The main objective of the STS-70 mission was to deploy the sixth and final Tracking and Data Relay Satellite from the shuttle.
Used extensively by NASA to communicate with the astronauts in space, this satellite system is also used to relay all of the scientific images and data from the Hubble Space Telescope and many other scientific satellites. This final satellite replaced the one lost aboard Space Shuttle Challenger destroyed during launch on the STS-51L mission in 1986.
"Six hours into the mission, after carefully check out all its systems, I pushed the button to deploy the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. With all five crew members with their faces pressed up against the windows, we watched in awe as this large satellite silently inched its way out of Discovery’s payload bay. It passed only a few feet above our overhead windows and gave us pause that there would be sufficient clearance. It sailed on above us on its journey out to geosynchronous orbit 23,000 miles away. Mission accomplished!"
The All-Ohio Crew
When the crew was assigned to the STS-70 mission it was noted that four of the five crewmembers had grown up in Ohio. Only pilot Kevin Kregel, from Amityville, NY, had a different home state. After contacting Ohio Governor George Voinovich, an official proclamation was issued making Kevin an “Honorary Ohioan” and thereby establishing “The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission.”
Tom Henricks was born near Toledo, Ohio and commanded the STS-70 mission. A United States Air Force Colonel, Tom was selected in NASA’s 11th group of astronauts. STS-70 was his third of four flights aboard the Space Shuttle.
Kevin Kregel was born in Amityville, NY and had served as a pilot in the United States Air Force before joining NASA as an astronaut instructor pilot. Selected in NASA’s 14th group of astronauts, STS-70 was Kevin’s first of four Space Shuttle missions.
Nancy Currie grew up in Troy, Ohio and is an accomplished United States Army aviator with extensive flying experience in rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft. STS-70 was Nancy’s second of four Space Shuttle missions.
Mary Ellen Weber was born in Cleveland, Ohio and earned her doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of California Berkeley. An experienced skydiver, STS-70 was Mary Ellen’s first of two Space Shuttle missions.
The Woodpecker Attack
One week before the scheduled launch of the STS-70 mission, a love-sick woodpecker attacked Space Shuttle Discovery making 205 holes in the soft foam insulation protecting the Shuttle’s big orange external fuel tank.
This put the mission on hold until NASA could evaluate the damage, patch the holes, and find ways to keep other woodpeckers from inflicting similar damage on future missions.