The experiences of a small child growing up on a 1000 acre dairy farm in Massachusetts provided a foundation for Story's fascination with machinery as well as his extraordinary love of nature. Born 19 August 1935 during the Great Depression, by the age of 10, Story was already operating and repairing tractors and farm machinery. However, in a childhood which was marred by alcohol and abuse, Story and his two brothers led an isolated life, and it was to nature that Story turned to escape the dysfunctional world around him.
For Story, nature was a place of beauty and order. From the lakes and rivers teeming with life, the coolness of freshly ploughed fields, to the wooded magic of the Berkshire Hills, Story immersed himself in the wonders of nature and thrived on the spiritual experiences which that brought him.
In 1947, Story entered St Mark's School at nearby Southborough. Although not particularly focused, and more interested in escaping out the dormitory window at night to explore what lay beyond the school's boundaries, he did enjoy looking after the animals and doing some early reproductive work in biology involving the surgical transplantation of fertilised eggs. He also enjoyed visits to a neighbouring farm where he learnt to fly airplanes, taking his first solo flight at age 16.
Story was to leave school shortly before graduation and before receiving his high school diploma. He joined the US Marine Corps where from 1953 he trained as an aviation electrician and instrument technician. For Story, it was an opportunity to see the world beyond the farm and fields of Massachusetts, and to leave his native America. His love of airplanes well established, he was to serve as an aircraft crew chief on assignments in Korea, Japan, Hawaii and on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp in the Far East.
Upon returning to the United States, Story left the Marines and began to further his education by enrolling at Syracuse University, gaining a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and statistics in 1958. For a brief time he worked as a mathematician and operations analyst for the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, before continuing his studies in California, earning a Masters degree in business administration and computer sciences at the UCLA.
As a "natural" extension of Story's pursuits in mathematics and computing, he became interested in the study of the human brain, with a wish to pursue neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, and neurosurgery.
Story began the journey back to the east coast. He got as far as Marietta, Ohio, before the aesthetics of the place and his love of the natural surroundings got a hold of him. He stopped by Marietta College to talk to the local professors and within hours had enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry - a precursor to enrolling in medical school.
After completing his studies in chemistry, Story went on to Columbia University, New York, where he graduated with a Doctorate in medicine in 1964.
After serving his surgical internship at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Story continued as a U.S. Air Force post-doctoral fellow, working in the areas of aerospace medicine and physiology. He then studied and taught in the areas of cardiovascular and exercise physiology while a post-doctoral fellow with the National Heart Institute. Story completed a Master of Science in physiology and biophysics in 1966.
In the early 1960s, NASA began looking for scientists to join the astronaut corps. For Story, it was an "epiphany" - an incredibly fitting opportunity to use his many qualifications as an electrician, mathematician, computer programmer, mechanic, pilot and surgeon. It also provided him with a new way of exploring his universe, his relationship with nature, and the future of humanity.
In 1967 Story was one of just 11 people selected from around 4000 applicants. Although he was a pilot, he joined the astronaut corps as one of NASA's first scientist-astronauts as opposed to earlier candidates who were selected from the ranks of military test pilots.
In his early years with NASA, Story experienced the excitement and energy of the Apollo program and subsequent moon landings. He worked on the design and development of the Skylab space station, serving as backup science pilot for the first Skylab mission, Skylab 2 and was capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for Skylab 3 and 4.
From 1974 onwards, Story helped design EVA equipment including space suits and life support systems for the Space Shuttle program and served as mission specialist for two simulated Spacelab flights. From 1979 he was assigned to the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), testing computer software and also assisted with servicing design elements of the Hubble Space Telescope.
For Story, it was about a long term commitment to space. It was to be 16 years before he flew his first space mission. He has always considered space to be his calling, not something he could just set aside. Through his work he continued to explore the universe, his own place in it, and the meaning of it to all humanity.
Story's first space flight was aboard the maiden voyage of Challenger in 1983 (STS-6). During the mission, he and astronaut Don Peterson performed the first space walk of the Space Shuttle program, testing EVA equipment which he had helped to design over the previous decade, as well as construction and repair devices and procedures. The crew also deployed the first US/TDRS satellite from a shuttle.
On his second mission aboard Challenger in 1985, STS-51F/Spacelab-2, Story served as systems engineer for launch and re-entry, and as a pilot during orbit. The mission conducted 13 major experiments in astronomy, astrophysics and life-sciences and was the first mission to operate the Spacelab Instrument Pointing System (IPS).
For Story, his experiences in space were the epitome of his childhood exploration and discovery of nature. It was the child who is totally immersed in a strange and wonderful environment, who finds new perspective in the experience. For Story, each successive spaceflight was to become richer and richer.
During the years from 1967 through to 1989, Story continued to work as a part-time trauma surgeon at the Denver General Hospital and as a part-time professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. He also began a decade of study in the humanities and completed a Master of Arts degree in literature.
