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  Space Cover 225: "Chasing" the Space Shuttle

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 225: "Chasing" the Space Shuttle
Bob M

Posts: 1374
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-03-2013 01:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 225 (August 4, 2013)

Space Cover 225: "Chasing" the Space Shuttle

Those watching the Space Shuttle orbiters returning to earth on TV, would often notice small aircraft escorting them to safe touchdowns. These "escort" aircraft were NASA T-38 Talons, normally piloted by NASA Astronauts, and were called chase aircraft. During orbiter descents beginning at 40,000 feet, at least one T-38 chase plane visually checked the orbiter, while other chase aircraft provided live TV and photographic coverage of the approach and landings.

For this week's Space Cover of the Week feature, I've presented six covers that were canceled for each of the Space Shuttle's first five landings: STS-1 through STS-5. And each cover was autographed by T-38 chase pilots and back-seaters.

At the top are covers for STS-1's landing at Edwards AFB, CA, and also STS-2's landing there. The STS-1 cover was nicely autographed by nine T-38 chase pilots and back-seaters, including non-astronaut cameraman Dick Gray, who provided the TV images of the first landing of Columbia. The STS-2 cover is autographed by five astronaut chase pilots.

The STS-3 cover, canceled at White Sands Missle Range, NM, for the first and only Space Shuttle orbiter landing there, is autographed by the pilots of Chase 1, 2, 3 and 4, including non-astronaut Charlie Justiz. The STS-4 cover is autographed by two astronaut chase pilots, plus Justiz piloting the TV chase aircraft, and back-deater Pete Stanley providing TV coverage.

A second STS-4 cover is autographed by many of the STS-1 through STS-4 landing photographers. Finally, the STS-5 cover is nicely autographed by both Charlie Justiz, Chase 1 pilot, and Pete Stanley, Chase 1 cameraman.

An earlier discussion about Space Shuttle chase pilots can be found here.


Posts: 873
From: Shady Side, Md
Registered: Sep 2004

posted 08-03-2013 05:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Apollo-Soyuz   Click Here to Email Apollo-Soyuz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Absolutely fantastic SCOTW, Bob. It brings back memories as to the cooperation of many to autograph covers for us. Back then, many were very receptive to autograph requests.

John Macco
Space Unit #1457

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1841
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 08-04-2013 06:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob, I love this topic heading,"Chasing the Space Shuttle." A good documentation of all the early recorded signatures of "Chase" pilots and photographers. How long did you continue on with the "Chase" series like this?

Don't forget your flown/carried covers by support photographers that were assigned to the "Chase" ALT/Enterprise free flight series back in 1977.

This also reminds me of another series you started with autographs of all the shuttle mission capcom astronauts, I believe, for most of the shuttle flights.

Bob M

Posts: 1374
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-04-2013 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks. John is correct in that the early days of the Shuttle Program were a great time for us collectors, with generally good cooperation from the astronauts with autographs. So most of the credit for these special signed covers should go to the astronauts. For example, the STS-1 cover was signed by all nine with only one sending to JSC.

In addition to the autographs of 15 astronaut chase pilots on these covers, at least two other signers are of special note.

NASA photographer Terry Slezak is famous for being the first person to (accidently) touch moondust with his bare hands, and also for a more infamous use of some of it.

Charlie Justiz, a name and autograph probably missing from most of our collections, deserves special mention. He is a first generation Cuban-American, who joined NASA in 1980 and, among many accomplishments, piloted more than 10,000 parabolas in the KC-135 ("Vomit-Comet"), plus flew more than 15,000 simulated orbiter approaches in the STA, and "chased" 13 orbiters to safe landings. Besides being a professor, he's also an author. Unfortunately, he failed in his attempts to become a NASA Astronaut, but surely would have been a fine one. I'm proud to have his autograph in my collection.

And Ken, yes, for some time I did try to get covers signed for each flight by the Capcoms, as John Macco also did. But after good results up until about STS-39, I ended that project. But for some time, probably about 4-5 Capcoms signed covers for each flight, with three flights having eight Capcoms autographing. To sum it up, there were 155 autographs by 52 different astronaut Capcoms on covers for 35 flights. This was just one part of a fun and rewarding time for us bothersome collectors.

And, unfortunately, my pursuit of Chase pilots' autographs ended with STS-5 - many other things required my collecting time and attention back in those busy and fun early Shuttle days.


Posts: 522
From: washington, Illinois USA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 08-11-2013 11:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for astro-nut   Click Here to Email astro-nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A complete list of all chase planes with their pilots and back seat members, used for the Shuttle Program, would be good. Thank you.

All times are CT (US)

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