Liftoff of STS-34 Atlantis, carring the Galileo spacecraft and its Inertial Upper Stage
(IUS) booster on October 18, 1989 at 12:35 p.m. EDT. P-35036BC
The shuttle mission was commanded by Donald E. Williams and piloted by Michael J.
McCulley. Mission specialists were Shannon W. Lucid, Franklin W. Chang-Diaz, and
Ellen S. Baker.
NASA policy in the early 1980's was to launch all spacecraft from the shuttle, unlike
earlier, expendable-rocket-launched interplanetary missions such as Voyager (which
visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune).
Initially, it seemed as though Galileo's launch was fated to be delayed. Worries over
whether Hurricane Hugo would come onshore at the Kennedy Space Center mounted
until, at the last moment, the destructive force of the storm swept north of the launch site,
allowing engineers to relax. Then, the day before the rescheduled launch, a 7.1
earthquake, centered just 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Sunnyvale, California, caused
evacuation of the Inertial Upper Stage control center there, which was crucial to mission
operations. The control center crew recovered as the night progressed, allowing the
countdown to continue.