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Science & Exploration

N° 34–1994: European astronaut and atmosphere studies on Space Shuttle mission

14 October 1994

During the first two weeks of November, ESA will be again on the scene of international manned space flight, playing an important role in the ATLAS 3 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS -66) and taking another step towards global cooperation in space.

The involvement of ESA in the STS-66 flight is twofold:
European experiments will be flown together with American experiments on what is basically a laboratory into orbit to study the Sun's energy output and the Earth's atmospheric composition, while an ESA astronaut- the French Jean- Fran.ois Clervoy- will make his first trip as mission specialist together with five other crew members.

Scheduled for launch from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on 3 November 1994 at 12:46 hrs local time (18:46 hrs CET) Space Shuttle Atlantis will carry into orbit the ATLAS laboratory: six instruments mounted in the orbiter's cargo bay on a Spacelab pallet. This U-shaped platform which exposes the experiments directly to space is a component of the reusable equipment provided by ESA as its contribution to the Space Shuttle programme.

The ATLAS 3 mission is the third in a series of missions to take snapshots of the atmosphere throughout an 11-year solar cycle. The experiments are sponsored by various international space organisations and institutions from countries including Belgium, France, Germany and the USA.

The ATLAS 3 experiments are complemented by the German research satellite CRISTA-SPAS, a unique telescope designed to detect medium and small scale structures and to analyze dynamic processes in the middle atmosphere. The platform will be released from the Shuttle's cargo bay and will operate from an orbit of some 40 to 70 km behind the Shuttle before being retrieved after seven days.

ESA astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy- at his maiden space flight- will play a key role as mission specialist. Among his main responsibilities will be operation of the orbiter's remote manipulator arm to deploy the CRISTA-SPAS satellite. The 35-year-old Frenchman has undergone intensive training for the mission since his selection was announced at the beginning of this year.

Jean-Francois Clervoy is however no stranger to absence of gravity, as he completed some 2200 parabolic aircraft flights when he was in charge of the French space agency's (CNES) parabolic microgravity research programme before being selected as an ESA astronaut in 1992.

Landing of the STS-66/ATLAS 3 mission is scheduled to take place on 14 November at 07:32 hrs local time (13:32 hrs CET) at the Kennedy Space Centre runway.

On the day of the launch, information will be available at the ESA Press Desk at the Kennedy Space Center:
tel. + 1 407 639 6405 or 639 7806, and - as of 4 November and for the whole mission duration- at the ESA Press Desk at the Johnson Space Center, Houston:
tel. + 1 713 486 8971 Status reports will also be available at the ESA Public Relations Office in Paris: tel + 33 1 4273 7155.