Selected by NASA in January 1990, Halsell became an astronaut in July 1991. Assigned to the Astronaut Office Mission Support Branch, he initially served as a spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) in the Mission Control Center. Subsequently, he was assigned to the Astronaut Support Personnel team which helps to prepare the Space Shuttle vehicles for flights at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. A three flight veteran, Halsell has logged over 645 hours in space. He was the pilot on STS-65 (July 8-23, 1994) and STS-74 (November 12-20, 1995), and was mission commander on STS-83 (Apr 4-8, 1997).
On STS-65, the seven-member crew aboard Space Shuttle Columbia launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 8, 1994, and returned there on July 23, 1994, setting a new flight duration record for the Space Shuttle program. The STS-65 mission flew the second International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-2). During the 15-day flight the crew conducted more than 80 experiments focusing on materials and life sciences research in microgravity. The mission was accomplished in 236 orbits of the Earth, traveling 6.1 million miles in 353 hours and 55 minutes.
STS-74 was NASA's second Space Shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. During the 8-day flight the Atlantis crew successfully attached a permanent docking module to Mir and transferred over 2,000 pounds of food, water and scientific supplies for use by the cosmonauts. The STS-74 mission was accomplished in 129 orbits of the Earth, traveling 3.4 million miles in 196 hours, 30 minutes, 44 seconds.
STS-83, the Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1) Spacelab mission, was cut short because of problems with one of the Shuttle's three fuel cell power generation units. Mission duration was 95 hours and 12 minutes, traveling 1.5 million miles in 63 orbits of the Earth.
Carried IML-2; microgravity, biology experiments. Payloads: International Microgravity Laboratory (IML) 2, Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment (OARE), Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG), Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS), Military Applications of Ship Tracks (MAST), Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX).
Rendezvoused and docked with Mir space station on November 15. Delivered the Russian-built 316GK Shuttle-Mir docking module to Mir.Payloads: Shuttle-Mir Mission 2; docking module with two attached solar arrays; IMAX Cargo Bay Camera (ICBC); Glow Experiment (GLO-4)/ Photogrammetric Appendage Structural Dynamics Experiment (PASDE) Payload (GPP); Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX) II.
The launch of STS-83, the first Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1) mission, was postponed for a day to replace some insulation around a water coolant line in Columbia's payload bay. Liftoff was further delayed 20 minutes due to anomalous oxygen readings in the orbiter's payload bay. STS-83 was cut short due to a problem with one of the three fuel cells that provide electricity and water to Columbia (flight rules required that all three must be operating). At 14:30 GMT on April 6 the crew were ordered to begin a Minimum Duration Flight (MDF). On April 8 the OMS engines ignited at 17:30 GMT for the deorbit burn, and Columbia landed on Runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center at 18:33 GMT.
With delays in International Space Station construction leaving ample room in the shuttle schedule, NASA made the unique decision to leave the equipment installed in Columbia and refly this mission with the same crew later in 1997 as STS-94.
STS-94 was the reflight, with the same equipment and crew, of the curtailed STS-83 mission. Cargo Bay Payloads:
In-Cabin Payloads: SAREX, MSX
The mission this time went for its full two week duration and the crew completed the full list of experiments. The deorbit burn was on July 17, 1997 at 09:44 GMT and Columbia landed on KSC's Runway 33 at 10:46:34 GMT.
Objective of mission STS-101 was repair, resupply and construction tasks aboard the international space station. This was the first launch with new electronic cockpit displays and other upgrades. The solid boosters separated at 10:13 GMT and the main engines cutoff at 10:19 GMT. The external tank, ET-102 then separated, with both orbiter and ET-102 in a 52 x 320 km initial orbit. At 10:54 GMT the OMS engines fired to raise perigee to 159 x 329 km x at 51.6 deg. Atlantis docked with the International Space Station's PMA-2 docking adapter on the Unity node at 04:31 GMT on May 21. At that time the ISS was in a 332 x 341 km orbit.
On May 22 mission specialists Jeff Williams and James carried out external maintenance work on the ISS.
On May 23 at 00:03 GMT the Atlantis crew opened the first hatch to PMA-2 and entered the Station. The crew replaced a set of batteries in Zarya, installed fans and ducting to improve airflow, and delivered supplies and equipment. Three hour-long orbit raising burns on May 24 and 25 by the RCS engines on Atlantis raised the station to a 372 x 380 km x 51.6 deg orbit.
The STS-101 crew left the station on May 26, closing the PMA-2 hatch at 08:08 GMT and undocking at 23:03 GMT. Atlantis performed a 180 degree flyaround of the station and departed the vicinity around 23:44 GMT.
Atlantis closed its payload bay doors around 02:30 GMT on May 29 and fired the OMS engines for deorbit at 05:12 GMT. The vehicle landed on RW15 at Kennedy Space Center at 06:20 GMT. Atlantis was to be turned around for the next ISS shuttle flight, STS-106.
Left in orbit was the renovated International Space Station, equipped with an upgraded electrical system, new fans, filters, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and communications gear.