Tony England Losing Sunlab and back to teaching

In October 1985, Tony England had served as Capcom during the STS 51-J classified DoD mission (the maiden flight of Atlantis) and the STS 61-A Spacelab D1 German mission. When he came back to NASA in 1979, he had already decided that once he had achieved his first flight, he would probably return to a teaching position somewhere. But the delays meant it would be six years before England could seriously look at this option.

Anticipating problems in qualifying and using the Instrument Pointing System (IPS) and software on Spacelab 2, NASA had planned follow-on missions for the system to gather more data once it had been qualified on Spacelab 2. These missions became Spacelab pallet missions that were designated Sunlab, but the Challenger accident delayed and finally cancelled these plans. England felt it was not right to leave NASA prior to the Shuttle returning to operational status, but by then any chance of him flying a second mission had gone. It is likely that he would have flown on one of the Sunlab missions in 1987, had the programme continued as planned.

Prior to the loss of Challenger, Sunlab 1 was manifested for launch as STS 71-O in September 1987, a seven-day mission using Columbia. England may well have taken a leading role (payload commander) on that flight. Sunlab 2 would have flown in 1989 and Sunlab 3 probably in 1990/1991.

England moved to the Space Station office for a year, "just to be useful," and also took the position of visiting professor at Rice University for a year. In June 1988, with the Shuttle about to resume flights with STS-26 in September, and in preparation for a new academic year, England announced his resignation from NASA for the second time to assume the position of Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, beginning in October 1988. He remains there to this date, teaching and conducting research into environmental remote sensing.7

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