Columbia’s seven astronauts took a break from their around-the-clock scientific research today to answer reporters’ questions in the traditional on-orbit crew news conference.
Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Mission Specialists Dave Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson and Laurel Clark, and Israel Space Agency Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon fielded questions about how their shuttle was performing as a research laboratory, their work in support of the STS-107 mission’s 80 different experiments and preparations for Saturday’s planned landing.
"The science we're doing here is great and it's fantastic,” said Anderson, the payload commander, “it's leading edge. But I think once we get a seven-member crew on board the space station you're really going to see some outstanding science in space. A lot of experiments that we have are really just being demonstrated and developed. Once they're fully developed they'll reside on board the space station and the scientists … will have years to conduct the experiments that we're trying to do here in a relatively short period of time."
Ramon reported that dust storms off the east coast of Africa were scarce for the first week of the flight, but that a giant dust storm kicked up over the Atlantic and lasted three days, providing ample observations for the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment. He voiced wishes for peace in his area of the world from 180 miles above.
“The world looks marvelous from up here, so peaceful, so wonderful and so fragile," Ramon said. "The atmosphere is so thin and fragile, and I think all of us have to keep it clean and good. It saves our life and gives our life."
After a 2:39 p.m. CST Blue Team wake-up to the sounds of John Lennon singing “Imagine,” McCool and Ramon said their observations from orbit reveal no borders on the Earth below and reiterated in both English and Hebrew their hopes for peace in the world.
Initial tests in the Combustion Module Facility with the newly revitalized Water Mist Fire Suppression Experiment took center stage today, with 14 sample runs completed after Chawla fixed a balky seal in the combustion module yesterday. Another 20 runs are planned before the end of the mission on tests designed to learn exactly how the water interacts with flames as it is extinguishing them.
The next STS-107 status report will be issued Thursday, or as events warrant.
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