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View of Space Shuttle Columbia as it launches into the night sky


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- Flaming exhaust spews from beneath one of the two solid rocket boosters on Space Shuttle Columbia as it roars into the night sky on mission STS-93. After two unsuccessful attempts on previous nights, liftoff occurred at 12:31 a.m. EDT. STS-93 is a five-day mission primarily to release the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which will allow scientists from around the world to study some of the most distant, powerful and dynamic objects in the universe. The crew numbers five: Commander Eileen M. Collins, Pilot Jeffrey S. Ashby, and Mission Specialists Steven A. Hawley (Ph.D.), Catherine G. Coleman (Ph.D.) and Michel Tognini of France, with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES). Collins is the first woman to serve as commander of a Space Shuttle. The target landing date is July 27, 1999, at 11:20 p.m. EDT