STS-30 deployed the Magellan Venus exploration spacecraft into low-Earth orbit, the first U.S. planetary science mission launched since 1978 and the first planetary probe deployed from the Shuttle. Following deployment, the Magellan spacecraft was propelled from Earth orbit into its Venus trajectory by an Air Force-developed, Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster. The spacecraft flew through space for 15 months before reaching Venus in August 1990, for a 243-day orbital mission. The spacecraft mapped almost 90 percent of the surface of Venus acquiring high-resolution surface imaging, radiometry, altimetry and gravitational data.
Life sciences experiments performed during the STS-30 mission were those classified as Detailed Supplementary Objectives (DSOs). A DSO is a NASA-sponsored investigation performed by Space Shuttle crewmembers, who serve as test subjects. These studies are designed to require minimal crew time, power and stowage. Biomedical DSOs focus on operational concerns, including space motion sickness, cardiovascular deconditioning, muscle loss, changes in coordination and balance strategies, radiation exposure, pharmacokinetics and changes in the body's biochemistry.
Other payloads included the Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) experiment, Fluids Experiment Apparatus and the Mesoscale Lightning Experiment.
Atlantis landed after a successful mission at Edwards Air Force Base in California on May 8, 1989.