Columbia astronauts reflect on record-setting mission
December 7, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- Astronauts expressed
frustration with a jammed hatch and amazement at the view
from above after the shuttle Columbia returned to terra firma
The shuttle landed safely at Kennedy Space Center minutes
before sunrise Saturday after nearly 18 days in space, the
longest flight in shuttle history. Fog and low clouds over
the landing strip had forced two days of postponements.
Despite the record time aloft and the successful release and
retrieval of two satellites, the flight was marred by a stuck
hatch that twice forced the cancellation of spacewalks. The
spacewalks were meant to let astronauts practice construction
for the international space station.
But Shuttle Commander Ken Cockrell said the trip, on balance,
was a good one.
"We were quite disappointed when we couldn't get the doggone
door open," Cockrell said. (247k/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The oldest crew member, on his last shuttle flight, perhaps
had the most perspective to offer at a post-landing news
At 61, mission specialist Story Musgrave became the oldest
person ever to travel in space, the first to fly six times on
space shuttles and the first to ride in all five shuttles.
"It is a spiritual kind of thing to be floating in a window
and to see that going by," Musgrave said of the airborne view
of the heavens. (255k/23 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The other mission specialist aboard, Tom Jones, and pilot
Kent Rominger credited Musgrave with teaching them.
"Story points out a lot of things about space flight that you
wouldn't pick up on your own," Jones said.
Mission specialist Tammy Jernigan said a large amount of
promising data about star formation and stellar evolution was
gathered using the Orpheus observing device.
The five astronauts surpassed the previous shuttle endurance
record, also set by Columbia, of 16 days, 21 hours, 48
minutes and 30 seconds. Columbia, NASA's oldest shuttle, set
a new mark of 17 days, 15 hours and 53 minutes.
Reuters contributed to this report.
- Columbia lands safely after setting endurance record - Dec. 7, 1996
- Columbia landing postponed until Saturday - December 6, 1996
- Weather delays Columbia again - December 6, 1996
- Weather delays Columbia landing by 1 day - December 5, 1996
- NASA to shuttle: Come home - December 4, 1996
- Columbia to spend extra day in space - December 2, 1996
- NASA shelves Columbia space walks - November 30, 1996
- Shuttle crew awaits word on jammed door - November 30, 1996
- NASA cancels spacewalk - November 29, 1996
- Columbia flight will test space station equipment - November 19, 1996
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