Spaceflight Now




BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the mission of space shuttle Columbia on its 16-day science research flight with our Mission Status Center.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 31, 2003

Columbia commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool and flight engineer Kalpana Chawla tested the shuttle's re-entry systems today, setting the stage for landing Saturday to close out a 16-day science mission. Touchdown on runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center currently is targeted for 9:15:50 a.m. EST. Read our full story.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 2003

Astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia are completing their final runs on experiments in the Spacehab Research Double Module and beginning preparations for Saturday's landing.

Most of the 80 experiments already have completed their data collection, and today was the last day for the remaining investigations, in particular the Water Mist Fire Suppression Experiment (MIST), the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX) and the Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS).

MIST, which got a late start due to problems setting up the test chamber, is nearing its 30th run as it studies the effectiveness of fog-like water droplet concentrations in putting out flames. The experiment is sponsored by the Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden as part of continuing program to design replacements for environmentally hazardous chemicals such as Halons.

MEIDEX will be recording its final data takes of lightning "sprites" and "elves," after successfully imaging a major dust concentration in support of its primary objective to study how fine dust particles, or aerosols, affect the Earth's environment. MEIDEX was sponsored by the Israeli Space Agency and Tel-Aviv University in association with Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon's first space flight for an Israeli.

Crewmembers also began wrapping up and storing the final blood, urine and saliva samples they are providing for studies of human physiology associated with the ARMS cardiovascular experiments and the Physiology and Biochemistry Team experiments. The samples will be kept at appropriate temperatures in refrigeration systems in the Spacehab module for return to Earth and further study.

And the Biotube experiment, which was activated Wednesday, looked at flax seeds as they grew in the presence of strong magnetic field. Scientists on the ground used video downlinks to monitor the length of root growth to ensure appropriate fixation times.

Commander Rick Husband and Flight Engineer Kalpana Chawla of the day shift took turns simulating landing on the PILOT computer-based training system. Pilot Willie McCool of the night shift will get in his practice session overnight. Landing is scheduled for 9:16 a.m. EST Saturday and preliminary forecasts show excellent conditions at the Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. If weather decides not to cooperate, there are plenty of supplies to support the crew until conditions are favorable.

Husband also peeked under the floor of the Spacehab module to look for water that might have leaked out of the balky air-conditioning system earlier in the mission. He reported finding no moisture that could contaminate Spacehab systems if jostled during Saturday's re-entry and landing, but covered several holes in the water sub-assembly with tape as a precaution.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2003

Columbia's seven astronauts took a break from their around-the-clock scientific research today to answer reporters' questions in the traditional on-orbit crew news conference.

Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Mission Specialists Dave Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson and Laurel Clark, and Israel Space Agency Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon fielded questions about how their shuttle was performing as a research laboratory, their work in support of the STS-107 mission's 80 different experiments and preparations for Saturday's planned landing.

"The science we're doing here is great and it's fantastic," said Anderson, the payload commander, "it's leading edge. But I think once we get a seven-member crew on board the space station you're really going to see some outstanding science in space. A lot of experiments that we have are really just being demonstrated and developed. Once they're fully developed they'll reside on board the space station and the scientists will have years to conduct the experiments that we're trying to do here in a relatively short period of time."

Ramon reported that dust storms off the east coast of Africa were scarce for the first week of the flight, but that a giant dust storm kicked up over the Atlantic and lasted three days, providing ample observations for the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment. He voiced wishes for peace in his area of the world from 180 miles above.

"The world looks marvelous from up here, so peaceful, so wonderful and so fragile," Ramon said. "The atmosphere is so thin and fragile, and I think all of us have to keep it clean and good. It saves our life and gives our life."

After a 3:39 p.m. EST Blue Team wake-up to the sounds of John Lennon singing "Imagine," McCool and Ramon said their observations from orbit reveal no borders on the Earth below and reiterated in both English and Hebrew their hopes for peace in the world.

Initial tests in the Combustion Module Facility with the newly revitalized Water Mist Fire Suppression Experiment took center stage today, with 14 sample runs completed after Chawla fixed a balky seal in the combustion module yesterday. Another 20 runs are planned before the end of the mission on tests designed to learn exactly how the water interacts with flames as it is extinguishing them.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2003

The Red team of astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia accomplished repairs on the third and final combustion experiment of STS-107 this afternoon, and support scientists on the ground were looking forward to working with the Blue team on the first scientific runs.

Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla reported a good leak check of the Combustion Module-2 Facility about 5 p.m. EST after five hours of work. She and Commander Rick Husband sent down video of the recovery procedures for the Water Mist Fire Suppression Experiment (MIST) around 3 p.m. to give engineers on the ground an opportunity to visually inspect the equipment. The combustion facility, which provides control, containment, diagnostics and communications for fire-related experiments, worked flawlessly in support of the two previous combustion experiments, but failed its initial leak checks when MIST was installed Monday.

Payload Commander Michael Anderson of the Blue team is scheduled to begin work with the MIST experiment overnight. Designed by the Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space at the Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colo., the experiment will investigate how water mist inhibits the spread of flames. Scientists hope to apply what they learn to designs for improved, lighter-weight fire suppression systems on Earth, as well as for spacecraft-based systems that won't require ozone-damaging chemicals such as Halons.

Husband, Chawla and Red team colleagues Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon enjoyed some time off for the first half of their day, then moved ahead with other experiments in the Spacehab Research Double Module. Clark retrieved samples associated with the Bioreactor Demonstration System, which Project Scientist Tom Goodwin reported today has grown a bone and prostate cancer tumor tissue sample as large as a golf ball, the largest grown in space to date. She also collected blood and urine samples from her crewmates for the Physiology and Biochemistry (PhAB4) suite of experiments. Ramon also conducted observations of dust off the African coast for the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX).

After a 3:39 p.m. EST wake-up to the Beach Boys singing "I Get Around," the Blue team of Anderson, Pilot Willie McCool and Mission Specialist Dave Brown resumed work with the tests of their breathing, hearts and muscle associated with Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System. Anderson was scheduled to check on the condition of the animals on board, which has continued to be good.

MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 2003

Some experiments have run their course aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, but there is more in store as STS-107 science continues around the clock in the Spacehab Research Double Module.

The Structures of Flame Balls experiment, looking at ways of improving engine combustion efficiency, was shut down after a total of 39 tests using 15 different fuel mixtures. A total of 55 flame balls were ignited, including the weakest and leanest flames ever burned. The longest-lived flame burned in space for 81 minutes, part of a total burn time for all flames of 6 1/4 hours. Oscillating (shrinking and growing) flame balls, which had been predicted theoretically, were observed for the first time.

