Space Shuttle Documentary (Narrated by William Shatner) Part 2/6

Uploaded by basvg1 on 02.07.2011

Only its fuselage would keep the aircraft airborne and guide it safely back to Earth.
They were known as the flying bathtubs. For the first test, the M2F1 was towed
behind a car, a suped up Pontiac. Whitey Whitesides drove that Pontiac
across the lakebed at about 120 miles per hour dragging this flying bathtub behind it.
As well as groundbreaking, their tests could also prove… ground-shaking.
The X-24B, a lifting body with wings, was the first such craft to land
on an actual runway, as all shuttles would eventually do.
Early on the space shuttle was going to have jet engines to return for horizontal
landing much like an airliner. The X-15 had proven fairly specifically that
they could make horizontal landings very accurately, unpowered, flying
a steep glide slope, that they could do a horizontal unpowered landing with the shuttle.
As they tried to narrow its size, shape, and weight, engineers also
considered how this new orbiter would be propelled
safely out of the reach of Earth’s gravity.
At the Marshall Space flight Center in Huntsville, home of the rockets
that had sent every Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronaut into space,
design teams would devise the partially-reusable
propulsion system that would finally be adopted.
The main engines were always something that we paid very close attention to.
Lots of moving parts. Lots of high energy in very tight places
And very cold liquid on one side of a very small wall and very hot on the other side.
When that thing finally lit off for me, it just showed the power of a space shuttle
main engine and then there’s three on the back of an orbiter and then there’s
the two sides and two solid rocket motors.
That was probably the spark that got me so interested in the space shuttle program
in general and what it took to actually get one engine to light,
much less three and two boosters to take the shuttle to orbit.
As for the orbiter, spiraling costs forced NASA to abandon equipping
it with its own jet engines and escape pod.
Originally, it was going to be an air breathing airplane that would fly to space
As a rocket and then come back to Earth. The orbital maneuvering system
Pods that sit on the back now were to be where deployable air breathing
engines would come out and it would be able to fly from its intended point
of landing into another place if the weather were bad or something like that.
NASA’s new shuttle would essentially glide its way back to Earth.
Producing the components of this new space transportation system fell
to familiar names in the space industry.
Prime contractor Rockwell North American, now Boeing, had built the
Apollo command/service module. Morton Thiokol, now ATK, would build
the solid rocket boosters. And Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin,
would construct the E.T. Responsibility for producing the space shuttle’s
main engines went to Rocketdyne, now Pratt & Whitney.
There was a lot of teamwork that was going on. It was bringing people from
All across the country, from Kennedy, from Johnson, from Marshall
So many people involved that had to have worked together.
Now at the beginning there was a lot of anxiety that we weren’t going to work together
But when people got to know each other and could trust each other
That’s when the work began.
It was an amazing vehicle, in a lot of ways way ahead of its time.
To have a reusable spacecraft that could carry such tremendous amounts of
cargo to space was unprecedented.
September, 1976. More than four-and-a-half years after President Nixon signed
off on its development, America’s new spacecraft,
Constitution, gets its first close up before the cameras.
The orbiter itself was well-received by the public.
But impassioned fans of a particular, long-cancelled television
series called “Star Trek,” wanted it called something else.
They staged a successful write-in campaign, and the orbiter was re-named
for the “starship” featured on the show. Thus, NASA’s new shuttle would be:
the Enterprise, boldly going as no spacecraft had ever gone before.
Whatever its name, this bird still needed to prove it could fly.
In an age before computer simulations, balsa wood models
and wind tunnel testing was the only means to test the airliner-sized glider.
We put together a very aggressive flight test profile that consisted of data points
continuously all the way down. There was not a matter of ten seconds went by without
either another pitch doublet or rudder kick or an angle of attack sweep.
The things that really turn on a test pilot to fly them as accurately as possible.
August 12, 1977. On a crystal clear California morning high above the Mojave Desert,
two NASA test pilots ready for Enterprise’s first flight.
The plan was for Fred Haise, Jr. and Gordon Fullerton to lift the orbiter off
a modified 747, then land on a dry lakebed 15-thousand feet below.
The thing that we were most concerned about was if we were going to be able to
Get to launch speed. If Fitz Fulton was going to be able to put the 747 into a slight
dive so that we would have enough lift on the Enterprise when we did push
the separation button, blow the bolts, to lift away from the airplane without
hitting Fitz’s tail and of course both of us were interested in that happening.
The pilots on the 747, Fitz Fulton and Thom McMurtry, sit and wait for the
command to release and steer their massive aircraft out from under Enterprise.
There were still questions about whether they’re going to actually happen
As we expect it from those simulations in the analysis and everything.
There’s a very loud thump when the shuttle separates.
It was always a question was it going to fly back and hit the tail of the 747.
But we couldn’t see that, but after a few seconds we
could tell it didn’t hit us and so the chase call clear.
Once we reached the 240 knots and Fitz called “on speed” I think he really pushed some
of the sensors he was looking at in order to let us get to there and we appreciated that
but once we heard Fitz say “on speed” I pushed the separation button and
we just broke free. We had about one and a half Gs of lift.
