BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: April 14, 2000
Today the veteran shuttle Columbia has returned home to Boeing's Palmdale garage for a year-long tune-up of sorts that will prepare the craft for a new century of space travel.
A $90 million refurbishment effort is underway to install a sophisticated "glass cockpit" and remove sensors not used since the early shuttle test flights nearly 20 years ago.
Columbia's future, however, won't be spent ferrying pieces of the International Space Station into orbit like its sisterships.
Although Boeing technicians have put the $2 billion craft on a diet, shedding about one ton of weight, the shuttle is still too heavy to participate in assembling the $60 billion orbiting laboratory over the next five years.
Instead NASA will use Columbia for other space missions like servicing the Hubble Space Telescope and possibly hauling U.S. military or commercial satellites to the final frontier.
Step aboard the space shuttle Columbia for a virtual reality tour of the spaceship midway through its maintenance and modification period.
Tip to tail checkout
Mired in wire
21st century cockpit
The Columbia weight loss plan
Finishing the job
Flying into the future
Birthplace of the shuttle
Special report home
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