The Mechanics of Granular Materials test, looking for ways to better understand and deal with soil movement associated with earthquakes, completed its 10th and final run. The Microbial Physiology Flight Experiment expended its eighth and final set of samples looking at yeast and bacteria growth in microgravity. The Canadian-developed Osteoporosis in Orbit also completed its operations.

The Red team, or day shift -- Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Israel Space Agency Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon -- took time out from microgravity experimentation about 12:30 p.m. EST to chat with the other three spacefarers on orbit -- Commander Ken Bowersox, NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit and Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin. At the time, the space station was some 240 miles above Southern Russia while the shuttle was over northern Brazil.

The Expedition Six crew aboard the station concentrated on loading new software on the EXPRESS experiment racks, working with Russian and American experiments and preparing the old Progress for its undocking this week to make room for a new supply craft, scheduled to launch Feb. 2 from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Khazakstan and dock with the station Feb. 4.

After a 3:39 p.m. EST wake-up to the sounds of "Slow Boat to Rio" by Earl Klugh, the Blue team of astronauts -- Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Mission Specialist Dave Brown and Pilot Willie McCool was scheduled to enjoy half a day of rest before resuming research activities concentrating on the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment, which yesterday captured its first observations of dust over the Atlantic. Scientists with the Israel Space Agency reported that preliminary data looks promising.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 26, 2003

Scientific research continued aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia today as the STS-107 mission headed into the homestretch with a variety of experiments in multiple disciplines.

The Red team of astronauts, working by day, and the Blue team, working by night, maintained a round-the-clock presence in the SPACEHAB Double Research Module, tending to dozens of experiments as scientists reported excellent results. Temperatures in SPACEHAB were maintained at a comfortable 73 degrees, despite the loss of two dehumidifiers earlier in the mission. All of the animals involved in life science experiments were reported to be in good shape along with SPACEHAB hardware.

Red team crewmembers Rick Husband, who is Columbia's Commander, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon conducted more experiments involving the study of flames in space in a special Combustion Module in the SPACEHAB.

More investigations were conducted into the effect of dust storms on the atmosphere with multispectral cameras in Columbia's cargo bay. The MEIDEX experiment focused on plumes of dust in the Mediterranean region and in the Middle East as well as sprites in the targeted areas of interest. Science controllers reported the first successful digital downlink of imagery from the experiment as well as the observance of significant amounts of dust in the observed regions.

A suite of student experiments called STARS yielded the hatching of a fish in an aquatic facility and the successful emergence of a silk moth from its cocoon. STARS contains a half dozen student developed experiments ranging from the study of Australian spiders to the analysis of spaceflight's effects on carpenter bees from Liechtenstein.

The Biopack experiment involving the study of weightlessness on biological samples continued to produce what was described as excellent data for its team of researchers despite the loss of freezer and incubator capability for the storage of samples.

Blue team crewmembers Willie McCool, who is Columbia's Pilot, Payload Commander Mike Anderson and Mission Specialist Dave Brown were awakened for their night shift shortly after 3:30 p.m. EST. They planned to conduct final combustion studies with the SOFBALL experiment tonight after which the Combustion Module will be reconfigured for the Water Mist experiment, studying fire suppression techniques in spaceflight.

The Blue team will spend some time refreshing water for 13 rodents in the Animal Enclosure Module in SPACEHAB. Data is being acquired on the effect of microgravity on the rodents' neurovestibular system. Now that SPACEHAB temperatures have cooled again, sound mufflers were reinstalled on the animal enclosure compartments.

More data will also be received tonight from the SOLSE experiment, which uses imaging devices in the shuttle's cargo bay to study the Earth's ozone layer. Earlier today, the crew downlinked digital video of the Middle East with breathtaking views of Israel, the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. The video also contained scenes of life and work on orbit involving the seven astronauts. Columbia's systems continue to function perfectly as the shuttle orbits at an altitude of about 180 statute miles.

Flying slightly higher, the Expedition 6 crew aboard the International Space Station is now in its 10th week in space. Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit spent a quiet Sunday, enjoying the views of Earth from orbit while conducting a minor maintenance procedure involving a hatch window in the Unity module. Station systems are also functioning normally.

The space travelers aboard Columbia and the ISS will have a chance to talk to one another Monday in a brief ship-to-ship hookup scheduled at 12:34 p.m. EST. At the time of the ship-to-ship call, Columbia will be orbiting over northern Brazil, while the ISS sails over southern Russia.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 25, 2003

Space shuttle Columbia's astronauts completed an experiment studying the activity of bone cells in microgravity and began final tests with a technology demonstration designed to investigate the behavior of capillary-pumped loops in space as the 16-day international science mission completed Flight Day 10.

Toward the end of their workday at 2 a.m. EST this morning, Pilot Willie McCool and Mission Specialists Dave Brown and Michael Anderson of the Blue Team took time out from their experiment schedule for interviews with reporters from Black Entertainment TV, WTKR-TV in Norfolk, Va., and KNSD-TV in San Diego. Following handover talks, Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon of the Red Team began their workday.

Clark completed operations with the OSTEO (Osteoporosis Experiment in Orbit) investigation for STS-107. The experiment studied the activity of bone cells in microgravity by looking at normal activity and activity under the influence of various drugs. Clark also continued work on the Bioreactor Demonstration System, which is using the NASA-developed bioreactor to grow prostate cancer tissues. The objective is to learn how the cancer spreads into bones and aid in the development of future treatment methods. She also worked on a study of how bacteria and yeast develop in space and how microgravity affects their response to antibiotics.

Investigations with the Combined Two-Phase Loop Experiment were begun using a third cooling loop. Testing of this loop will continue for about 48 hours. The testing is performed to learn about the behavior of the loop in microgravity. The investigation examines three different two-phase thermal loops by transporting different amounts of heat from an evaporator to a condenser and then radiating the heat into space.

The Facility for Adsorption and Surface Tension, known as FAST, has completed the last pre-planned sequence of experiments. It is designed to measure the response of surface tension to carefully controlled changes in the surface areas of bubbles or droplets.

Ramon continued investigations with the SOFBALL (Structures of Flame Balls) experiment. The experiment studies lean combustion to help engineers design engines with better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions of pollution.

