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Marshall History Archives

About Us

The Marshall History Archives is a service of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. It is the best place to go to learn about the center's contributions to the American space program over time.

Our role is to collect important documents from the Marshall Center's development over time, to preserve them for the future, and to make them available for you to use.

Marshall History Archives' collections hold documents that have shaped the course of space history, dating back over 60 years. You can find historical information in letters, notes, memos, photographs and other sources, both physical and digital.

We have collection guides and other finding aids to help you find the sources you need. If you need help using the archives, we provide reference services. We can also help you arrange a visit.

Contact us
We want to hear from you. Send us your questions, comments, complaints and suggestions about any of our services, including our website and online resources.

By email
Send your message to brian.c.odom@nasa.gov

By mail
Please write to:
Marshall History Archives
NASA – Marshall Space Flight Center
MSFC, AL  35812

By phone
Please call (256) 544-5670

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Marshall History Archives

The Spacelab Collection

Spacelab 1 module and Spacelab access tunnel being installed in the cargo bay of orbiter Columbia for the STS-9 mission.The Spacelab Collection housed in the Marshall History Archives at NASA's Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. encompasses a variety of material related to the program. The materials range from the early design phase, when it was known as “sortie can,” to published conference proceedings linked to completed microgravity research results. Because the Marshall Center served as the lead center for NASA and had responsibilities for Spacelab Program management, utilization, integration, and payloads, its actions generated a wealth of material over the course project development and much of this documentation is archived at Marshall. The majority of the material held in the Spacelab Collection spans from 1972 to 2000, with the bulk of that material dating from 1974-1986.    

Onboard photo of the Space Shuttle Orbiter Columbia during the Spacelab Life Science-1 (SLS-1) mission. The most unique aspect of the Spacelab Collection is found in the correspondence series. Included among the earliest correspondence is an August 8, 1973 communication from Director General of ESRO (currently the European Space Agency), Dr. Alexander Hocker to NASA Administrator Dr. James C. Fletcher discussing the Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies. Another  letter from NASA’s European representative Walter P. Murphy to Marshall Center Director Dr. Rocco A. Petrone, dated July 30, 1973, in which Murphy anticipates the confirmation of Spacelab as a European project “in spite of some rough spots” he expected at the European Space Conference held in Brussels the following day.  Also of note is an October 16, 1974 letter from former Marshall Center Director Eberhard Rees to then Marshall Center Director Dr. William R. Lucas, in which Rees expresses concern over a lack of a European source for 2219 aluminum needed for the Spacelab module.

Emblem that was designed to represent the ATLAS-1 payload.Of interest in the area of early payload planning is a paper written in 1975 by the Director of Program Development James T. Murphy entitled “Development and Integration of Spacelab Payloads.” In this paper, Mr. Murphy discusses a proper methodology for efficient Spacelab payload development and integration, a question that was of great importance to early mission planning. Much of the material included in the “Spacelab Missions” series is general information, experiment descriptions, and science reviews pertaining to Spacelab 1, Spacelab D-1 (a mission sponsored by the German Space Agency), Spacelab 2, and Spacelab 3. An item of note in this series is the Spacelab 3 Mission Science Review proceedings of a symposium held at Marshall on December 4, 1985, detailing among other findings, research in microgravity and a vapor crystal growth experiment, while the Microgravity Payloads series contains documentary evidence related to the both the United States and International Microgravity Laboratories.  

Payload Specialist Ulf Merbold working at Gradient Heating Facility on the Materials Science Double Rack (MSDR) during Spacelab 1 mission.An assortment of unique photographs and publications make up roughly a quarter of the collection. Numerous photographs of crew training, crews on orbit, hardware development and testing, and mission patches are included in addition to Astro-1, Astro-2, and Spacelab concepts. The publications series consists of 49 published materials ranging from printed NASA conference proceedings to those released to both American and European audiences.  

A number of other collections in the Marshall History Archives also contain materials related to Spacelab. The Dr. William R. Lucas Collection contains various correspondence and reading files related to program development under Lucas’ time as center director while the Thomas “Jack” Lee Collection also includes material generated during Lee’s time as manager of the Spacelab Program.

The examples included here represent only a small portion of the assortment of historical and archival materials that make up the Spacelab Collection in the Marshall History Archives. Please contact us at the Archive if you would like to conduct research in this or any of our collections.

Click on the following link to explore the collection finding aid: Spacelab Collection

Page Last Updated: January 17th, 2014
Page Editor: Lee Mohon