SPACE CENTER, Houston - The main difficulty in catching a 3,000-pound satellite by hand was crew coordination, the astronaut who directed last week's daring rescue said Saturday.
"It was very important that astronaut (Takao) Doi and myself capture the satellite simultaneously so that one person would not impart a rate, or rotation, on the satellite," Winston Scott said, adding that the space shuttle's two pilots handled the other difficult part - flying Columbia up to the slowly spinning, $10 million satellite Monday night so he and Doi could grab it with their gloved hands.
The solar observatory failed to work following its release from Columbia three days earlier because of a missing computer command.
"All in all, we're very fortunate that things worked out as well as they did," Scott said.
It took three hours from when Scott and Doi floated out to the shuttle's open cargo bay to get the spacecraft latched back into its cradle. Scott says he talked throughout the procedure, "just to keep things rolling at a nice but calm pace."
Scott and Doi might be able to use the experience to their advantage: NASA managers are considering having Columbia's crew release the satellite again late this week, which could mean another spacewalk to get it back.
Flight controllers plan to decide Monday whether to send the craft back out for up to 20 hours - less than half of what originally was scheduled - to study the sun. The key issue is whether the shuttle will have enough fuel for the task.