Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Vance Brand

Apollo-Soyuz pilot Vance Brand is 78 years young today. Jane and I had the pleasure of sitting at Vance and Bev's table at dinner at Spacefest in February this year. Someone said after Spacefest that they thought that Vance and Bev were the kind of people you would want to have as your next-door neighbors, and I certainly share that assessment. They were charming and very down-to-Earth folks!

After being selected as an astronaut in 1966, Vance's first "mission" was 2TV-1, an Earthbound simulation of a full-length Apollo mission, with the Command Module sealed inside a vacuum chamber for 8 days. I asked him if boredom was a problem during that time locked in a small capsule. He said that the real problem was that the 1-G toilet that had been installed in the capsule overflowed several days into the mission!

Vance served as backup Command Module Pilot for Apollo 15, and as backup Commander for Skylabs 3 and 4. When problems developed on the Skylab 3 spacecraft, he was pressed into service as Commander for the Skylab Rescue Mission, which ended up never flying. He eventually made it into space as CMP for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the last Apollo mission. He subsequently commanded three Space Shuttle missions. On STS-35 in 1990, Vance was at age 59 the oldest person to fly in space, a record which was broken by John Glenn in 1998.

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