D’oh! Ten Goofs in Space

There are some situations even astronauts can’t train for

(Asif Siddiqi collection/NASA)


Spartan's bad luck

The STS-87 crew, which flew in November 1997, had all sorts of problems with the Spartan-201-04 satellite, designed for a two-day study of the sun. First the crew failed to send a critical computer command to have Spartan orient itself in space once it was deployed. Then rookie astronaut Kalpana Chawla (who would later perish in the 2003 Columbia accident) tried to grab it with the shuttle’s robot arm but closed the arm’s latches too soon, and an inadvertent bump from the arm sent Spartan tumbling away. It finally took two spacewalking astronauts (above) to capture it by hand. The satellite was reflown the following October on STS-95, the flight that returned 77-year-old John Glenn to space.


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