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Columbia to spend extra day in space

Astronauts upbeat despite canceled spacewalk

planet Earth

December 2, 1996
Web posted at: 10:00 a.m. EST

ATLANTA (CNN) -- The space shuttle Columbia will stay in space an extra day to allow an ultraviolet telescope to take a closer look at newborn and dying stars.

Meanwhile, two astronauts told CNN they were disappointed that a jammed hatch forced their spacewalks to be canceled but said they remained upbeat about the overall mission.

The 16-day mission was scheduled to end Thursday with Columbia's landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, but NASA managers made a decision Monday to extend it.

The U.S.- German telescope, released on November 19 and trailing Columbia by about 26 miles (42 km), was being used to study interstellar matter in an effort to learn more about the life cycles of the stars. It has already made more than 300 observations of planets and stars that emit ultraviolet rays.

The jammed hatch caused two scheduled spacewalks by astronauts Tammy Jernigan and Tom Jones to be canceled. The spacewalks had been planned to test tools and techniques for building an international space station.


When Jernigan and Jones were unable to turn the latch on the hatch, NASA decided it was too risky for the astronauts to try to pry open the jammed door, because they might not have been able to secure it again for re-entry.

"Initially I thought we just had a sticky hatch and the fact that Tammy's initial rotation wasn't able to free it up was just an indication that we'd have to put a little more elbow grease into it," Jones told CNN Monday in an interview from Columbia.

"I think certainly that we are feeling some combination of disappointment at the failure of the hatch, but yet pleasure in being part of this mission that's been in every other way very successful," said. Jernigan.

Despite the setback, Jernigan, who had trained a year for her spacewalk, said the crew was able to perform a number of other important experiments and maneuvers aboard Columbia. icon (243K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"One thing I've learned in this is the real value to have people working in space," she said.

Jones told CNN, "The fact that our hatch failed on this flight is a good reminder that spaceflight's a complex business and we have to pay particular attention to all the details, including the ones we've taken for granted on past flights." He added, "We'll learn from this experience and go on."


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