Television from the crew, narrated by Ramon, was downlinked around 12:30 p.m. showing various aspects of experiment operations conducted by both teams. Husband maneuvered Columbia today as required for any scientific activities.

McCool, Brown and Anderson were awakened at 3:39 p.m. to the sounds of "I Say a Little Prayer for You" sung by Dionne Warwick. The song was played for Anderson from his wife.

Husband ended his 10th day in space by calibrating two Israeli cameras that will be used to continue photographing dust particles, sprites and other electrical phenomena in the upper atmosphere. The crew hope to use the camera to observe a substantial plume of dust and smoke that extends from the Nigerian coast westward toward the Atlantic and an additional plume off the coast of Mauritania and Mali. Sprites in storms over Western Australia near Perth also will be observed. Sprites are electrical discharges that shoot up from the tops of thunderstorms into the Earth's ionosphere.

All of Columbia's systems continue to operate in excellent shape.

It was a quiet day on board the International Space Station, meanwhile, as Expedition 6 Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and ISS Science Officer Don Pettit enjoyed a light workday. They will also partake in an off-duty day tomorrow before resuming normal scientific research and routine station maintenance activities on Monday.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2003

Research continued aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia today as the seven astronauts aboard continued to work in shifts, coordinating work with investigators on the ground.

Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon of the Red Team began their workday about 6 a.m. EST, focusing again on work with the SOFBALL (Structures of Flame Balls) experiment and the ARMS (Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System) human physiology experiment. Husband maneuvered Columbia into the proper positions for the various experiments.

The two teams have completed seven SOFBALL runs so far, including the first of several using methane as a fuel, which is visible to the naked eye as a faint blue flame. This evening, the Blue Team will attempt the longest planned test, lasting 2 hours, 47 minutes, while the shuttle is placed in a "free drift" configuration to eliminate thruster firings that could affect the test.

Pilot Willie McCool and Mission Specialists Dave Brown and Michael Anderson of the Blue Team were awakened about 3:30 p.m. to the sounds of "Hotel California" performed by members of McCool's family. Their duty shift was scheduled to begin about 6 p.m. after a pre-bedtime handover from the Red Team.

The Blue Team also will resume work with the Mechanics of Granular Materials experiment, looking at how sandy soil full of water behaves under pressure. Three compressions are planned over the next two days, with a final run set for later in the mission.

The study of spiral moss growth in space completed a set of time-critical fixations on several sets of moss plants, so that their growth rates can be established after the flight. Four more fixations are planned. The Astroculture experiment harvested the last of its six samples of essential oils from rose and rice flowers, which could eventually result in new perfume fragrances. Checks of all of the insects, spiders and animals aboard Columbia showed that all are healthy in their enclosures.

Flight controllers and the crew continue to manage temperatures in the Spacehab Research Double Module by periodically adjusting cooling loop settings. Columbia is in good shape, orbiting at an altitude of 180 statute miles.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 23, 2003

The STS-107 scientific research mission aboard Columbia passed the halfway mark today as the 80 microgravity investigations continue on schedule.

Highlighting the investigations today for both the Blue and Red Teams were the SOFBALL (Structures of Flame Balls) and ARMS (Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System) experiments, although both teams continued to support other experiments with a variety of activities.

Mission Specialists Michael Anderson of the Blue Team and Kalpana Chawla of the Red Team initiated runs with the SOFBALL experiment, which is creating tiny ball-shaped flames using hydrogen as the fuel. The tiny flames, which are approaching some of the leanest and longest-lasting ever, are invisible to the human eye but visible to the crew and investigators on the ground through special video equipment. Dr. Paul Ronney of the University of Southern California and his team hope to discover new properties about combustion to improve engine efficiency and fire safety, as well as reduce emissions.

Mission Specialist Dave Brown of the Blue Team and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon of the Red Team concentrated on the Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System. The European Space Agency experiment alternated experiments targeting the human lung and circulatory system and the human muscular system as it looked at changes brought on by weightlessness.

Commander Rick Husband, leader of the Red Team, and Pilot Willie McCool, leader of the Blue Team, adjusted Columbia's attitude relative to the Earth to support the different requirements of the experiments. They continued to manage the temperature inside the Spacehab Research Double Module in the wake of problems incurred with cooling systems. No experiments have or are expected to be affected by the cooling issue.

Red Team Mission Specialist Laurel Clark, a medical doctor, worked with the Bioreactor Demonstration System, which is growing tissue samples as part of a prostate cancer study. She also beamed down data from the Astroculture experiment growing roses and rice flowers for commercial fragrance development. Clark also worked with bacteria and yeast cultures being grown as part of a Microbial Physiology Flight Experiment that looks at the effect of microgravity on antibiotics.

In honor of the combustion experiments on this flight, the Blue Team's wake-up call this afternoon was "Burning Down the House," by the Talking Heads.

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 6 Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and ISS Science Officer Don Pettit spent their 61st day in space and their 59th day on the station practicing techniques with the Canadarm2 robot arm. This activity was in preparation for the March mission of Atlantis to the ISS that will involve a variety of uses for the space crane.

Columbia and the ISS are both operating in normal fashion, with the Shuttle orbiting at an altitude of 180 statute miles in an orbit inclined 39 degrees to either side of the equator and the station orbiting at an altitude of 240 statute miles in an orbit inclined 51.6 degrees to either side of the equator

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2003

The seven astronauts aboard Columbia beamed down television views of their smallest companions in orbit today, including insects, spiders, fish, bees and silk worms that are part of the Space Technology and Research Students package of experiments designed and developed by students in six countries.

The television pictures showed ants busily creating and moving about tunnels in an ant farm developed by students from Fowler High School in Syracuse, N.Y.; Garden Orb Weaver spiders beginning to construct webs in an enclosure designed by students at Glen Waverly Secondary College of Melbourne, Australia; silkworm larvae beginning to develop in an experiment designed by students at Jingshan School, Beijing, China; Medaka fish embryos developing in a tank designed by students at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Tokyo; and carpenter bees beginning to construct nests by boring tunnels in wood.

The experiments are being monitored by both teams of astronauts as they work in shifts to support the 80 different experiments aboard the space shuttle and the Spacehab Research Double Module. The Red Team -- Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Israel Space Agency Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon enjoyed a half-day off before resuming work with a variety of other experiments.

