Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center on January 22, 1992 at 9:52 AM EST and landed at Edwards AFB on January 30 at 9:52 AM EST. The shuttle orbited 129 times at an altitude of 163 nautical miles at an inclination of 57 degrees and travelled 2.9 million miles. The mission lasted 8 days, 1 hour, 14 minutes, and 44 seconds.
The mission was to study the human nervous system in low gravity, and the effects of low (micro) gravity on other life forms such as shrimp eggs, lentil seedlings, fruit fly eggs, and bacteria.
The primary payload was the International Microgravity Laboratory-1 (IML-1), making its first flight and using the pressurized Spacelab module. The International crew was divided into two teams for around-the-clock research on the human nervous system’s adaptation to low gravity. Materials processing experiments were also conducted, including crystal growth from variety of substances such as enzymes, mercury iodide and a virus. On flight day six, mission managers concluded enough onboard consumables remained to extend the mission one day to continue science experiments.
Secondary payloads were: 12 Get Away Special (GAS) canisters attached to a GAS Bridge Assembly in the cargo bay and containing a variety of U.S. and international experiments.
In middeck: Gelation of Sols: Applied Microgravity Research-1 (GOSAMR-1); IMAX camera; Investigations into Polymer Membrane Processing (IPMP); Radiation Monitoring Experiment III (RME III); and two Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) experiments.
Discovery was crewed by Commander Ronald J. Grabe, Pilot Stephen S. Oswald, Mission Specialists Norman E. Thagard, David C. Hilmers, and William F. Readdy, and Payload Specialists Roberta L. Bondar (Canada), and Ulf D. Merbold (Germany, this was Merbold’s second shuttle mission).