How a Thanksgiving Day Gag took control of the mission

How a Thanksgiving Day Gag took control of the mission
Make it bigger / Flight Director James M. (Milt) Heflin, in mission control during the flight of the STS-26 in 1988.


The phone call from “Ma Mountain Tent” to control the mission came at a very bad time. It was the afternoon of Thanksgiving in 1991. In space, crew members on board the space shuttle Atlantis Were asleep. All of a sudden, lead flight director Milt Heflin faced a crisis.

The Flight Dynamics Officer at Mission Control told Hefflin that the Cheyenne Ma Mountain Ten Air Force Station, which tracks brittle traffic, had issued a warning that a Turkish satellite had made possible contact with the space shuttle in just 15 minutes. In addition, the wreckage was probably in the middle of talks with the strike crew as the spacecraft passed through the southern tip of Africa.

There was no way for Heflin’s engineers to calculate any escape tactics, wake up the crew, and communicate with them before the blackout period began. Heflin Lvid C. – Why weren’t the Air Force given more warnings about a possible collision? Generally, they give about 24 hours notice. God, if they hit the satellite Atlantis, They could very well lose sleeping astronauts. The STS-44 crew can never wake up.

Heflin, an experienced flight director who joined the space agency two decades ago during the Apollo program, launched a maritime recovery mission after the landing of the moon, was largely incompetent. But now, he became stressed. “When I think about all my time, I don’t remember ever being as nervous or upset about anything as I was then,” he told Aras recently.

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What Heflin didn’t know at the time was that he had been snoozed by two of his flight controllers during another boring night, during an outspoken shuttle mission to regularize several Air Force salaries. There was no faulty satellite – the “Turkey” sign on Thanksgiving flew over his head. But the story doesn’t end there.

Practical jokes

Back In the beginning, NASA was not the button space agency that it is today. Initially, especially during the Mercury program, NASA decision-makers moved quickly, often flying over their pants seats. There was plenty of room for practical jokes, even within the sanctuary of mission control.

In his book The birth of NASA, Manfred “Dutch” von Ernfried wrote an impure practical joke that happened a few weeks before John Glenn’s first b Rabbit flight, in 1962, on top of an Atlas rocket. Chris Kraft, NASA’s Great Flight Director, Led his team long day and night training, simulations and discussions on mission rules for this critical flight.

At the time, missions were planned and managed outside the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Park Control Center, and there were several burns on the way to Glenn’s flight. One night, Craft’s chief lieutenant, Jean Cranj, decided to go for a walk with his boss the next day, when the two activities were to take place at the same time. Kraft will lead a mission simulation while Kranz led a launch pad test with the Atlas rocket. While doing the mission simulation, Kranz knew that the craft console would be watching the pad’s activities on the television.

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Working with John Hatcher, a video sports coordinator for the Control Center, Cranes had an old video of an Atlas launch that was converted into a craft feed. In addition, Kranz and Hatcher spent so much time looking for a rocket lift as soon as Kraft dropped the “firing command” switch as part of his simulation.

One Ehrenfried features what happened next in Florida:

As the simulation progressed, Kraft asked Cranes how the pad test was going and Cranes would immediately check the position of the face and head down. As the simulation landed on the elevator, as soon as Kraft dropped the switch, Hatcher began playing the old Atlas Lift video on Kraft’s console TV. When he looked at the TV, Kraft’s eyes flickered and he had wrinkles on his forehead. He turns to Cranj and says, “Have you seen him?” Kranz plays dumb and says, “Look what?” Without a pause, Kraft says, “Dirty thing unloaded!” Hatcher and Kranz tried to keep their faces straight, but they both couldn’t stop laughing. “Who did it?” Says Kraft. Then he realized he was “was” and he gave a half hearted laugh. Kranz and Hatcher grab Superman’s cape and escape!

About the author: Raven Weber

Musicaholic. Unapologetic alcohol maven. Social media expert. Award-winning coffee evangelist. Typical thinker.

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