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A Game of Capture the Satellite
News story originally written on November 25, 1997

It was late in the evening when two astronauts approached the spinning 3,000 pound satellite. They delicately reached out to grab the lost satellite and bring it safely back to the U.S. space shuttle. This may sound like a clip out of a recent science fiction movie, but this is the story of the lost SPARTAN satellite.

The SPARTAN satellite was sent in the payload bay of the U.S. space shuttle, mission STS-87. It was to be released from the bay for two full days. During this time it was to make solar observations that would act as verification of the SOHO mission. The satellite failed to begin its maneuvers soon after it was deployed. Columbia tried to catch the failed satellite, only to nudge it into a slow spin while attempting to capture it with the robotic arm.

NASA decided to send astronauts Scott and Doi on a spacewalk to capture the satellite. Both men had underwater training in case an emergency retrieval of the satellite was necessary. However, the rehearsals never included a satellite that was spinning. The two men completed a successful retrieval of the satellite around 9p.m. last night.

A captured satellite is not the only excitement involved in this mission. Doi, age 43, became the first Japanese spacewalker last night during the rescue mission.

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