As his mission entered the home stretch, Columbia’s Commander Jim Halsell expressed thanks to all those on the ground who prepared the shuttle, crew and payload for an unprededented repeat launch to complete work with the Microgravity Science Laboratory. The first flight of Columbia with the laboratory, then desginated mission STS-83, was cut short this spring due to a suspect fuel cell.
Halsell’s comments on behalf of the STS-94 crew came during a crew press conference this morning. Halsell thanked all involved for helping this reflight of the lab do "what STS-83 set out to do."
Assembled in the Spacelab pressurized module where the bulk of science investigations are taking place on the flight, the crew discussed the mission and its relevance to life on Earth and to what life will be like aboard the International Space Station.
With a day and a half of science work left, attention has turned to completing the more than 30 investigations and starting cleanup procedures prior to Thursday’s return home. Landing is scheduled for 5:47 a.m. CDT at the Kennedy Space Center, Fl. The weather forecast calls for acceptable landing conditions, with only a slight chance of ground fog predicted in the vicinity of KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility runway at touchdown.
The Blue team of astronauts -- Payload Commander Janice Voss, Mission Specialist Mike Gernhardt and Payload Specialist Roger Crouch -- continues to shift its sleep schedule slightly each day to prepare for landing. Meanwhile, the Red team -- Halsell, Pilot Susan Still, Mission Specialist Don Thomas and Payload Specialist Greg Linteris -- wrapped up work on the Combustion Module, a lab facility that houses a number of flame and soot investigations.
One investigation, called the flameball experiment, has formed the weakest flame ever burned, equaling only one watt. By comparison, the average birthday candle is about 50 watts. The experiment also provided the longest burning flames in space, about 500 seconds in duration. The tests provide new data for use in developing models for combustion processes needed to build cleaner, more fuel-efficient internal combustion engines.
Shortly after 3 p.m., the Blue team will accept greetings from Sen. William Frist (R-Tenn.) and NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. Payload Specialist Roger Crouch is from Jamestown, Tennessee.
The next mission status report will be issued at approximately 5 p.m. Tuesday.
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