Honestly that was probably about the most exciting moment in the approach
And landing test, to feel and be there when the shuttle separated from the 747.
By all accounts, this first freefall test is a success.
Five weeks later, Enterprise is brought to 22-thousand feet for her second freefall test.
Pilots Joe Engle and Dick Truly have only two minutes to capture flight
and maneuvering data before landing the aircraft, again, without any engines.
It was a real team effort and the challenge was for Dick Truly and I fly that profile
and fly those data points, those maneuvers as precisely as possible,
to give them the best data possible. It was a test pilot’s dream.
A total of 16 taxi, captive and drop tests confirmed the soundness of the craft’s
design and green-lighted production of the first space-worthy orbiter.
Columbia, NASA’s first orbiter, is fittingly named after
the first American vessel to circumnavigate the globe.
However, Columbia quickly becomes a daunting challenge for NASA.
Its complex makeup had engineers struggling constantly to reduce
Columbia’s weight and simplify construction.
Especially frustrating was keeping the orbiter’s ceramic tiles attached to its fuselage.
More than 25-thousand of them fit together to protect
Columbia from the searing three-thousand degree heat of reentry.
We were having a lot of problems with the thermal protection system with the tiles.
The way we were trying to glue them on, they wouldn’t stay on.
And we had to come up with a way of making sure that they’d stay on.
And we had some really great people that worked that and that’s
why it took such a long time. I had hope it was not going to take that long
since John and I were named as the crew, so we had a lot more time
to train than what we had both initially planned.
The requirement was to be able to handle temperatures like 2,500 degrees F that occur
on the surface of the TPS and that’s five times what your oven is at home
that you back cookies under at max.
The other problem is weight because after all this is an airplane,
So you can’t have a metallic system on it that weighs tons.
It has to be extremely light weight, and in fact the shuttle tiles are about 90% air
and that gives the combination of being able to be temperature resistant
and yet at the same time light.
Each orbiter has a unique number of protective tiles; Challenger was built
with the most, 31,088 while Atlantis has the fewest, a mere 24,177.
Over at Palmdale they had put on their first effort of putting the tiles on to protect
the aluminum from the heating they were going to get on re-entry,
and some of those tiles when they put them on in the day time,
the next morning the tiles were on the hangar floor.
And so that was real scary that they could lose some tiles while they were
in orbit and really have a problem with the heat coming back on re-entry.
Columbia had a lot of tiles missing yet, it needed quite a bit of work before
we could deliver it to the cape and we scrounged throughout the city
of Lancaster for RTV which was the material we used to glue the tiles on with.
More glue did keep the tiles in place, however water was literally ripping them apart.
It turns out the instant we hit rain the tiles almost exploded.
the tiles’ fabrication process was modified – and the problem overcome --
Other shuttle design features proved less problematic and more groundbreaking.
A computerized digital flight control system, now common in commercial
and military aircraft, was developed for the orbiter.
In flying the space shuttle, you were so aware that you weren’t necessarily
talking to the shuttle, you were talking to a computer who in turn was
going to talk to the shuttle.
Barriers of race and gender were falling everywhere, and America’s corps
of shuttle astronauts would become more reflective of the nation it served.
There’s been a lot that the shuttle era has done to bring space flight into
the domain of the average person. We know it’s not just crew cut white
test pilots anymore. It’s essentially the United Nations that fly on the space shuttle.
It’s people of every description that look very much like the rest of us.
The astronaut selection process reflected a changing nation – and a changing NASA.
At the time all the astronauts were military test pilots and there were no females
so it was kind of like one of those dreams that you hope will happen some day
but you really didn’t think would.
The NASA astronaut class of 1978, the largest in the agency’s history,
came from all walks of American life: physicists, meteorologists, fighter pilots,
scientists, and, for the first time, women and African- Americans.
When I came into the astronaut program in 78 there were three African-Americans
that came in at the same time and it was the first time that NASA had hired
African-Americans. We had Fred Gregory who was a test pilot and then
Ron McNair who was a mission specialist and then I came in as a mission specialist
So all three of us were excited about flying in space and all three of us recognized
that we were going to open up the envelope for other African-Americans to fly in space.
While the new class of NASA astronauts trained for subsequent shuttle flights,
Columbia was undergoing preparations for the program’s maiden voyage – STS-1.
Veteran astronaut John Young, one of the twelve men to set foot on the moon, is in command.
His pilot is first-time flyer, Bob Crippen.
To be sitting onboard up there with my buddy John Young and to get to experience the
whole thing from ascent and being on orbit, to flying re-entry,
it was one of the high points of my career.
Together, they would travel over a million miles and circle the Earth 36 times.
The launch finally occurred. We’d been waiting and postponing and postponing
and when it finally lifted off and we knew it was going and achieved orbit,
we were all in anxious anticipation for what was going to happen next.
Launched like a rocket two days earlier, Columbia lands as a glider
on the dry lake bed of Edwards Air Force base in California.