By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianNovember 18, 2014
On Nov. 20, 1995, Space Transportation System-74, or STS-74, Atlantis, concluded its eight-day space flight. The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command tie to this mission was then Lt. Col. William S. "Bill" McArthur, Jr., served as mission specialist. STS-74 was McArthur's second shuttle flight.
The flight was part of the first phase in the development of the International Space Station program; the primary mission of this flight was to deliver a Russian-built docking module to facilitate shuttle/Mir link ups, two solar arrays, as well as food, water and other supplies to the Russian Space Station Mir.
This second linkup of the shuttle and the Mir marked the first time that astronauts from the European Space Agency, Canada, Russia and the United States were in space on the same complex at the same time.
As Atlantis prepared to launch on Nov. 12, the planned connection with the Mir necessitated a short -- seven minute -- launch window. In addition to McArthur, the crew included Marine Corps Col. Kenneth Cameron, flight commander; Air Force Lt. Col. James Halsell Jr., pilot; and Air Force Lt. Col. Jerry Ross and Canadian Air Force Maj. Chris Hadfield, mission specialists.
Due to the American government shutdown and subsequent furlough, mission status reports are not available for Nov. 14-19. Data from other sources, however, show that the mission proved to be a success.
On the third day of the flight, Hadfield maneuvered the 9,011 pound, 15-foot module from the payload bay attaching it to the shuttle's Orbiter Docking System. At the same time, McArthur operated the Orbiter Space Vision System, "a precise alignment system for the mechanical arm" being tested during this flight.
The actual rendezvous, documented by an IMAX Cargo Bay Camera, took place the next day. The module became a permanent fixture of the Mir and the docking location for all subsequent shuttle link-ups.
Transferred with the module were the two solar arrays, which were installed after the shuttle's departure. Developed via two separate methods, the arrays were expected to support the American experiments aboard the Mir while providing greater power and longer life expectancy.
During the docked period, four additional experiments were conducted to address long-term residence aboard the future International Space Station. These were experiments in Mir Source and Reclaimed Waters; a Shuttle/Mir Alignment Stability, Mir Wireless Network and Mir Audible Noise Measurement. An analysis of water samples from several areas within the Mir helped in the design and evaluation of future water purification systems.
The stability experiment meanwhile looks at the shuttle/Mir spacecraft with its combined mass of over 200 tons and the affects of gravity, rocket firings, etc. to assist in the development of design concepts for the space station.
Also aboard this flight were two experiments; the GLO-4 and the Photogrammetric Appendage Structural Dynamics Experiment, or PASDE. The GLO-4 was designed to study the Earth's thermosphere, ionosphere and mesosphere and the so called "glow phenomenon" observed by earlier astronauts. At the same time, this technology would be used to study spacecraft interactions with the atmosphere "observing shuttle and Mir glow, shuttle engine firings, water dumps and fuel cell purges" to assess a possible cause and affect between the Shuttle and the glow effect.
The PASDE experiment meanwhile was contained in canisters throughout the cargo bay. They were to "photogrammetrically record structural response data of the Mir solar arrays." The goal was to assess the use of photogrammetric techniques, the science of making measurements from photographs, to "characterize the structural dynamics of the array" which would potentially reduce costs and risks associated with the construction of the International Space Station.
After three days, Atlantis undocked from the Mir in preparation for the return flight. Transferred from the Mir were a variety of experiment biomedical and microgravity science samples, equipment for repair and analysis and products manufactured on the station.
Included among these was a protein crystal growth experiment, the results of a greenhouse experiment, data from various life science studies such as eye/head coordination during target acquisition, in flight radiation measurements and the human immune system. Another significant payload for the return flight was the Trek Experiment.
Developed by the University of California at Berkeley, the Trek Experiment was a four-year study of the chemical composition of cosmic rays.
Atlantis, having flown 3.4 million miles, concluded its mission and touched down on the runway at Kennedy Space Center at 12:01:27 p.m.