Atmospheric Science and Two Space Firsts

On this date, 15 years apart, two trailblazing (so to speak) female astronauts made historic space flights.


(Charlotte, North Carolina, photographed at night from STS-56. NASA image.)

Twenty years ago today — April 8, 1993 — the Space Shuttle Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center carrying two science payloads. The STS-56 crew consisted of astronauts Kenneth D. Cameron, Stephen S. Oswald, C. Michael Foale, Kenneth D. Cockrell, and the first Hispanic woman to fly in space, Ellen Ochoa. The primary payload was the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS, in its second iteration, ATLAS-2), which was “designed to collect data on [the] relationship between [the] sun’s energy output and Earth’s middle atmosphere and how these factors affect ozone layer.” The crew also deployed and recovered the SPARTAN-201 free-flying science package, which examined the sun’s corona and the solar wind.

Also on this date, in 2008, Soyuz TMA-12 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying cosmonauts Sergei A Volokov and Oleg D. Kononenko, plus South Korean Yi So-Yeon, to the International Space Station. Yi was South Korea’s first astronaut, having been selected from 36,000 applicants. Volokov and Kononenko stayed aboard the ISS when Yi and the former ISS crew returned to Earth on April 19th.

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