Mission Monday: STS-5, the first operational shuttle mission

38 years ago, this week, the shuttle orbiter Columbia, carrying a crew of four, rocketed into space for STS-5, the fifth NASA Space Shuttle mission and the first operational shuttle mission in NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

The flight lasted just over five days, landing on Nov. 16, 1982 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The shuttle and crew traveled over two million miles and completed 81 orbits while in space.

Look back at this historic mission with five fast facts you might not have known about STS-5!

1. STS-5 marked the first shuttle flight with a crew of four.

The fifth shuttle flight in the Space Shuttle Program became the first shuttle mission to fly a crew of four, which included Commander Vance Brand, Pilot Robert Overmyer, and Mission Specialists Joseph Allen and William Lenoir.

2. The flight marked the first time Mission Specialists flew aboard the shuttle.

According to NASA, STS-5 marked the first shuttle flight to fly Mission Specialists. Thus, the first two shuttle Mission Specialists to fly into space were Joseph Allen and William Lenoir.

3. It was the first shuttle mission to carry and deploy commercial satellites.

The STS-5 flight carried and deployed two commercial communications satellites, TELESAT Canada’s ANIK C-3 and Satellite Business Systems’ SitS-C. This marked a first for STS-5 and the Space Shuttle Program. Following the successful deployment of the two satellites, the crew had some fun by taking a photo of themselves with a comical sign (see below), that at the bottom read, “we deliver.”

4. The first Space Shuttle Program spacewalk was scheduled for the STS-5 mission, but it did not happen due to a spacesuit malfunction.

While a history-making spacewalk was initially scheduled to take place during STS-5, the spacewalk was not conducted due to suit malfunctions. The extravehicular activity (EVA) would have been the first spacewalk in the Space Shuttle Program.

5. The crew conducted three Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) experiments during the flight.

While in space, the crew of STS-5 conducted several experiments. Among these experiments were three SSIP investigations, student projects selected to fly on the shuttle. According to NASA, this program offered students and educators the unique opportunity to “learn science by doing science,” culminating in a chance to actually fly their research projects on the shuttle in space!

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