Andrew Gaffney was a medical doctor who worked on a variety of projects as a visiting senior scientists with NASA's Life Sciences Division in 1987-89. Because of his expertise in cardiology, he was selected as a payload specialist on the first Spacelab Life Sciences mission in June 1991. STS-40, the eleventh launch of space shuttle Columbia, was a nine-day mission that carried the Spacelab module for Spacelab Life Sciences 1 (SLS-1). It was the fifth Spacelab mission, but the first dedicated solely to biology. STS-40 was also the first spaceflight that included three women crew members.
When I was at NASA headquarters prior to the flight, I was on the committee with Sally Ride [a physicist who in 1983 became America's first woman in space] to look at a Mars mission. One of the big questions for these long-duration missions is whether you have artificial gravity with these countermeasures. I remember thinking at the time that this just wasn't very rational. If we could handle it engineering-wise, it would be a lot easier to spin the thing up and have an artificial gravity. Sally said, "You don't understand, but you will." I accepted it at face value. I respect her. She is a bright lady. So I kind of filed it away. And I was sitting up in the flight deck, looking out over the tail of the shuttle at the OMS [orbital maneuvering system] pods, and had this incredible sense, first of all, bonding with a piece of equipment, which was strange. I mean, this was our vehicle, and I was floating there. I remembered what Sally said, and I knew exactly what she meant.
It is so nice, just floating there. In some sense, it converts you almost to a spiritual quality, rather than this physical thing that has weight. You know, it has to be dealt with, just like it isn't there. That feeling, I am sure, is what most people feel when they are in space and would resist aggressively an attempt by engineers to pose an artificial gravity when you are lucky enough to be in a place where you don't have it.