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Reviewing the record of the Space Shuttle's first years in service, one is impressed by the varied program of onboard research in space science and applications. The Shuttle has hosted hundreds of investigations in astronomy, atmospheric science, Earth observations, life sciences, materials science, solar physics, space plasma physics, technology, and other scientific disciplines - investigations developed by scientists around the world. Equipped with the Spacelab elements provided by the European Space Agency, the Shuttle offers both an enclosed laboratory and an exposed platform for investigations in space; crewmembers conduct or monitor the experiments in a manner similar to working in a laboratory on the ground. The Shuttle is a valuable addition to the complement of balloons, aircraft, sounding rockets, and expendable launch vehicles that are already available to space scientists.
Individual news releases and journal articles have reported results of Shuttle-era research on a case-by-case basis, but this report is a comprehensive overview of significant achievements across all the disciplines and missions in the first generation of Shuttle flights.
We are participating in a tremendously exciting and intellectually rewarding endeavor - the merger of laboratory science and manned spaceflight in the adventure of manned space science.
NASA's history flows in two main streams of activity - science and manned spaceflight. These two streams ran in parallel throughout the 1960s, with the launch of many scientific satellites, on the one hand, and, on the other, the spaceflights that culminated in visits to the moon. The streams merged briefly in the Skylab missions of 1973-1974, our highly successful first experience in an orbital laboratory. Now, the Space Shuttle and Spacelab bring science and manned spaceflight together in a union that complements the scientific activities of unmanned satellites and sets the stage for manned space science in a permanent Space Station.
Science in the Shuttle era is a cooperative international venture. Scientists around the world participate together in planning, experiment development, mission operations, and resultant data analysis. A Spacelab mission is a multinational forum of investigator groups dedicated to acquiring new knowledge in a variety of science disciplines.
Doing science in the Shuttle and Spacelab is a different experience than having an instrument on a satellite; science becomes more "personal." Interaction between scientists on the ground and the onboard crew in conducting experiments adds a new dimension to a science mission. It transforms the mission from a focus on machines, electronics, and nameless bits of data to a human adventure. By monitoring the experiment data stream, talking to the crew, and watching live television from orbit, scientists on the ground virtually work side-by-side with their colleagues in space. This close interaction enables scientists on the ground or in space to respond to experiment results as they happen, adjust the experiment if appropriate, and maximize the scientific return. Manned space science is a very special bridge that transports the scientist on the ground to space in a way not possible by other research methods.
Shuttle/Spacelab science is thrilling for all of us who have the opportunity to participate. The emotional lift of the launch, the rush of activities during the mission, and the intensely personal collaboration with the onboard crew all combine into a unique experience, a high point in our careers. This exhilarating experience affirms the importance and success of cooperative international missions in manned space science. Hyperlinked table of contents for easy navigation. 223 pages, over 80 photos and illustrations.