On Aug. 18, 1993, I was flying a Cessna Citation II down to Kennedy Space Center for some test work on our upcoming mission, STS-59, when Rick Hieb and I arrived for landing at the Shuttle Landing Facility. We requested a pad flyby, and permission granted, swung out over the shoreline to circle the two shuttle pads of Launch Complex 39. Less than a week before, Discovery STS-51 had suffered a pad abort at T-3 seconds due to faulty fuel flow sensors in one of the space shuttle main engines. That was STS-51’s third launch scrub with the crew already strapped in, so we took several snapshots of Discovery as we banked past Pad 39B, then headed for the runway for touchdown and parking.
Discovery did launch successfully on September 12, 1993. My astronaut classmates Dan Bursch, Carl Walz, and Jim Newman helped crew STS-51, along with Frank Culbertson and Bill Readdy. Dan came back in August 1994 to join me on STS-68, but first Dan had to suffer through another pad abort, on Aug. 18, ’94. We got off the ground, finally, on Pad 39A on September 30, 1994. But STS-68 is another story.
Read the STS-51 story in my new book, “Space Shuttle Stories,” due out from Smithsonian Books in October. It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon.