Template:Infobox spaceflight STS-3 was NASA's third Space Shuttle mission, and was the third mission for the Space Shuttle Columbia. It launched on 22 March 1982, and landed eight days later on 30 March. The mission involved extensive orbital endurance testing of the Columbia itself, as well as numerous scientific experiments. STS-3 was the first shuttle launch with an unpainted external tank, and the only mission to land at the White Sands Space Harbor near Las Cruces, New Mexico. The shuttle was forced to land at White Sands due to flooding at its originally planned landing site, Edwards Air Force Base.


Position Astronaut
Commander Jack R. Lousma
Second and last spaceflight
Pilot C. Gordon Fullerton
First spaceflight

Commander Jack Lousma previously flew as Pilot of the second Skylab crew, staying aboard the space station for 59 days from July to September 1973. Lousma had previously been selected in 1978 as Pilot for STS-2, which was then scheduled as a Skylab reboost mission. When delays in the Shuttle's development prevented Columbia from being launched in time to rendezvous with Skylab in 1979, STS-2 Commander Fred Haise retired from NASA and Lousma was then moved up as Commander of STS-3. Lousma also served on the support crews for Apollo 9, 10 and 13; he was the capsule communicator during the time of the latter mission's near-disastrous accident. He was also selected as backup Docking Module Pilot for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

Fullerton was a rookie who transferred to NASA in 1969 after the cancellation of the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. Fullerton had previous experience with the Shuttle as he had flown the shuttle Enterprise as Pilot alongside Fred Haise during the Approach and Landing Tests program in 1977. He also served as part of the support crew for Apollo 14, 15, 16 and 17.

Backup crewEdit

Position Astronaut
Commander Thomas K. Mattingly II
Pilot Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr.

Support crewEdit

Mission summaryEdit

Columbia was launched from Kennedy Space Center at 11:00 am EST, on 22 March 1982, the planned launch date.[2] The launch was delayed by one hour due to the failure of a heater on a nitrogen-gas ground support line. Prior to the launch, Columbia had spent only 70 days in the Orbiter Processing Facility – a record checkout time. The two-man crew consisted of Jack R. Lousma, commander, and C. Gordon Fullerton, pilot.

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STS-3 speeds away from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Note the bright orange flame from the solid rocket booster's combustion of ammonium perchlorate and aluminum, compared to the blue and clear flame of hydrogen and oxygen from the Space Shuttle Main Engines. Also worthy of note is that STS-3 was the first mission where the external fuel tank was left the unpainted copper color which would become an iconic visual feature of the space shuttles from then on.

STS-3 Canadarm captures PDP

The Plasma Diagnostics Package (PDP) is grappled by the shuttle's Remote Manipulator System.

The primary objectives of the flight were to continue testing the "Canadarm" Remote Manipulator System (RMS), and to carry out extensive thermal testing of Columbia by exposing its tail, nose and top to the Sun for varying periods of time. The crew found that prolonged exposure to the Sun caused the cargo bay doors to warp slightly, preventing them from closing fully. Rolling the orbiter to balance temperatures around the orbiter resolved the issue.[3]

In addition, in its payload bay, Columbia again carried the DFI package, and OSS-l (named for the NASA Office of Space Science and Applications) which consisted of a number of instruments mounted on a Spacelab pallet, intended to obtain data on the near-Earth environment and the extent of contamination caused by the orbiter itself. A test canister for the Small Self-Contained Payload program – also known as the Getaway Special (GAS) – was mounted on one side of the payload bay.

For the first time, a number of experiments were carried in the shuttle's mid-deck lockers. These included an Electrophoresis Equipment Verification Test experiment to study the separation of biological components, and a Mono-disperse Latex Reactor experiment, to produce uniform micrometer-sized latex particles. The first Shuttle Student Involvement Project (SSIP) – a study of insect motion - also was carried in a mid-deck locker.

A variety of minor problems were experienced during the flight. The orbiter's toilet malfunctioned on first use resulting in, according to Lousma, "eight days of colorful flushing"; one Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) overheatedTemplate:R (but worked properly during descent); both crew members experienced some space sickness; and on 26 March, three communications links were lost.

