Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery took flight on this day in 1988. It was the first flight of the Space Shuttle following the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of January 28, 1986.
975 days after the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew, Space Shuttles returned to the sky. Space Shuttle Discovery launched at 11:37 a.m. EST on September 29, 1988 from launch complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center. The crew consisted of Commander Frederick H. Hauck, Pilot Richard O. Covey, and mission specialists John M. Lounge, David C. Hilmers, and George D. Nelson. The flight’s roster was based on the planned mission STS-61-F, which would have taken place on Space Shuttle Challenger. Hauck, Lounge, and Hilmers were all scheduled to fly, while Nelson would have served as CAPCOM, as he did during the Challenger disaster.
Liftoff was delayed due to winds, before a waiver was issued for the conditions and flight continued. While in orbit, they deployed a TDRS(Tracking Data and Relay Satellite) and performed various scientific and technological experiments.
On this mission, Discovery became the first spacecraft to make use of voice recognition. A VCU(Voice Control Unit) was used to control cameras in the Shuttle’s cargo bay.
On October 3, Space Shuttle Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force base in California, completing the four day mission.
Visual and abort changes made post-Challenger
This was the first mission since STS-4 to have the crew wear a pressure suit during launch and landing. The “Launch Entry Suit,” also known as “the pumpkin suit,” became a staple of the Space Shuttle program. This suit gave Space Shuttle crews the ability to attempt a bailout of the shuttle if they could not abort to either a contingency runway or into orbit during launch.