The crew made an inspection of the shuttle's impacted starboard side using the shuttle's Canadarm robot arm, but the limited resolution and range of the cameras made it impossible to determine the full extent of the tile damage. I remember I actually went in a little bit late that day because I was flying a test flight in the morning, and then in the afternoon, I was catching an airliner down to Orlando [Florida] to work with the Naval Training Center on the next upcoming F-14 simulator that was being put together. At an astronaut meeting Gibson said, "I know many of you may have been very curious about our classified payload.  This was a situation that was similar to the one that would prove fatal 15 years later on STS-107.  These unspecified repairs could have necessitated a spacewalk, likely performed by Ross and Shepherd. Atlantis was returned to the Kennedy Space Center on 13 December and moved into an OPF on 14 December 1988. As a secret mission, not even the launch time of STS-27 was released until 24 hours prior to T-0. “Hoot” Gibson experienced quarantine and cramped quarters while flying on five space shuttle missions. You had a bunch of something going on if you had even half a degree. A retired NASA astronaut, he also served as Chief of the Astronaut Office from 1992 to 1994. But one of the STS-27 astronauts did make an offhand reference to their payload experiencing some sort of problem, which required a re-rendezvous and some kind of repair. “How could that happen?” historian Michael Cassutt queried in an August 2009 article for Air & Space. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! The total mission elapsed time at wheels-stop was 4 days, 9 hours and 6 minutes. ” as a result of Gibson’s penchant for making animal-like snorts whenever attractive women were in the vicinity ”. Gibson is active as a professional pilot who currently races regularly at the annual Reno Air Races. The problem was compounded by the fact that the crew was prohibited from using their standard method of sending images to ground control due to the classified nature of the mission.  There was almost no damage present on the orbiter's left side. , Mullane recalled that while filming the reentry through the upper deck's overhead windows, "I had visions of molten aluminum being smeared backwards, like rain on a windshield". Photo Credit: NASA. Friends and family attended the party at Hobby feting Gibson, who was chosen as an astronaut in 1978. There has been speculation that an EVA was conducted during this mission. But in Gibson’s mind, better had proven the enemy of good enough on STS-27; if the system worked, there was no need to change it. The events of the next few days would highlight how fine the line was between success and failure on a shuttle mission. The mission was originally scheduled to launch on 1 December 1988, but the launch was postponed one day because of cloud cover and strong wind conditions at the launch site. “Had there been a secret spacewalk that never made it into the official tally?” To this day, no one knows. The other plane, a single-engine Cassutt flown by astronaut Robert L. (Hoot) Gibson, landed safely at the New Braunfels Municipal Airport, 25 miles northeast of … And that, no reasonable soul could object to. None of their flight deck instruments showed the temperature of Atlantis’ skin—only flight controllers had that data—and at length the shuttle passed through the region of peak heating. Each track is specially chosen, often by the astronauts' families, and usually has a special meaning to an individual member of the crew, or is applicable to their daily activities.. STS-27 carried a classified payload for the U.S. Department of Defense, ultimately determined to be a Lacrosse surveillance satellite. “We could see that at least one tile had been completely blasted from the fuselage,” Mullane wrote. Photo Credit: NASA . Photo Credit: NASA. Photo Credit: NASA, A few hours into the mission, Mullane uncradled the RMS arm from the port-side sill of the shuttle’s payload bay and began the process of deploying the classified cargo, which is generally thought to have been a Lockheed Martin-built radar-imaging and all-weather-surveillance reconnaissance satellite, part of a program variously known as “Lacrosse” or “Onyx”. A review of launch video showed a piece of debris—probably a bit of ablative insulator—breaking away from the nose of one of the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) around 85 seconds after liftoff and hitting Atlantis’ fragile Thermal Protection System (TPS).