The Red Team worked with the growth of prostate cancer cells in the Bioreactor Demonstration System, shutdown of the Laminar Soot Processes experiment, which completed 14 runs in an effort to better understand the nature of soot created by combustion in microgravity, and bacteria and yeast growth as part of the Microbial Physiology Flight Experiment. They also checked on the growth of plants in the Astroculture experiment that includes miniature roses being grown in space to produce new fragrances for perfumes.

The Red Team handed over to the Blue Team -- Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson and Mission Specialist Dave Brown -- at 6 p.m. EST, and prepared for a sleep shift beginning at 8:09 p.m. The Blue Team awoke at 4:09 p.m. to the song "Hakuna Matata" by the Baja Men for Anderson from his two kids.

The Blue Team began its day with work on the SOFBALL, or Structures of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number experiment, which scientists hope will improve their understanding of lean (low fuel) burning combustion and lead to improvements in engine efficiency, reduced emissions, and fire safety.

The overnight team also worked with the Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System, a European Space Agency experiment looking at how the human body adapts to weightlessness.

After lunch, the team was to calibrate the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX) and resume observations after adjusting the shuttle orientation in orbit to facilitate measurement of small particles in the atmosphere over the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Sahara desert.

Cooling and humidity control of the Spacehab module is being effectively managed through minor adjustments to systems aboard Columbia and the science module.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2003

The seven astronauts aboard Columbia continued to conduct scientific studies 24-7 today, concentrating their efforts on combustion in weightlessness, the growth of cell cultures, and measurements of the ozone layer.

The Blue Team was awakened at 3:39 p.m. CDT to the sounds of "The Wedding Song" by Paul Stookey, uplinked from Mission Control especially for Pilot Willie McCool. McCool and Blue Team Astronauts Dave Brown and Michael Anderson will begin work after a handover at 6:24 p.m. EST The Red Team of Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon begins its sleep shift at 8:39 p.m.

Israel Space Agency Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon took a break from observations of thunderstorms today to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other dignitaries in Jerusalem. Ramon captured never-before-photographed lightning phenomena, known as "sprites" and "elves," in the extreme upper atmosphere using Middle Eastern Dust Experiment (MEIDEX) cameras. The experiment's primary objective is to study dust storms in the Middle East, but clouds in the region have delayed those observations thus far.

Work continued with a study of combustion in space, focusing on understanding the nature of soot. The Laminar Soot Processes experiment was operated by Ramon to burn various fuels in weightlessness and study production of soot. Weightlessness alllows the process to be studied without the interference caused by gravity-induced convection.

Other experiments run today included continued growth of prostate cancer cells in the Bioreactor Demonstration System (BDS), a device that has been shown on previous flights to grow cultures of much greater fidelity than can be produced in ground labs. The space-grown cultures may help scientists unlock lethal secrets of prostate cancer that allow it to spread through the bones and other body tissues. Mission Specialist Laurel Clark, a medical doctor, worked with the culture device today, checking its operation and photographing the tissues that have grown.

For other experiments, Commander Rick Husband steered Columbia to aim payload-bay mounted instruments to study ozone in the upper atmosphere and another experiment that studies the solar constant. The Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment-2 (SOLSE-2) uses observations of sunlight scattering by the atmosphere to measure ozone. The Solar Constant Experiment (SOLCON) measures solar irradiance above the atmosphere.

The Blue Team will continue observations of "sprites" with the MEIDEX cameras, studies of soot with the Laminar Soot Process apparatus and examinations of bone cell activity in microgravity using the Osteoporosis Experiment in Orbit. The second half of its day will include off-duty time to help stay fresh for the extended-duration mission.

Cooling and humidity control of the Spacehab module is being managed through minor adjustments to systems aboard Columbia and the science module. The Spacehab's dehumidifiers remain off due to problems experienced in the last few days. The cooling glitch is not expected to interrupt any of the mission's ongoing research. Flight controllers are continuing to investigate options for reactivating the dehumidifiers.

MONDAY, JANUARY 20, 2003

Columbia's astronauts conducted scientific studies ranging from the behavior of granular materials in weightlessness to the effects of microgravity on fungi, and filmed the sprites associated with thunderstorms across the globe as their scientific research flight continued in its fifth day.

Red team members Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon conducted additional data takes with the Mechanics of Granular Materials experiment located in the Spacehab Research Module in Columbia's cargo bay. The MGM experiment is providing information on the behavior of saturated sand when exposed to confining pressures in microgravity. The experiment could provide engineers valuable data for strengthening buildings against earthquakes.

The Red team is working what amounts to the day shift on orbit, while the Blue team -- Pilot Willie McCool, Mission Specialist Dave Brown and Payload Commander Mike Anderson -- is working the overnight shift. The division of the two teams into 12-hour shifts assures that scientific research is conducted round-the-clock.

One of the host of experiments in the Spacehab science lab -- the Microbial Physiology Flight Experiment -- was monitored by Clark as she studied how specific fungi react to the absence of gravity for long periods of time.

Additional data was acquired by Anderson and Ramon with an experiment in the Combustion Module in the Spacehab -- the study of Laminer Soot Processes (LSP) -- designed to gain a better understanding of soot formation, oxidation and radiative properties within flames. Two other experiments studying flame properties in space in the large Spacehab furnace are to be conducted throughout the course of the flight.

Work was also accomplished with a series of biomedical experiments studying the human body's response to weightlessness -- particularly dealing with protein manufacturing in the absence of a gravity environment, bone and calcium production, the formation of chemicals associated with renal stones and how saliva and urine change in space relative to any exposure to viruses. The crewmembers also continued periodic blood draws to study how their bodies are adapting to the microgravity environment.

Experiments continued with the MEIDEX cameras in the cargo bay observing thunderstorms to capture images of sprites, which are associated with discharges from the tops of thunderclouds into the Earth's upper atmosphere, and with the SOLSE experiment, studying the amount of ozone in the Earth's upper atmosphere by using a special imaging spectrometer in the payload bay to look across the limb of the Earth during specifically scheduled orbits.

Having been awakened just after 5 p.m. EST, McCool, Brown and Anderson planned to continue the more than 80 experiments on board Columbia. The Red team will begin its eight-hour sleep period just after 9 p.m. EST.

This afternoon, flight controllers observed a minor electrical current spike in one of two systems designed to collect and distribute water produced from condensation buildup caused by the operation of the cooling system in the Spacehab Research Module in the cargo bay.

