of large structures in space. Although all three methods worked, the astronauts reported that propelling the cart manually or hand-over-hand worked best. With both EVAs, Ross and Apt logged 10 hours and 49 minutes walking in space during STS-37.

Crew members also reported success with secondary experiments.

The Space Station Heat Pipe Advanced Radiator Experiment (SHARE II) initially formed bubbles in its plexiglass tubes, which was a problem in the first SHARE experiment flown on STS-29. However, troubleshooting procedures stopped the bubbles from developing. SHARE II has a new manifold design for a heat-radiating device for Space Station Freedom.

Among the other payloads flown was the first flight of the Bioserve Instrumentation Technology Associates Materials Dispersion Apparatus (BIMDA) to explore the commercial potential of experiments in the biomedical, manufacturing processes and fluid sciences fields, and the Protein Crystal Growth experiment, which has flown eight times before in various forms. Astronaut Pilot Kenneth Cameron was the primary operator of the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX), although all five crew members participated as amateur radio operators.

April 11, 1991, 6:55:29 a.m. PDT, Runway 33, Edwards Air Force Base, CA. Rollout distance: 6,364 feet. Rollout time: 56 seconds. Landing originally scheduled for April 10, but delayed one day due to weather conditions at Edwards and KSC. Orbiter returned to KSC April 18, 1991. Landing weight: 190,098 lb (86,227 kg).

See also

External links

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