The Space Shuttle Columbia returned to Earth today, touching down at 5:47 a.m. CDT on the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility runway to cap a near-flawless 16-day, 6.2 million-mile mission.
The STS-94 mission completed more than 30 science investigations in the Microgravity Science Laboratory, gaining all the experiment work and more that was interrupted by Columbia’s early return on the STS-83 mission in April. That flight was cut short after only 4 days in orbit due to a possible problem with one of Columbia’s electricity-producing fuel cells.
Columbia’s orbital maneuvering system engines were fired at 4:44 a.m. CDT to begin its descent from orbit. Commander Jim Halsell eased Columbia’s main landing gear onto the runway for a touchdown at 15 days, 16 hours, 44 minutes, 34 seconds into the mission, or 5:46:34 a.m. CDT. The nose gear touched down 10 seconds later, and Columbia’s wheels came to a stop at 15 days, 16 hours, 45 minutes and 29 seconds of flight, or 5:47:29 a.m. CDT.
Halsell and the other six members of the crew will not return to Houston until midday Friday.
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