Science

Showrunner for Quantum Leap, technical consultant for recreating the space shuttle for Atlantis

It probably could be taken for granted, but for the record: the space shuttle mission featured in Quantum Leap. (will open in a new tab) Did not happen.

First shown Monday (September 26) on NBC and now airing on Peacock, the episode “Atlantis” saw Ben Song (Raymond Lee) join the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. (will open in a new tab)by jumping into the body of an astronaut during a mission launch.

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for “Atlantis”, the second episode of the new Quantum Leap series. (will open in a new tab).

“In an episode like this, it didn’t make sense to base it on an actual shuttle mission,” Martin Gero, executive producer and showrunner of Quantum Leap, told collectSPACE.com. “It was enough just to say that we would be in the space shuttle.”

“One of the ways we thought we could get around this as an unknown mission was for it to be a secret flight, something about launching a military satellite, which is why it wasn’t in the books and no one knew about it,” Hero. said. “But we tried our best to be based on the real 1990s and realized that our audience didn’t really care one way or the other.”

Samantha Stratton (Carly Pope, left), Jim Reynolds (Jose Zúñiga, right), and Max Everett (Leith Burke) on the deck of a spaceship in the Quantum Leap episode “Atlantis.” (Image credit: NBC/Ron Batzdorf)

The series established that Song was launched from Atlantis on March 7, 1998, during a mission to deliver the first part of the International Space Station into orbit. From these few details, those who are familiar with the history of the space shuttle will be clear that this is a fictitious flight.

Let’s start with the fact that there was no launch that day. The closest mission was STS-90, the 25th mission of the Columbia Orbiter, which began on April 17, 1998.

The first shuttle mission to deliver a component of the International Space Station really took place in 1998, but on Endeavor on December 4 of the same year. The STS-88 mission delivered the Unity node to the Russian functional cargo block Zarya, which is already in orbit.

Atlantis, as history shows, did not fly in 1998. He spent the first eight months of that year at an assembly plant in California, receiving glass cockpit displays, a GPS navigation system and a new docking port to power future missions in International Space. Station. The work also included removing the extended duration orbiter package, allowing Atlantis to stay longer in space with added cryogenics on board.

History aside, the Atlantis orbiter is outwardly different from its namesake and all other cruise shuttles in the NASA fleet.

“Like any sci-fi show, you start to blur the edges a bit,” Gero said. “For example, the flight deck is actually very close to the flight deck of a space shuttle. But the middle deck looks completely different and functions completely differently.”

The mid-deck space shuttle shown here with Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) and Addison Augustine (Caitlin Bassett) from the Quantum Leap episode “Atlantis” is different from reality, but for good reason, says showrunner Martin Gero. (Image credit: NBC/Ron Batzdorf)

Previously used in other television and film productions, the crew cab set was modeled after the cockpit of a real car, but much more spacious to accommodate the action planned for the sequence and the cameras filming it. The middle deck, on the other hand, was built for Quantum Leap.

“It was done because we needed people to be able to actively work up and down on things that might not make sense to work up and down. baby, like me, you know there are things in this episode that will drive you crazy,” Gero said.

It’s not like the show wasn’t like that. One of the main plot points involved redirecting the shuttle from where it was supposed to deploy the International Space Station module to the Russian space station Mir. Although it no longer exists today, Mir was still in orbit and had a crew on board in March 1998.

“Theoretically, under the right conditions — and that’s a big ‘if’ — you could fly a shuttle from where the International Space Station was founded to Mir,” says Robert Youell, a former NASA space shuttle flight controller who worked technical consultant. per episode, told collectSPACE. “The Russians have done this before with Salyut and Mir a few years earlier.”

Soyuz T-15, launched in 1986, was the first time a spacecraft had visited and docked with two space stations on the same mission. Cosmonauts Leonid Kizim (will open in a new tab) and Vladimir Solovyov not only once made a 29-hour transition between the Mir and Salyut-7 space stations, but also made the return journey.

“What’s interesting is that in this episode they are dropping the module of the International Space Station. If your ship is much lighter, you have extra fuel left, so maybe you can achieve this type of rendezvous,” Yowell said.

Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) aboard the space shuttle in the Quantum Leap episode “Atlantis”. (Image credit: NBC/Ron Batzdorf)

Youell’s contribution to Atlantis also included filling in the proper dialogue for key mission milestones, such as technical callouts during launch.

“The writers came up to me and said there were two or three scenes where they needed more NASA-style dialogue. That’s where I helped,” he said.

“Robert was incredible,” Gero said of Yowell, “giving us what was real, and was also so kind to understand that in the type of show we do, which is comedy in this episode, what we needed to change rules to make it a little more exciting for people at home.”

While the show takes a number of liberties, it also includes some knots of actual shuttle missions and astronauts. At one point, there is mention of a later crew unable to return home safely due to debris damaging their orbiter’s heat shield, a direct reference to STS-107, Columbia’s ill-fated final 2003 mission.

And then there’s the man Song is trying to save, Japanese American astronaut David Tamara, who was originally destined to die in the shuttle. The character evokes memories of Alison Onizuka. (will open in a new tab)the first Asian American to fly into space, who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

“We want to treat any real person with respect and try to make it up as much as we can, but that has been discussed,” Gero said.

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