STS-3 was planned as a 7-day flight. The landing was moved to Northrop Strip (later renamed White Sands Space Harbor) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico since the planned landing site at Edwards Air Force Base had flooded due to excessive rain. Lousma and Fullerton chose to land at White Sands instead of the new Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center because they had trained there. A large-scale equipment movement (reportedly "40 train carloads") from Edwards AFB to White Sands was undertaken before and during the mission, to ensure that a landing could be fully supported.[3] Although time-sensitive equipment movements of this nature were originally to be handled by Air Force cargo planes, NASA altered those plans and moved the equipment in two dedicated trains over the 1,000-mile distance via the Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad. The choice to move the support equipment by rail saved NASA approximately $2 million in transportation costs.[4] High winds at White Sands reduced visibility and delayed the landing by a day. As all mission objectives had been accomplished, the crew enjoyed what Lousma described as "an extra day in our world’s favorite vacation spot ... We finally had a chance to look out the window and enjoy being there."Template:R

STS-3 infrared on reentry

The Kuiper Airborne Observatory took an infrared image of the orbiter's heat shield to study its operational temperatures. In this image, Columbia is travelling at Mach 15.6 at an altitude of 56 kilometers (Template:Convert/round ft).

Touchdown finally took place at 16:04:46 UTC on 30 March 1982, at Northrop Strip. STS-3 was the only shuttle mission to land at White Sands. The final approach was in part flown by the shuttle's autopilot, but the autoland program was not complete, and it was not meant to be an automatic landing. Rolling out on final, the autopilot was reengaged, and responded by closing the speedbrakes (despite the orbiter being on profile), resulting in increased speed. The autopilot then commanded full speedbrakes, and kept oscillating like this for some time. Lousma left the autopilot activated in order to gather data on its behavior, but disconnected it again at a very late stage to touch down manually. The landing was also one of the more dramatic of the program, with the landing gear deploying at an altitude of 150 feet (Template:Convert/round m) at a speed of 275 knots (Template:Convert/round km/h) and locking just five seconds before touchdown, and the nose being raised again right before nose-gear touchdown.[5]Template:R Lousma did not know that the autoland system was still partially engaged until Fullerton warned him, causing Lousma to pitch up; Charles F. Bolden, who had worked on the autoland system early in his astronaut career, stated in 2004 that "he saved the vehicle" by doing so.[6]

Columbia made 130 orbits and traveled 3,300,000 miles (Template:Convert/round km) during its 8-day, 4-minute, 45-second flight. A total of 36 thermal protection tiles were lost and 19 were damaged. The orbiter was returned to KSC on 6 April 1982. STS-3 was the last mission for which NASA named a complete full-time backup crew.

While on a post-mission goodwill tour in Beijing, Lousma displayed a photo he had taken from space of a "beautiful emerald-colored lake" in China and was surprised by the audience reaction. He later learned that the picture was likely of a secret atomic test site for the Chinese nuclear weapons program.Template:R

Mission insigniaEdit


STS-3 mission insignia patch

On the mission patch, Columbia is shown emerging from a star, representing the bright aspiration of space exploration. The orbiter is seen grabbing a PDP with the Canadarm, and is shown with many experiments in its payload bay. The three large orange triangular points of the mission patch indicate the flight's numerical designation in the Space Transportation System's mission sequence.

Wake-up callsEdit

NASA began a tradition of playing music to astronauts during the Gemini program, and first used music to wake up a flight crew during Apollo 15.[7] Each track is specially chosen, often by the astronauts' families, and usually has a special meaning to an individual member of the crew, or is applicable to their daily activities.[7]

Flight Day Song Artist/Composer
Day 2 "On the Road Again" Willie Nelson
Day 3 "Marine Corps Hymn"
Day 4 "The Air Force Song"
Day 5 "Sailing" Christopher Cross
Day 6 "Six Days on the Road" Dave Dudley
Day 7 "This is My Country"

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit

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