The Goodbye Guys

Seeing off the astronauts is one of NASA’s most prestigious jobs, and one of the most demanding.

Air & Space Magazine | Subscribe

(Continued from page 3)

The closest call so far was the shuttle’s first-ever launch pad abort, which occurred in June 1984. One of Discovery’s three liquid-fueled engines had already ignited for liftoff when computers aboard the orbiter detected a problem and automatically snuffed the engine. A small hydrogen fire triggered extinguishers on the launch tower, and the water spray drenched the escaping astronauts. “We were all soaking wet and shivering in the cold and thinking, ‘This astronaut business is not quite what I thought it was going to be,’ ” recalls Michael Coats, pilot on the flight. But all were alive, according to Welty, because a watchful close out crew member broke a potentially deadly fall. “When we went up to get them out, we had one astronaut who didn’t really want to be in the ship at all,” he recalls. The person was “so nervous and jerky that they just jumped out of the hatch and [nearly] went right through the bellows.”

The astronauts know that close out crew members stand at the top of a very large pyramid of workers, all of whom deserve their gratitude for preparing the shuttles and the people inside them to fly, year in and year out. But if a problem crops up in those dramatic moments before liftoff, there are only seven people to turn to.


What Goes Up

Partial list of items carried and/or worn by astronauts during a shuttle launch. Some are optional and some, like life support and survival equipment, are mandatory.

Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES)
ACES Neck Dam Pull Tabs
Boot Assembly, Lightweight
ACES Glove Assembly
Gloves, Deerskin, Male, Short
Gloves, Deerskin, Male, Long
Gloves, Deerskin, Female
Gloves, Knit
Gloves, Comfort
Teflon Skullcap
Shoulder Comfort Pads, .25” or .5”
Thermal Top
Thermal Bottom, Men’s
Thermal Bottom, Women’s
Liquid Cooling Pants
Thermal Socks
Name Tag
Pressure Helmet
Very Lightweight Headset
Headset Interface Unit
Communications Pigtail
Hand-held Microphone
Sunglasses with Case
Sunglasses, Crew Preference
Sunglasses, Prescription
Eyeglasses, Prescription
Contact Lens, Case, and Solution
Kneeboard, Modified
Fabric Kneeboard
Checklist Holder
Personal Accommodation Plate
Emesis Bag
Disposable Absorption Garment
Maximum Absorption Garment
Adult Pants
Absorbent Pants
Ziplock Bag
Watch, Aviation Space
Wrist Watch, Personal
G-Shock Digital Watch
Microcassette Recorder
Microcassette Tape, Spare
Calculator, model HP-48SX
Pencil, Silver, w/Lanyard
Drinking Water Container
Carry-on Food
Survival Pack A (Flares, etc.)
Survival Pack B (Radio, etc.)
Knife/Shroud Line Cutter
Lanyard, Self-Doffing
Exposure Mittens
Dosimeter, Crew Passive
Flashlight with Switch Controls
Knife, Swiss Army
EMU Wrist Mirror
Wash Cloth
Lumbar Pad
Lower Back Support Cushion
Side Hatch Locking Device
Athletic Headband
Terrycloth Ponytail Holder
Bracelet, Adult I.D.

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus