The Shuttle Columbia, carrying seven astronauts, blasted off from Launch Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center to return to orbit to complete a microgravity science mission cut short in April by a fuel cell problem.
Commander Jim Halsell, Pilot Susan Still, Mission Specialists Janice Voss, Mike Gernhardt and Don Thomas and Payload Specialists Roger Crouch and Greg Linteris lifted off at 1:02 p.m. Central time, just 12 minutes behind schedule to enable forecasters to make a final check of clouds near the launch site.
Once Columbia’s cargo bay doors are opened about an hour and a half into the flight, Voss, who is the payload commander, and Crouch, will begin to activate Spacelab systems in advance of their entrance into the pressurized Spacelab module in Columbia’s payload bay. At about that same time, Halsell, Still, Thomas and Linteris, who comprise the Red team, will begin an abbreviated seven hour sleep period. Blue team crewmember Gernhardt will join Voss and Crouch in the activation of Spacelab experiments and Shuttle systems for the planned 16-day mission. The seven astronauts will operate in two shifts, working around the clock, to maximize the science return from the flight.
With Columbia’s launch, the Shuttle is now expected to return to Earth on July 17 at around 5:30 a.m. Central time.
Columbia is orbiting the Earth at an altitude of about 170 statute miles, completing an orbit of the Earth every 90 minutes.
The next STS-94 status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Central time on Wednesday morning.
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