In Quest of Comet Halley

The G324 GAS Payload opportunity was donated by NASA Langley Research Center to the Charleston County School District. The original concept was to design a shuttle payload to photograph Comet Halley during it's 1987 appearance.


A volunteer team undertook the complex process of design and construction of a space-worthy payload. Here examining the payload are (left to right) Chief Engineer Tom O'Brien, retired NASA engineer Billy Hughes and College of Charleston electrical engineering student David Lee.
The final structure housed four Nikon F3 cameras with different lenses including a special Ultraviolet lens . The payload was totally self contained with it's own batteries to supply power and control electronics to activate the cameras. This structure would have been housed in a 5 cubic foot GAS canister with a fused silica window.



Langley Research Center offered the use of it's testing facilities. Here the payload is being loaded into a thermal chamber where liquid nitrogen will simulate the temperature of deep space.
No matter how good the design of the payload it would only succeed with the active involvement of the shuttle crew. Fortunately, crew members like Shuttle Commander Jon McBride took a keen interest in the educational payload. Here is a picture that Commander McBride specially posed to help recruit students to participate in the Comet Halley mission.

It takes a huge team to put a payload in space. (From left to right) Marianne Albsjerg NASA-JSC, Jon Schneeberger NGS, Larry Tant NASA-LARC, Tom O'Brien CAN DO, Jim Nicholson CAN DO, David Leestma NASA-Astronaut, Pete Petrone NGS, Ron Kinsley NASA Headquarters, Cliff Harvey CAN DO, Dick Richards NASA Shuttle Pilot, Neal Barthelme NASA GSFC.

The G324 payload never got a chance to photograph Comet Halley. It was already at the Kennedy Space Center to be loaded on an upcoming flight when the January 28, 1986 Challenger Launch tragedy grounded the shuttle fleet until long after Comet Halley had left the sky. The payload later flew to photograph the Earth . The CAN DO Team went instead to New Zealand to photograph Comet Halley from the stratosphere.

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