An identical system sprung a leak under the floorboards of Spacehab last night and was shut down. The secondary system had been operating normally until the electrical spike was observed at around 2:15 p.m. A plan was implemented to reconfigure a valve in Columbia, allowing cool air from the shuttle to flow into the science module, thus enabling the module's temperatures to remain at a level that will not require the use of Spacehab's cooling system, while preventing any further buildup of condensation. Later, an air duct was routed from Columbia to the Spacehab to increase the flow of cool air into the science facility.

Flight controllers plan to continue their analysis of the Spacehab cooling issue throughout the night, with no impact expected to science operations.

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 6 Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and ISS Science Officer Don Pettit entered their third month in orbit today with a full complement of scientific research activities, exercise and routine ISS maintenance work.

The three ISS crewmembers conducted a number of cardiovascular tests, unloaded samples from a Zeolite Crystal Growth experiment in the Destiny laboratory that has completed its work for this Expedition. The Russian Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system in the Zvezda Module, which shut down last week, is now operating normally following the weekend replacement of a valve. The U.S. segment CO2 removal system, which has been operating in place of Vozdukh, was powered down as a result of the Vozdukh revival.

All other station systems are operating normally as are all the systems aboard the shuttle Columbia, which, like the ISS, is orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 19, 2003

Columbia's astronauts studied combustion properties and the response of their own bodies in weightlessness and the behavior of soot in space one-quarter of the way through their marathon scientific research mission.

Red Team members Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon completed the first data collection sessions with the Combustion Module in the Spacehab research module housed in Columbia's cargo bay. One of three experiments housed in the Combustion Module -- the study of Laminer Soot Processes (LSP) -- is designed to gain a better understanding of soot formation, oxidation and radiative properties within flames.

Additional data was gleaned from the Mechanics of Granular Materials experiment (MGM) in the Spacehab module, which is providing information on the behavior of saturated sand when exposed to confining pressures in microgravity. The experiment could provide engineers with valuable data for strengthening buildings against earthquakes.

Work was also accomplished with a series of biomedical experiments studying the human body's response to weightlessness -- particularly dealing with protein manufacturing in the absence of a gravity environment, bone and calcium production, the formation of chemicals associated with renal stones and how saliva and urine change in space relative to any exposure to viruses.

Experiments continued with the MEIDEX cameras in the cargo bay observing dust storms in the Mediterranean region and with the SOLSE experiment, geared to studying the amount of ozone in the Earth's atmosphere by using a special imaging spectrometer in the payload bay to look across the limb of the Earth during specifically scheduled orbits.

Columbia's Blue Team science cadre -- Pilot Willie McCool and Mission Specialists Dave Brown and Mike Anderson -- planned to continue the more than 80 experiments on board Columbia following their wakeup call this afternoon. The Red team will begin its eight-hour sleep period just before 10 p.m. EST.

Earlier today, TV cameras in the Spacehab research module captured Ramon conducting work with the Combustion Module. He reported that the materials science facility was operating perfectly as are all of the other experiment facilities aboard Columbia.

Aboard the International Space Station, Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and ISS Science Officer Don Pettit completed their second month in space by enjoying an off-duty day. The crew will return to a full complement of scientific research activities, exercise and routine ISS maintenance work on Monday. The ISS crew is working a schedule, which calls for them to be awakened every morning at 1:00 a.m. EST and for their 8 12 hour sleep period to begin at 4:30 p.m. EST.

The ISS crew was informed that replacement parts for the Microgravity Science Glovebox will be ready for launch on the next Progress resupply vehicle to the ISS on February 2. With docking of that cargo ship to the ISS planned for Feb. 4, virtually all of the science planned for the facility during Expedition 6 will be accomplished as initially planned.

All systems aboard Columbia and the ISS continue to function well.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003

Two days into one of the most ambitious shuttle science missions in years, the commander of the shuttle Columbia said his dual-shift team has encountered remarkably few problems and that "things are going really well." Read our story on this third day of Columbia's mission.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 2003

While it's not unusual these days to turn on the TV and watch construction projects going on in outer space, it is a bit out of the ordinary when ants - not astronauts - are the ones doing the building. Read our story on this second day of Columbia's mission.

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THURSDAY, JANUARY 16, 2003
2300 GMT (6:00 p.m. EST)


Columbia's crewmembers unstowed equipment and began activation of the Spacehab Research Double Module in the shuttle's cargo bay late today, setting the stage for 24-hour-a-day science during the shuttle's 16-day research mission.

Columbia lifted off at 10:39 a.m. EST from the Kennedy Space Center in near-perfect weather after a flawless countdown. The crew opened the spacecraft's payload bay doors about 12:35 p.m. and then were given the go-ahead for on-orbit operations.

The seven-member crew is divided into two teams, each working 12 hours per day during most of the flight. Members of the blue team, Pilot Willie McCool and Mission Specialists Dave Brown and Mike Anderson, began a six-hour sleep period at 3:47 p.m. EST and will be awakened at 9:49 p.m. Red team members, Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark, and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, begin a 7-hour sleep period at 10:39 p.m.

Spacehab is a pressurized research module 20 feet long, 14 feet wide and 11 feet high. It houses equipment for 59 experiments, three of them mounted on its roof. Its activation marks the beginning of the major science activities of Columbia's mission.

All systems aboard Columbia continue to function flawlessly.

The shuttle is at an altitude of about 178 statute miles, in an orbit inclined 39 degrees to the equator.

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 6 crewmembers, Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit, received a live video uplink of the launch through the ISS Flight Control Room in the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

1737 GMT (12:37 p.m. EST)

Columbia's two 60-foot long payload bay doors have been swung open and Mission Control has given the astronauts the "go" for on-orbit operations following today's successful launch into space.

1710 GMT (12:10 p.m. EST)

The official launch time this morning was 10:39:00.050 a.m. EST. Columbia is now circling Earth in a 179 by 169 statute mile orbit, NASA reports.

1639 GMT (11:39 a.m. EST)

T+plus 60 minutes. With fighter planes and radars scanning the sky for intruders, the shuttle Columbia thundered away on a marathon 16-day science mission today, carrying a crew of seven - including the first Israeli astronaut - scores of experiments and a menagerie of animal and insect research subjects. Read our launch story.

1623 GMT (11:23 a.m. EST)

T+plus 44 minutes. The twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines on the tail of Columbia have been fired successfully to propel the shuttle into a stable orbit.

The next major event will be opening Columbia's payload bay doors in about an hour.

