Story Musgrave

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A Passionate Life.... By Anne Lenehan /Page 10

The crew for this mission - STS-61 - included Dick Covey as Commander, Ken Bowersox as pilot and Story, together with Kathryn Thornton, Tom Akers and Jeff Hoffman, as mission specialists. During the course of a week, the spacewalkers would perform a total of five spacewalks to repair and replace parts of the "out of focus" telescope. There was considerable political pressure on this mission with the future of the space station hinged on the ability of the astronauts to perform complex construction tasks in space. If they failed with the Hubble mission, NASA’s ability to engineer the new space station would be brought into question.

The outcome of the first Hubble Repair Mission was historic: completely successful and a triumph for all concerned. The crew landed on December 13 at the Kennedy Space Center a little after midnight and became overnight heroes. The future of the manned space program was firmly secured.

STS-80 was to be Story's final space shuttle mission. The crew consisted of Commander Ken Cockrell, Pilot Kent Rominger, and mission specialists Tom Jones, Tamara Jernigan and Story Musgrave. The primary payloads were the Wake Shield Facility, for experiments related to the semiconductor industry and two satellites which would study the origin and make-up of stars. Story wrote some of his most poignant and beautiful journal entries prior to this launch.

“The endless ocean and the endless life within it. The amphibian theme of life making it out of the ocean, the soaring birds of life making it into the air and now we represent that life in an archetypal leap off the planet - the alligator and other amphibians who lie in several worlds. Face to face with nature and, at night, the cosmos".

On November 19, 1996, the space shuttle Columbia completed that "leap" with a daytime launch to an altitude of 218 statue miles. This mission would set an endurance record for any space shuttle mission which has not since been eclipsed: 17 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes, 18 seconds. This was a beautiful mission for Story as the crew had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time observing the earth. Despite the unfortunate cancellation of two planned space walks by Tamara Jernigan and Tom Jones due to a wayward screw in the door mechanism of the external payload bay hatch, the crew enjoyed two unplanned days in space when weather at the landing sites in both Florida and California prevented the crew from returning to the ground. Finally on December 7, at dawn, the crew successfully landed.

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