After quickly evaluating and fixing Columbia’s fuel cell problem on STS-83, the STS-94 mission was launched only 88 days later on 1 July 1997, a record that still stands today for the shortest time between flights involving the same crew, vehicle, and payload.

During the mission the crew completed 33 different investigations into plant growth, biotechnology, fluids science, materials processing, and combustion science. During the mission new facilities and science capabilities were evaluated that would be later used on the International Space Station.

After successfully completing all the scheduled science experiments on our 16 day mission, we were now returning to Earth. Sitting up on the flight deck of Columbia I was able to look out the overhead windows directly above my seat. Only five or six feet about me I watched as huge flames developed and then peeled away from us as a plasma enveloped Columbia due to frictional heating of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. Out the front windows we could see the orange-pinkish glow enveloping us. There were bright flashes lighting up the cockpit as the overhead flames flickered outside above my head. It was a most beautiful light show, mesmerizing to watch. But still 50 miles above the Earth I was reminded that there was still a ways to go yet before I would be safely back home.