The Astronaut Who Caught a Satellite

09 diciembre 2009


Yes, that figure in the image is an astronaut and he is intercepting a satellite in the middle of space. The photograph was taken on November 14th, 1984, while floating 210 miles over The Bahama Islands. His name is Dale A. Gardner and in the image he has just left Discovery shuttle, floated about 50 meters through the empty space and then captured the Westar 6.


During this strange rendezvous, Gardner is wearing the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) and using a large tool called the Apogee kick motor Captured
Device (ACD). He uses it to attach it to “the nozzle of the spent Westar engine and stabilize the satellite to capture it for return to Earth”.

Image: LIFE

According to Wikipedia, STS-51-A mission was unique in that it marked the first time the shuttle had deployed two communications satellites, and retrieved from orbit two other communications satellites. Palapa B-2 and Westar 6 had been deployed during the STS-41-B mission earlier in the year, and had been placed into improper orbits because their kick motors malfunctioned.

Gardner, testing ACD (NASA)

After this mission, NASA decided to discontinue untethered spacewalks. The satellite recoveries on this mission were the last untethered spacewalks until 1994 and the last use of the Manned Maneuvering Unit. All subsequent spacewalks by NASA and the Soviets/Russians have had the astronauts tethered to the craft by some means.

In this video, Gardner and Allen explain the details on the mission. Gardner says he had a lot of fun during his incredible spacewalk. Please watch his flight:


After retrieving the two satellites, Dale Gardner and Joseph P. Allen took their famous picture showing the message "For sale". The Westar 6 and Palapa B2 recoveries were funded by the insurance companies that insured the launch of those two satellites. Both were brought back to earth and refurbished. Westar 6 was later resold to China, and relaunched on April 7, 1990, as AsiaSat 1.


Link: STS-51-A Press kit. See also: Top 10 Best Spacewalks in History (Fogonazos)

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15 Respuestas (Deja un comentario)

  1. Scott dijo...
  2. Awesome!!!

  3. Dave Shuck dijo...
  4. Suddenly my job feels very boring.

  5. Ralph dijo...
  6. He was his own spaceship. Must have been a spiritual experience!

  7. zekkerjah dijo...
  8. In all likelihood the untethered spacewalks were discontinued after the NASA scientists watched 2001 Space Odyssey.

  9. Remi dijo...
  10. Roll to minute 1:47 to see a strange bubble floating by in space

  11. Permission To Cum dijo...
  12. Do you think when the space hotel is up and running we'll be able to give this a go ourselves?

  13. Lets Go Live On Mars! dijo...
  14. I want to do this! Then I want to use space as a giant driving range like in Futurama

  15. Vovin dijo...
  16. Remi: That is not out in space, it's inside the cabin from where the dude is recording all this.

  17. Miguel Yunes dijo...
  18. Astronaut Dale A. Gardner, having just completed the major portion of his second extravehicular activity (EVA) period in three days, holds up a "For Sale" sign refering to the two satellites, Palapa B-2 and Westar 6 that they retrieved from orbit after their Payload Assist Modules (PAM) failed to fire.

  19. Candidato a la Gobernatura por el estado de Veracruz dijo...
  20. Awesome great experience.

  21. BoeingB17FF dijo...
  22. I actually know this guy. My dad worked with him years ago and I have an autographed shuttle flight patch.

  23. Dale Gardner dijo...
  24. That's me -- when I was younger and bolder. I wrote something on the experience some time back. You can see it at:

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14534474/Catch%20a%20Satellite.DOC

    Dale Gardner

  25. aberron dijo...
  26. OMG! Mr Gardner, it's a honor for me to see you here. Sometime ago I tried to contact you for an interview, if you like the idea please write to me to: fogonazos [at] gmail.com

    A million thanks :-)

  27. Laura dijo...
  28. Untethered spacewalk? Oh my... what would have happened if he'd missed? *shudders* Nightmare fuel, that.

  29. SAP XI dijo...
  30. That takes a lot of courage!