1606 GMT (11:06 a.m. EST)

T+plus 27 minutes, 30 seconds. The flapper doors on the shuttle's belly have been closed. The doors cover the umbilicals between the now-jettisoned external tank and orbiter,

1559 GMT (10:59 a.m. EST)

T+plus 20 minutes. Mission Control reports the Orbital Maneuvering System engine firing to boost the shuttle the rest of the way to orbit will occur in about 21 minutes.

1558 GMT (10:58 a.m. EST)

T+plus 19 minutes. Columbia's three APU hydraulic-powering units have been shut down. They won't be needed until an entry system checkout on the day before landing, and then again for Columbia's high-speed return to Earth and touchdown.

1550 GMT (10:50 a.m. EST)

T+plus 11 minutes. Columbia's appeared trouble-free with no problems reported. The shuttle is currently on a suborbital trajectory with the upcoming Orbital Maneuvering System engine firing about a half-hour from now designed to put Columbia in a stable orbit.

1547 GMT (10:47 a.m. EST)

T+plus 8 minutes, 50 seconds. The emptied external tank has been jettisoned from the belly of space shuttle Columbia. The tank will fall back into the atmosphere where it will burn up harmlessly.

1547 GMT (10:47 a.m. EST)

T+plus 8 minutes, 30 seconds. MECO! Confirmation that Columbia's main engines have cutoff as planned. Space shuttle Columbia has safely embarked on its marathon science mission.

1546 GMT (10:46 a.m. EST)

T+plus 7 minutes, 30 seconds. The main engines beginning to throttle back to ease the force of gravity on the shuttle and astronauts. Columbia is over 600 miles from the launch pad.

1545 GMT (10:45 a.m. EST)

T+plus 6 minutes, 40 seconds. Columbia now rolling to heads-up. Velocity 10,000 miles per hour, downrange distance 440 miles.

1544 GMT (10:44 a.m. EST)

T+plus 5 minutes, 20 seconds. Columbia can now reach a orbit on the power of two main engines should one fail. But all three continue to fire properly.

1543 GMT (10:43 a.m. EST)

T+plus 4 minutes. Negative return. The shuttle is traveling too fast and is too far downrange so it can no longer return to the launch site in the event of a main engine problem.

1542 GMT (10:42 a.m. EST)

T+plus 3 minutes, 20 seconds. All systems continue to function normally.

1541 GMT (10:41 a.m. EST)

T+plus 2 minutes, 10 seconds. The twin solid rocket boosters have done their job and separated from the space shuttle Columbia. The shuttle continues its climb to orbit on the power of the three liquid-fueled main engines.

1540 GMT (10:40 a.m. EST)

T+plus 90 seconds. All systems of Columbia are performing well as the shuttle accelerates to orbit. Burning propellant at remarkable rates, the shuttle weighs half of what it did at liftoff.

1540 GMT (10:40 a.m. EST)

T+plus 60 seconds. Columbia's engines have throttled back up.

1539 GMT (10:39 a.m. EST)

T+plus 35 seconds. Columbia's three main engines are being throttled down to ease the shuttle's passage through the dense lower altitude.

1539 GMT (10:39 a.m. EST)

T+plus 20 seconds. The shuttle has rolled to a heads-down, wings-level attitude and the proper due east heading for a 39-degree inclination orbit.

1539 GMT (10:39 a.m. EST)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of space shuttle Columbia on a 16-day mission to exploit microgravity for the science benefits of tomorrow.

1538 GMT (10:38 a.m. EST)

T-minus 31 seconds. Auto sequence start. Columbia's onboard computers have assumed control of the countdown.

In the next few seconds the solid rocket booster hydraulic power units will be started and the orbiter's body flap and speed brake will be moved to their launch positions. The main engine ignition will begin at T-minus 6.6 seconds.

1538 GMT (10:38 a.m. EST)

T-minus 1 minute. Computers verifying that the main engines are ready for ignition. Sound suppression water system is armed. System will activate at T-minus 16 seconds to suppress the sound produced at launch. Residual hydrogen burn ignitors have been armed. They will be fired at T-minus 10 seconds to burn off any hydrogen gas from beneath the main engine nozzles. And the solid rocket booster joint heaters have been deactivated.

Shortly the external tank strut heaters will be turned off; Columbia will transition to internal power; the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen outboard fill and drain valves will be closed; the payload bay vent doors will be positioned for the launch; and the gaseous oxygen vent arm will be verified fully retracted.

1536 GMT (10:36 a.m. EST)

T-minus 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Orbiter steering check now complete -- the main engine nozzles in their start positions. The external tank liquid oxygen vent valve has been closed and pressurization of the LOX tank has started. Standing by to transfer Columbia's power-producing fuel cells to internal reactants. The units will begin providing all electricity for the mission beginning at T-50 seconds. And pilot Duane Carey has been asked to clear the caution and warning memory system aboard Columbia.

In the next few seconds the gaseous oxygen vent hood will be removed from the top of the external tank. Verification that the swing arm is fully retracted will be made by the ground launch sequencer at the T-37 second mark.

Coming up on T-minus 2 minutes. The astronauts will be instructed to close and lock the visors on their launch and entry helmets. At T-minus 1 minute, 57 seconds the replenishment of the flight load of liquid hydrogen in the external tank will be terminated and tank pressurization will begin.

1535 GMT (10:35 a.m. EST)

T-minus 3 minutes, 30 seconds. The main engine nozzles are now being moved through a computer controlled test pattern to demonstrate their readiness to support guidance control during launch today.

1535 GMT (10:35 a.m. EST)

T-minus 4 minutes. Activation of the APUs complete. The three units are up and running. The final helium purge sequence is under way in the main propulsion system. This procedure readies fuel system valves for engine start. In the next few seconds the aerosurfaces of Columbia will be run through a pre-planned mobility test to ensure readiness for launch. This is also a dress rehearsal for flight of the orbiter's hydraulic systems.

1534 GMT (10:34 a.m. EST)

T-minus 5 minutes. Go for Auxiliary Power Unit start. Pilot Willie McCool is now flipping three switches in Columbia's cockpit to start each of the three APU's. The units, located in the aft compartment of Columbia, provide the pressure needed to power the hydraulic systems of the shuttle. The units will be used during the launch and landing phases of the mission for such events are moving the orbiter's aerosurfaces, gimbaling the main engine nozzles and deploying the landing gear.

Over the course of the next minute, the orbiter's heaters will be configured for launch by commander Rick Husband, the fuel valve heaters on the main engines will be turned off in preparation for engine ignition at T-6.6 seconds and the external tank and solid rocket booster safe and arm devices will be armed.

