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I was reading an article today where NASA admits some level of culpability contributing to a crew issue on SkyLab in 1973.

Nasa accepts that mission planners had not given the crew the typical period of adjustment to acclimatise to working weightlessly in orbit and had packed their schedules with large amounts of work. The number of spacewalks was also doubled, to four.

Granted a lot of years have passed since then and NASA takes better care of their personnel (in the heavens and on Earth).

How much time is built into mission plans for both new and experienced astronauts when it comes to transitioning to a weightless period of their missions. Is there time built in for sight-seeing and the mental orientation it takes to work effectively in space?

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  • $\begingroup$ some additional background: Is the Skylab 4 mutiny just a myth? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 24 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, that's the gist of the article, which you asked a separate question about yesterday. This question is purely about the acclimation aspect, not related to the mutiny or myth relating to it. $\endgroup$
    – Snow
    Mar 24 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ Oh my comment is for readers in general, not necessarily for the post author. It also permanently links the two questions so that future readers of one will easily see the other. i.stack.imgur.com/wiLHo.png and i.stack.imgur.com/1lhqd.png $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 24 at 14:56
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For shuttle:

Since shuttle missions were relatively short duration, not much time could be allotted to acclimatization (the term used in shuttle was adaptation). This was mostly handled by attempting to defer highly complicated tasks to beyond a (somewhat arbitrary) 72 hour point.

For example:

  • Spacewalks (EVAs) were forbidden in the first 24 hours, and highly discouraged in the first 72 hours.

A. SCHEDULED AND UNSCHEDULED EVA CONSTRAINTS

NO SCHEDULED EVA WILL BE PERFORMED PRIOR TO MET 72 HOURS.

During adaptation to zero-g conditions, moving about may provoke symptoms of illness. The activity associated with putting on a suit would increase the chance of an EVA crewmember being ill and potentially endanger the crewmember with vomitus in the suit.

B. UNSCHEDULED EVA’S:

  1. NO UNSCHEDULED EVA SHALL OCCUR DURING THE FIRST 24 HOURS OF FLIGHT.

  2. AN UNSCHEDULED EVA MAY BE PERFORMED PRIOR TO MET 72 HOURS ONLY IF AN ASSESSMENT OF CREW HEALTH HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED BY THE FCR SURGEON AND APPROVED BY THE FLIGHT DIRECTOR.

Shuttle Flight Rules, section A15-14

  • Rendezvous was scheduled for Flight Day 3

The Space Shuttle Program has never flown a Flight Day 1 rendezvous and docking/grapple since it results in small launch windows that do not repeat on a daily or weekly basis. Furthermore, Space Adaption Syndrome (SAS) can occur on Flight Days 1 and 2. A Flight Day 3 rendezvous and docking/grapple has been preferred for several reasons: 1) it provides time for the crew to overcome SAS...

History of Shuttle Rendezvous p. 227

  • The rules about early mission termination for critical failures allowed for a 'minimum duration flight' (MDF) of at least 72 hours instead of taking a quicker opportunity to a primary landing site (PLS)

C. FOR A SECOND FAILURE AFFECTING ANY ENTRY-CRITICAL SYSTEM ®[101796-4561A]

  1. TERMINATE THE FLIGHT NEXT PLS IF THE AFFECTED SYSTEM HAS LOST ALL FAULT TOLERANCE OR IF THE FAILURE IS CONSIDERED TO BE GENERIC.

  2. CONTINUE THE FLIGHT TO MDF IF THE ORBITER IS ONLY SINGLE- FAULT TOLERANT IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH DEPLOYMENT OF A PRIMARY PAYLOAD AND TO ENSURE CREW ADAPTATION, BOTH OF WHICH REDUCES THE OVERALL RISK TO THE CREW AND ORBITER.

NOTE: AN MDF WILL LAST APPROXIMATELY 72 HOURS AND LANDING WILL OCCUR AT THE PLS PRIOR TO THE END OF THE FLIGHT DAY 4.

Flight rules, A2-102

That said, some shuttle missions which deployed payloads did so quite early in the flight, sometimes only 6 or 7 hours in. Presumably the risk of keeping the payload in the bay outweighed the risk of skipping adaptation time. See What was the quickest launch-to-complex-milestone time achieved by a shuttle mission?

Acronymology:

  • FCR Flight Control Room
  • MET Mission Elapsed Time
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