Spacelab in orbit (left) some 270 km above the Earth. The laboratory is shown in its common configuration of long module and pallets. Spacelab scientists only work in the laboratory; they eat and sleep in the mid-deck living quarters of the orbiter, to which Spacelab is linked by a pressurized tunnel.
There are two main units in Spacelab. One is a pressurized laboratory module, and the other is an unpressurized pallet, or platform, for carrying instruments that need to be exposed to the space environment. The standard configuration is the so-called long module and pallets, shown in the picture at the top. The long module is a two-segment cylinder about 7 m long and 4 m across. It is fitted out with laboratory equipment and instruments in standard-sized racks along the sides. It has a powerful computer system to analyse results on the spot. But many results are relayed to scientific centres back on Earth.
Some Spacelab investigators are professional astronauts from NASA, called mission specialists, who have a strong scientific background. Others are non-astronaut scientists from both the United States and Europe, who have particular expertise in the subjects being studied. They are known as payload specialists.
The investigators carry out experiments and observations in many branches
of science and engineering. They photograph the Earth and make telescopic
observations of the heavens. They study living things, from flies to monkeys,
to see how they react to weightlessness. They also conduct medical experiments
on themselves, taking daily blood samples, for example. They also carry
out tests to gain a greater insight into such problems as space adaptation
syndrome, or space sickness.
|Spacelab scientists carry out a variety of biological studies in orbit. On the Spacelab 3 mission, in April 1985, there were two dozen rats and a pair of squirrel monkeys as well as a human crew of seven. The scientists studied the effects on these animals of weightlessness. Here mission specialist William Thornton is observing one of the squirrel monkeys. But who is really upside-down: man or monkey?|
|A busy scene on board Spacelab during the Spacelab D1 mission of October 1985, dedicated to West Germany. The crew of eight included Guion Bluford (US, left) and Richard Furrer (West Germany).|
|European astronaut Ulf Merbold, pictured on the "ceiling" of Spacelab on its first flight in November 1983. Dr Merbold was one of two payload specialists.|