1533 GMT (10:33 a.m. EST)

T-minus 5 minutes, 30 seconds. APU pre-start is complete and the units are ready for activation. The orbiters flight data recorders now in the record mode to collect measurements of shuttle systems performance during flight.

1533 GMT (10:33 a.m. EST)

T-minus 6 minutes. Pilot Willie McCool has been asked by Orbiter Test Conductor Ken Knispel to pre-start the orbiter Auxiliary Power Units. This procedure readies the three APU's for their activation after the countdown passes T-minus 5 minutes.

1531 GMT (10:31 a.m. EST)

T-minus 7 minutes, 30 seconds. The ground launch sequencer is now pulling the orbiter access arm away from the crew hatch on the port side of the vehicle. The arm was the passage way for the astronauts to board Columbia a few hours ago. The arm can be re-extended in about a quarter of a minute should the need arise later in the countdown.

1531 GMT (10:31 a.m. EST)

T-minus 8 minutes and counting. Pilot Willie McCool has flipped the switches in the cockpit of Columbia to directly connect the three onboard fuel cells with the essential power buses. Also, the stored program commands have been issued to the orbiter.

1530 GMT (10:30 a.m. EST)

T-minus 9 minutes and counting! The ground launch sequencer is now controlling the final phase of today's countdown to launch of space shuttle Columbia at 10:39 a.m. EST. The GLS will monitor as many as a thousand different measurements to ensure they do not fall out of predetermine red-line limits.

1529 GMT (10:29 a.m. EST)

NASA Launch Director Mike Leinbach has polled senior officials and no technical problems were announced. Countdown will resume from the T-minus 9 minute mark in one minute.

Once the countdown picks up, the Ground Launch Sequencer will be initiated. The master computer program is located in a console in the Firing Room of the Complex 39 Launch Control Center. The GLS is the master of events through liftoff. During the last 9 minutes of the countdown, the computer will monitor as many as a thousand different systems and measurements to ensure that they do not fall out of any pre-determine red-line limits. At T-minus 31 seconds, the GLS will hand off to the onboard computers of Columbia to complete their own automatic sequence of events through the final half minute of the countdown.

1527 GMT (10:27 a.m. EST)

The final readiness poll by NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding has been completed with all launch team members reporting "go", including the orbiter, external tank, solid rocket boosters, safety personnel, Eastern Range and the astronaut crew. Mission Control also has given its "go" which indictates weather at the Shuttle Landing Facility and other abort landing sites will not be a factor against launch today.

1520 GMT (10:20 a.m. EST)

T-minus 9 minutes and holding. Countdown clocks have gone into the planned 10-minute built-in hold. Today's launch remains set for 10:39 a.m. EST.

The flow rate of conditioned air into the payload bay of Columbia is being adjusted and the fuel cell load has been tweaked per the normal plan.

1519 GMT (10:19 a.m. EST)

The Orbital Maneuvering System/Reaction Control System crossfeed valves are configured for launch. The Main Propulsion System helium system has been reconfigured. The gaseous nitrogen purge to the aft skirts of the solid rocket boosters is starting.

1516 GMT (10:16 a.m. EST)

Mission Control in Houston is loading Columbia's onboard computers with the proper guidance parameters based on the projected launch time. Pilot McCool is configuring the displays inside Columbia's cockpit for launch while commander Husband enables the abort steering instrumentation.

1509 GMT (10:09 a.m. EST)

T-minus 20 minutes and counting. The countdown has resumed after a 10-minute hold. Clocks will tick down for the next 11 minutes to the T-minus 9 minute mark where the final planned hold is scheduled to occur. Liftoff is targeted for 10:39 a.m. EST.

Columbia's onboard computers are now transitioning to the Major Mode-101 program, the primary ascent software. Also, engineers are dumping the Primary Avionics Software System (PASS) onboard computers. The data that is dumped from each of PASS computers is compared to verify that the proper software is loaded aboard for launch.

In about one minute, the astronauts will configure the backup computer to MM-101 and the test team will verify backup flight control system (BFS) computer is tracking the PASS computer systems.

1503 GMT (10:03 a.m. EST)

The Orbiter Closeout Crew has completed its job today with the hatch of Columbia sealed for flight. The team is now preparing to depart launch pad 39A and head back to the safety roadblocks.

1459 GMT (9:59 a.m. EST)

T-minus 20 minutes and holding. The countdown has paused for a 10-minute built-in hold. Launch remains scheduled for 10:39 a.m. EST. There are no technical problems and weather conditions look good. Today's available launch window extends 1:09 p.m. EST.

During this built-in hold, all computer programs in the Firing Room of the Complex 39 Launch Control Center will be verified to ensure that the proper programs are available for the countdown; the landing convoy status will be verified and the landing sites will be checked to support an abort landing during launch today; the Inertial Measurement Unit preflight alignment will be verified completed; and preparations are made to transition the orbiter onboard computers to Major Mode 101 upon coming out of the hold. This configures the computer memory to a terminal countdown configuration.

1457 GMT (9:57 a.m. EST)

T-minus 22 minutes and counting. Standing by to go into a built-in hold at the T-minus 20 minute mark.

The shuttle's backup flight control system (BFS) computer has been configured. It would be used today in the event of emergency landing.

Also, the primary avionics software system (PASS) is transferring to Columbia's BFS computer so both systems can be synched with the same data. In case of a PASS computer system failure, the BFS computer will take over control of the shuttle vehicle during flight.

1451 GMT (9:51 a.m. EST)

At this time in the countdown, the ground pyro initiator controllers (PICs) are scheduled to be powered up. They are used to fire the solid rocket hold-down posts, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tail service mast and external tank vent arm system pyros at liftoff and the space shuttle main engine hydrogen gas burn system prior to engine ignition.

Columbia's two Master Events Controllers have been tested. They relay the commands from the shuttle's computers to ignite, and then separate the boosters and external tank during launch.

Commander Rick Husband is pressurizing the gaseous nitrogen system for Columbia's Orbital Maneuvering System engines, and pilot Willie McCool has activated the gaseous nitrogen supply for the orbiter's Auxiliary Power Units' water boilers.

1435 GMT (9:35 a.m. EST)

At this point in the countdown the Ground Launch Sequencer mainline activation has been completed.

