Mighty Joe returns to space

As MS 1 on STS 51-A, Joe Allen became the first member of the second group of scientist-astronauts to return to space and only the second (after Owen Garriott) to make two flights. He became one of only four scientist-astronauts in total that would make two Shuttle flights.

The crew were disappointed by the launch scrub on 7 November, but with hindsight they also considered themselves very lucky. In November 2004, two weeks after the crew's twentieth anniversary reunion, Joe Allen participated in his fourth session for the JSC Oral History Project. He commented that both the Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003) accidents involved launching during very high wind sheer, ''and there's some thinking now that high wind sheers and Space Shuttle do not safely go together.''40

Allen recalled having a feeling of anxiety on the morning of 7 November, something he did not have on his first launch, perhaps because of naivete. But when he boarded Discovery the next day, that feeling of anxiety had disappeared and he recalled feeling more confident on that second launch attempt.

With a task of deploying two satellites and picking up two others, ''somewhat rude notes'' from his fellow astronauts commented that neither Gardner nor Allen should be confused as to which to deploy and which to pick up: ''In other words, don't bring home satellites that we'd just taken there.'' In fact, Allen's part in the crew's success with the satellite operations, and his ''Herculean'' activities during the first EVA, earned him the nickname ''Mighty Joe Allen'', in parody of the classic 1949 feature film Mighty Joe Young.

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