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Our Spaceflight Heritage: STS-97 turns on the light

Photo Credit: NASA

On Nov. 30, 2000, space shuttle Endeavour lifted-off from Launch Complex 39B at 10:06 p.m. EST (0306 GMT) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida bringing a crew of five along with her. Led by commander Brent Jett, the STS-97 crew would embark on an eleven day journey to the International Space Station, meeting with the Expedition One crew for the first time.

Front L-R: Jett, Garneau, and Bloomfield. In the rear are Noriega (left) and Tanner. Photo Credit: NASA

Front L-R: Jett, Garneau, and Bloomfield. In the rear are Noriega (left) and Tanner. Photo Credit: NASA

The fifteenth flight of Endeavour was the first visit to the ISS which sought to deliver, assemble, and activate the U.S. power electrical system that would become critical for the future of the station. The main objectives for this mission were to deliver mail, food, and Christmas presents for the station’s first occupants. Endeavour also brought the P6 Integrated Truss Structure — a new power source for the station.

On day three, commander Jett along with the assistance of pilot Mike Bloomfield docked Endeavour to the International Space Station’s Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA) using the Orbital Docking System (ODS). This marked the first time that this part of the ISS was used by a shuttle crew.

Later the same day, mission specialist Marc Garneau successfully lifted the truss from Endeavour‘s payload bay using the shuttle’s 50-foot robotic arm. In addition to the truss was the first of four new solar arrays, dramatically increasing the size of the station and its capability.

This picture is one of a series of 70mm frames exposed of the International Space Station (ISS) following undocking at 1:13 p.m. (CST), December 9, 2000. This series of images, as well as video and digital still imagery taken at the same time, represent the first imagery of the entire station with its new solar array panels deployed. Before separation, the shuttle and space station had been docked to one another for 6 days, 23 hours and 13 minutes. Endeavour moved downward from the space station, then began a tail-first circle at a distance of about 500 feet. The maneuver, with pilot Michael J. Bloomfield at the controls, took about an hour. While Endeavour flew that circle, the two spacecraft, moving at five miles a second, navigated about two-thirds of the way around the Earth. Undocking took place 235 statute miles above the border of Kazakhstan and China. When Endeavour made its final separation burn, the orbiter and the space station were near the northeastern coast of South America. NASA photo

The international Space Station after the STS-97 mission. Photo Credit: NASA

The following day, mission specialists Joseph Tanner and Carlos Noriega began the first of three spacewalks (EVAs) to assist Garneau in properly aligning the station’s new component.

The P6 Truss is 240 feet long (73 meters) and weighs 17, 000 pounds (7,700 kilograms). During the final EVA, Tanner and Noriega also prepared the station for the future arrival of the Destiny Laboratory module. Tanner and Noriega spent a total of 19-hours and 20-minutes performing spacewalks.

ISS Commander Bill Shepherd, pilot Yuri Gidzenko, and flight engineer Sergei Krirkalev entered the newly-arrived Unity module for the first time on flight day four.

On Friday Dec. 8, 2000 at 9:36 a.m. EDT (1436 GMT), the crews of the shuttle and station met for the first time.

Before Endeavour undocked from the station, supplies were transferred from the orbiting laboratory back to the shuttle.

STS-97 ended when Endeavour successfully landed on Kennedy Space Center’s Runway 15 on Dec. 11, 2000 at 6:04 p.m. EST (2304 GMT). The mission ended after traveling 4.5 million miles in just 10-days, 19-hours, 58-minutes, and 20-seconds.


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Heather Smith's fascination for space exploration – started at the tender age of twelve while she was on a sixth-grade field trip in Kenner, Louisiana, walking through a mock-up of the International Space Station and seeing the “space potty” (her terminology has progressed considerably since that time) – she realized at this point that her future lay in the stars. Smith has come to realize that very few people have noticed how much spaceflight technology has improved their lives. She has since dedicated herself to correcting this problem. Inspired by such classic literature as Anne Frank’s Diary, she has honed her writing skills and has signed on as The Spaceflight Group’s coordinator for the organization’s social media efforts.

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