Studying the humanities was another way for Story to enrich his experiences of spaceflight and enhance the quality of his work for the space program. He studied the American and British nature poets, the philosophies of scholars like Emerson and Thoreau. History and psychology were also an integral part of Story's ongoing education and he related everything he learnt back to his experience of spaceflight and the meaning of it all to humanity's destiny in space.
On his third and fourth spaceflights - aboard Discovery (STS-33) in 1989 and Atlantis (STS-44) in 1991, Story participated in Space Shuttle missions for the Department of Defense. The latter mission also conducted experiments in radiation-monitoring, as well as medical experiments to support longer duration space flights.
Story's fifth mission was STS-61 in 1993. He and the crew of Endeavour had trained for over a year in order to carry out the first major repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope. Work was completed during a record five spacewalks, three of which were performed by Story, together with fellow astronaut Jeff Hoffman.
The Hubble repair mission was one of the most detailed missions ever prepared for. The crew trained meticulously for what Story often refers to as "the ballet" - the choreographing of every single movement, the position of over 300 tools, and learning the dynamics of Hubble's components moving in zero gravity. It was about the perfection of each individual task and focusing on the moment to achieve a successful result. During it all, Story did not forget to look around him, to appreciate the earth view, and to take in the universal perspective from 370 miles above the earth's surface.
STS-80 was to be Story's sixth and final mission as an astronaut. During a record flight of almost 18 days, the crew aboard Columbia deployed and later retrieved two satellites which studied the origin and makeup of stars. They also deployed and retrieved the Wake Shield Facility which was used to grow thin film wafers in a super vacuum for use in semiconductors and the electronics industry.
During his six space flights, Story recorded 1,281 hours 59 minutes, 22 seconds in space, in addition to around 25 million miles in orbit. Between missions he served as a CAPCOM for STS-31, STS-35, STS-36, STS-38 and STS-41, and lead CAPCOM for a number of subsequent flights, which kept him right up to date with all that was happening.
Over the years Story has flown nearly 18,000 hours in 160 different types of civilian and military aircraft as pilot, instructor and acrobatics specialist. In addition, he has made more than 600 private parachute jumps, including over 100 experimental free-fall descents to study human aerodynamics.
Throughout his career with NASA, Story enriched his experiences with his ongoing studies and by capturing the essence of spaceflight through a variety of mediums including photography, poetry and personal experiments. He was the first astronaut to photograph Uluru (Ayer's Rock), Mt Everest and the Egyptian pyramids from space, and to demonstrate the behaviour of consumer products like Coca Cola in zero gravity. He also studied the psychological responses of performing certain tasks in various orientations. On each spaceflight, Story carried a little black book with typically over one hundred creative things to do in space.
Story retired from NASA in 1997. Today he shares his many unique experiences through performances across the USA and internationally. He is a popular guest of the Astronaut Encounter Program at the Kennedy Space Center and also consults for Walt Disney Imagineering and Applied Minds Inc. in their research and development divisions. He is an advocate and visionary for the continual exploration of space and the author of numerous scientific papers on a diverse range of topics including aerospace medicine, exercise physiology, temperature regulation and clinical surgery. His recreational interests include flying, photography, scuba diving, parachuting, gardening and running.
Story is the divorced father of six children - Lorelei Lisa, Bradley Scott, Holly Kay, Christopher Todd, Jefferey Paul (deceased) and Lane Lynwood.
FORMAL EDUCATION: St. Mark's School, Southborough, Massachusetts; a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and statistics from Syracuse University in 1958, a master of business administration degree in operations analysis and computer programming from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1959, a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry from Marietta College in 1960, a doctorate in medicine from Columbia University in 1964, a master of science in physiology and biophysics from the University of Kentucky in 1966, and a master of arts in literature from the University of Houston in 1987.
MEMBERSHIPS: Member of Alpha Kappa Psi, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Beta Gamma Sigma, the Civil Aviation Medical Association, the Flying Physicians Association, the International Academy of Astronautics, the Marine Corps Aviation Association, the National Aeronautic Association, the National Aerospace Education Council, the National Geographic Society, the Navy League, the New York Academy of Sciences, Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Delta Theta, the Soaring Club of Houston, the Soaring Society of America, and the United States Parachute Association.
SPECIAL HONORS: National Defense Service Medal and an Outstanding Unit Citation as a member of the United States Marine Corps Squadron VMA-212 (1954); United States Air Force Post-doctoral Fellowship (1965-1966); National Heart Institute Post-doctoral Fellowship (1966-1967); Reese Air Force Base Commander's Trophy (1969); American College of Surgeons I.S. Ravdin Lecture (1973); NASA Exceptional Service Medals (1974 & 1986); Flying Physicians Association Airman of the Year Award (1974 & 1983); NASA Space Flight Medals (1983, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996); NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1992).
by Anne Lenehan Berowra, New South Wales Australia