Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: NASA
Crew: Brady, Favier, Helms, Henricks, Kregel, Linnehan, Thirsk. Carried Life and Microgravity Spacelab; human biological and microgravity experiments.

Carried Life and Microgravity Spacelab; human biological and microgravity experiments. Landed KSC July 7.

NASA Official Mission Summary:

Pad B
78th Shuttle mission
20th flight OV-102
Longest Shuttle flight to date
31st KSC landing
Terence T. "Tom" Henricks, Mission Commander (4th
Shuttle flight)
Kevin R. Kregel, Pilot (2nd)
Susan J. Helms, Payload Commander (3rd)
Richard M. Linnehan, Mission Specialist (1st)
Charles E. Brady Jr., Mission Specialist (1st)
Jean-Jacques Favier, Payload Specialist (1st) (CNES, French Space Agency)
Robert Brent Thirsk, Payload Specialist (1st) (Canadian Space Agency)
Orbiter Preps (move to):
OPF - March 9, 1996
VAB - May 21, 1996
Pad - May 30, 1996


June 20, 1996, 10:49:00 a.m. EDT. Liftoff proceeded on time. In-cabin camera provided first video images from flight deck, beginning with crew ingress and continuing through main engine cutoff. Post-launch assessment of spent solid rocket boosters revealed hot gas path in motor field joints to, but not past capture feature Oring. This marked first occurrence of combustion product penetration into the J-joint of redesigned solid rocket motor (RSRM). Flight safety was not compromised, and motor performance met design specification requirements. Probable cause attributed to new, more environmentally friendly adhesive and cleaning fluid.


July 7, 1996, 8:36:45 a.m. EDT, Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Rollout distance: 9,339 feet (2,847 meters). Rollout time: 45 seconds. Mission duration: 16 days, 21 hours, 47 minutes, 45 seconds. Landed revolution 272. Longest Shuttle flight to date. Landed on first opportunity at KSC. First live downlink video during orbiter's descent. After landing, Henricks and Kregel participated in Olympic Torch ceremony at KSC Visitor Center.

Mission Highlights:

Five space agencies (NASA/USA; European Space Agency/ Europe; French Space Agency/France; Canadian Space Agency/ Canada; and Italian Space Agency/Italy) and research scientists from 10 countries worked together on primary payload of STS-78, Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS). More than 40 experiments flown were grouped into two areas: life sciences, which included human physiology and space biology, and microgravity science, which included basic fluid physics investigations, advanced semiconductor and metal alloy materials processing, and medical research in protein crystal growth.

LMS investigations conducted via most extensive telescience to date. Investigators located at four remote European and four remote U.S. locations, similar to what will happen with International Space Station. Mission also made extensive use of video imaging to help crew members perform inflight maintenance procedures on experiment hardware.

Previous life science investigations have delved into what physiological changes take place in microgravity environment; integrated LMS experiments explored why these changes occur. Most extensive studies ever conducted on bone and muscle loss in space. STS-78 marked first time researchers collected muscle tissue biopsy samples both before and after flight. Crew members also were scheduled to undergo Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans almost immediately after landing. Findings from comparison of the biopsy samples, along with various musculoskeletal tests conducted during mission, could lead to effective countermeasures to reduce inflight muscle atrophy.

Other life science investigations: First ever comprehensive study of sleep cycles, 24-hour circadian rhythms and task performance in microgravity. Spacecraft orbiting Earth pass through 16 sunrises and sunsets in single 24-hour period, which could disrupt normal body rhythms. During two 72-hour time blocks, crew members completed questionnaires and measured such functions as eye movement and muscle activity during sleep. In the Performance Assessment Work Station, crew members performed series of drills involving math problems and other mental tests to measure microgravity effects on cognitive, or thinking, skills.

Microgravity science investigations included Advanced Gradient Heating Facility, in which samples of pure aluminum containing zirconia particles were solidified. Could lead to more inexpensive ways to make mixtures of metals and ceramics, particularly useful to the metal casting industry. The Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility is first ever designed to use three methods for growing protein crystals. In Electrohydrodynamics of Liquid Bridges, which focused on changes that occur in a fluid bridge suspended between two electrodes. This research could find applications in industrial processes where control of a liquid column or spray is used, including in ink-jet printing.

