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The astronaut who left space from Challenger dies at 84 years old



By Ellie Silverman | Washington Post

Donald H. Peterson Sr., an astronaut who served on the Space Shuttle's Challenger maiden voyage and made a spacewalk to test the ability to repair the vehicle as it orbited more than 170 miles across the Earth, died May 27 at his home in El Lago, Texas. He was 84.

The cause was Alzheimer's disease and bone cancer, a daughter said, Shari Peterson

Peterson, an Air Force veteran, joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in September 1

969, two months after Neil Armstrong led the historic first landing on the Moon. Fourteen years later, Peterson joined the crew of the sixth NASA Space Shuttle Mission – and the Challenger's first flight. (The Shuttle exploded in 1986 during its 10th mission.)

Soviet and American astronauts had been making spacewalks since 1965, but the ability to leave the shuttle was an important step toward repairing and servicing a spacecraft

Peterson and mission expert Story Musgrave dressed in 250-pound white spacesuits with tethered backpacks that allowed for greater mobility.

Before leaving the Challenger, Peterson had to breathe pure oxygen for three and a half hours to gradually reduce excess nitrogen from his body. This was done to avoid a decompression sickness similar to that experienced by diver with too rapidly changing air pressure.

The fresh oxygen made a "nice sound," so Peterson turned off his handset and fell into "probably the best" sleep I've had in orbit, "he recalled in a 2002 NASA oral history interview." People asked, "How in the world can you sleep before you get ready to go?" I said, "You know, you get tired enough, you can sleep almost anywhere."

At 4:30 pm, Peterson and Musgrave were in the 60-foot cargo bay, checking the maintenance materials, the future crews had to keep. fix the spacecraft. For about four hours, they seemed to be moving "like underwater swimmers" as the shuttle circled the earth at 17,500 miles per hour. The Washington Post reported at that time.

The men were tied to the cargo bay of the shuttle while testing their capability (19659003) After launching a satellite, the crew decided that they should test what would happen if the electronic engines had the ability to tip over Collars on the back of the Orbiter would no longer work

 Don Peterson, on the right, floats in the cargo bay of the Challenger space shuttle. CREDIT: NASA handbill
Don Peterson, on the right, floats in the cargo hold of the Challenger space shuttle. NASA

"We had shackles, but it took so long to set them up and move them around that we did not want that," Peterson said in a NASA interview. "So I was holding on to a piece of sheet metal with one hand, which was not the best way to hold on, and turned the wrench with my other hand, and my legs floated out behind me." As I cranked up, my legs wagged like a swimmer back and forth to respond to the wrench. "

During this test, his suit began to leak. "I have an alarm," Peterson said to Musgrave.

"Story stopped what he was doing and came over," Peterson recalls. "We tried to check what was going on and the seal burst and the leak stopped." They finished the procedure.

Donald Herod Peterson was born on October 22, 1933 in Winona, Mississippi. His father ran a gas station and sold furniture. Peterson's enthusiastic consumption of science fiction in his childhood drove his interest in aviation and space.

Peterson graduated from the US Military Academy in West Point, New York in 1955, and received a 1962 Masters in Nuclear Engineering from the Air Force in 1965-00003.] Early in his military career, he worked for the Air Training Command Flying instructor and for the Air Force Systems Command as a nuclear system analyst.


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