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Occurred 39 years ago

STS-51B was the 17th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle Program, and the seventh flight of Space Shuttle Challenger.

Space Shuttle


mission duration

7 days, 0 hours, 8 minutes, 46 seconds


April 29, 1985


May 6, 1985
Crew portrait for STS-51B (Spacelab 3) with the 7 men who flew on the mission.
S84-43852 (November 1984) — These seven men are the prime crew for NASA’s Spacelab 3/STS-51B mission, launched in late April 1985. In the front row are astronauts Robert F. Overmyer (left), commander; and Frederick D. Gregory, pilot. In the back row, left to right, are Don L. Lind, mission specialist; Taylor G. Wang, payload specialist; Norman E. Thagard and William E. Thornton, both mission specialists; and Lodewijk van den Berg, payload specialist.

Mission Facts

Mission: Spacelab-3
Space Shuttle: Challenger
Launch Pad: 39A
Launch Weight: 246,880 pounds
Launched: April 29, 1985 at 12:02:18 p.m. EDT
Landing Site: Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Landing: May 6, 1985 at 9:11:04 a.m. PDT
Landing Weight: 212,465 pounds
Runway: 17
Rollout Distance: 8,317 feet
Rollout Time: 59 seconds
Revolution: 111
Mission Duration: 7 days, 0 hours, 8 minutes, 46 seconds
Orbit Altitude: 222 nautical miles
Orbit Inclination: 57 degrees
Miles Traveled: 2.9 million


Robert F. Overmyer, Commander

Frederick D. Gregory, Pilot

Don L. Lind, Mission Specialist

Norman E. Thagard, Mission Specialist

William E. Thornton, Mission Specialist

Lodewijk van den Berg, Payload Specialist

Taylor G. Wang, Payload Specialist

Launch/Landing Highlights

The flight was first manifested as 51-E but it was rolled back from pad due to a timing problem with the TDRS-B payload. Mission 51-E was cancelled and the orbiter was remanifested with 51-B payloads. The launch on April 29 was delayed two minutes, 18 seconds due to a launch processing system failure.

The orbiter made its first crosswind landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California and returned to Kennedy Space Center on May 11, 1985.

Mission Highlights

The primary payload was Spacelab-3. This was the first operational flight for the Spacelab orbital laboratory series developed by the European Space Agency. Spacelab includes five basic discipline areas: materials sciences, life sciences, fluid mechanics, atmospheric physics, and astronomy. The main mission objective with Spacelab-3 was to provide a high quality microgravity environment for delicate materials processing and fluid experiments. Two monkeys and 24 rodents were observed for the effects of weightlessness. Of the 15 Spacelab primary experiments conducted, 14 were considered successful. Two Get Away Specials were on board.

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