Crew performed in-flight fixes to problem hardware on the Bubble, Drop and Particle Unit (BDPU), designed to study fluid physics.

Orbiter itself played key part in test that could help raise Hubble Space Telescope to higher orbit in 1997 during second servicing mission. Columbia's vernier Reaction Control System jets were gently pulsed to boost orbiter's altitude without jarring payloads. Same exercise could be conducted with orbiter Discovery during Mission STS-82 to raise HST's orbit without impacting its solar arrays.

No significant in-flight problems experienced with orbiter.

Payload and Vehicle Weights

Orbiter (Columbia) empty and 3 SSME's 160,330 lbs
Shuttle System at SRB Ignition 4,517,152 lbs
Orbiter Weight at Landing with Cargo 256,170 lbs
Spacelab Module 21,272 lbs

AKA: Columbia.
First Launch: 1996.06.20.
Last Launch: 1996.07.07.
Duration: 16.91 days.

More... - Chronology...

Associated People
  • Favier Favier, Dr Jean-Jacques (1949-) French materials scientist cosmonaut, payload specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-78. More...
  • Brady Brady, Charles Eldon Jr (1951-2006) American physician mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-78. More...
  • Henricks Henricks, Terence Thomas 'Tom' (1952-) American test pilot astronaut. Flew on STS-44, STS-55, STS-70, STS-78. More...
  • Thirsk Thirsk, Dr Robert Brent (1953-) Canadian physician mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-78,ISS EO-20. More...
  • Kregel Kregel, Kevin Richard (1956-) American test pilot astronaut. Flew on STS-70, STS-78, STS-87, STS-99. More...
  • Linnehan Linnehan, Dr Richard Michael (1957-) American veterinarian mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-78, STS-90, STS-109, STS-123. US Army More...
  • Helms Helms, Susan Jane (1958-) American test engineer mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-54, STS-64, STS-78, STS-101, ISS EO-2. More...

Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • Columbia American manned spaceplane. 28 launches, 1981.04.12 (STS-1) to 2003.01.16 (STS-107). Columbia, the first orbiter in the Shuttle fleet, was named after the sloop that accomplished the first American circumnavigation of the globe. More...

See also
Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...
  • NASA Houston American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. Houston, Houston, USA. More...

Associated Programs
  • STS The Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle) was conceived originally as a completely reusable system that would provide cheap, routine access to space and replace all American and civilian military launch vehicles. Crippled by technological overreach, political compromise, and budget limitations, it instead ended up costing more than the expendable rockets it was to have replaced. STS sucked the money out of all other NASA projects for half a century. The military abandoned its use after the Challenger shuttle explosion in the 1980's. More...

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...

STS-78 Chronology

1996 June 20 - . 14:49 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39B. LV Family: Shuttle. Launch Vehicle: Shuttle. LV Configuration: Space Shuttle STS-78.
  • STS-78 - . Call Sign: Columbia. Crew: Brady; Favier; Helms; Henricks; Kregel; Linnehan; Thirsk. Payload: Columbia F20 / EDO. Nation: USA. Related Persons: Brady; Favier; Helms; Henricks; Kregel; Linnehan; Thirsk. Agency: NASA Houston. Program: STS. Class: Manned. Type: Manned spaceplane. Flight: STS-78. Spacecraft: Columbia. Duration: 16.91 days. Decay Date: 1996-07-07 . USAF Sat Cat: 23931 . COSPAR: 1996-036A. Apogee: 261 km (162 mi). Perigee: 246 km (152 mi). Inclination: 39.0000 deg. Period: 89.60 min. Columbia carried Terence T Henricks, Kevin R Kregel, Susan J Helms, Richard M Linnehan, Charles E Brady, Jr, Jean-Jacques Favier, and Robert Brent Thirsk to orbit. Main payload was the Life and Microgravity Spacelab for conducting human biological and microgravity experiments. Columbia landed safely at Kennedy Space Center on July 7.

1996 July 7 - .
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