1419 GMT (9:19 a.m. EST)

T-minus 1 hour and counting. The countdown continues to this morning's scheduled 10:39 a.m. EST launch. There are two planned holds still to come -- at T-minus 20 minutes and T-minus 9 minutes.

The pre-flight alignment of Columbia's Inertial Measurement Units is now beginning, and will be completed by the T-minus 20 minute mark. The IMUs were calibrated over the past few hours of the countdown. The three units are used by the onboard navigation systems to determine the position of the orbiter in flight.

1416 GMT (9:16 a.m. EST)

Columbia's crew module hatch is now swinging shut. Pressure and leak checks will be performed shortly to ensure a good seal on the hatch for today's launch.

1411 GMT (9:11 a.m. EST)

With their work completed aboard the shuttle, the Orbiter Closeout Crew has been given a "go" by the launch team to close Columbia's hatch for flight.

1353 GMT (8:53 a.m. EST)

The ground launch sequencer software that will control the final nine minutes of the countdown is being initialized as the clock continues to today's planned launch at 10:39 a.m. EST.

Also, the solid rocket boosters' gas generator heaters in the hydraulic power units are turned on, the aft skirt gaseous nitrogen purge is starting and the rate gyro assemblies (RGAs) are being activated. The RGAs are used by the orbiter's navigation system to determine rates of motion of the boosters during the first-stage flight.

1343 GMT (8:43 a.m. EST)

The final Columbia astronaut has boarded the shuttle today. Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist No. 2 and flight engineer, has now entered the hatch. She will sit in the flight deck center seat, giving an extra set of eyes to aid the commander and pilot watch displays and switches during launch and landing.

Chawla was born in Karnal, India.

Selected by NASA in December 1994, Kalpana Chawla reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995 as an astronaut candidates. After completing a year of training and evaluation, she was assigned as crew representative to work technical issues for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches. Her assignments included work on development of Robotic Situational Awareness Displays and testing space shuttle control software in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory. She has flown one previous flight -- STS-87 in 1997, logging 376 hours and 34 minutes in space.

1324 GMT (8:24 a.m. EST)

Laurel Clark, mission specialist No. 4, has boarded the shuttle. She will sit in the middeck center seat.

Clark considers Racine, Wisconsin, to be her hometown. She is a commander in the U.S. Navy.

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Dr. Clark reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. After completing two years of training and evaluation, she was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. From July 1997 to August 2000 Dr. Clark worked in the Astronaut Office Payloads/Habitability Branch. This will be her first space mission.

1323 GMT (8:23 a.m. EST)

David Brown, Columbia's mission specialist No. 1, has boarded the shuttle. He will sit in the flight deck aft right seat.

Brown was born on April 16, 1956 in Arlington, Virginia. He is a captain in the U.S. Navy.

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Brown reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. Having completed two years of training and evaluation, he is eligible for flight assignment as a mission specialist. He was initially assigned to support payload development for the International Space Station, followed by the astronaut support team responsible for orbiter cockpit setup, crew strap-in, and landing recovery.

1309 GMT (8:09 a.m. EST)

Michael Anderson, mission specialist No. 3 and the payload commander, has boarded the shuttle. He will sit in the middeck left seat.

Anderson was born on December 25, 1959 in Plattsburgh, New York. He is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

Selected by NASA in December 1994, Anderson reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995. He completed a year of training and evaluation, and is qualified for flight crew assignment as a mission specialist. Anderson was initially assigned technical duties in the Flight Support Branch of the Astronaut Office. Most recently, he flew on the crew of STS-89. In completing his first space flight Anderson has logged over 211 hours in space.

1307 GMT (8:07 a.m. EST)

Columbia's rookie pilot Willie McCool has entered the shuttle's hatch. He will sit in the flight deck forward right seat.

McCool was born on September 23, 1961 in San Diego, California. He is a commander in the U.S. Navy.

Selected by NASA in April 1996, McCool reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. He completed two years of training and evaluation, and is qualified for flight assignment as a pilot. Initially assigned to the Computer Support Branch, McCool also served as Technical Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations, and worked Shuttle cockpit upgrade issues for the Astronaut Office.

1256 GMT (7:56 a.m. EST)

The payload specialist of Columbia's mission and the first Israeli astronaut -- Ilan Ramon -- has boarded the shuttle. Ramon will sit in the middeck right seat.

He was born on June 20, 1954 in Tel Aviv, Israel. In 1974, Ramon graduated as a fighter pilot from the Israel Air Force Flight School.

In 1997, Colonel Ramon was selected as a payload specialist. He is designated to train as prime for a space shuttle mission with a payload that includes a multispectral camera for recording desert aerosol. In July 1998, he reported for training at the Johnson Space Center, Houston.

1252 GMT (7:52 a.m. EST)

Columbia commander Rick Husband has become the first astronaut to enter the shuttle this morning. He will sit in the flight deck forward left seat.

Husband is born on July 12, 1957 in Amarillo, Texas. He is colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

He was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in December 1994. He reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995 to begin a year of training and evaluation. Upon completion of training, Husband was named the Astronaut Office representative for Advanced Projects at Johnson Space Center, working on Space Shuttle Upgrades, the Crew Return Vehicle and studies to return to the Moon and travel to Mars. Most recently, he served as Chief of Safety for the Astronaut Office. He flew as pilot on STS-96 in 1999, and has logged 235 hours and 13 minutes in space.

1242 GMT (7:42 a.m. EST)

The shuttle astronauts have arrived at launch pad 39A. They will take the elevator up to the 195-foot level of the fixed service structure to enter Columbia's crew cabin.

1235 GMT (7:35 a.m. EST)

Columbia's astronauts have just driven past the Kennedy Space Center Press Site on their way from crew quarters at the Operations & Checkout Building in the Industrial Area to launch pad 39A on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

1219 GMT (7:19 a.m. EST)

T-minus 3 hours and counting. The countdown has resumed on scheduled from this planned two-hour built-in hold. Clocks will now tick down to T-minus 20 minutes when the next hold is planned. A final hold is scheduled at the T-minus 9 minute mark. Liftoff remains set for 10:39 a.m. EST.

1139 GMT (6:39 a.m. EST)

Now four hours from launch. The first rays of sunlight are now breaking over the horizon on a clear, crisp Florida morning. Weather is ideal, there are no technical problems and liftoff of Columbia is still set to occur at 10:39 a.m. EST.

1119 GMT (6:19 a.m. EST)

Columbia stands fully fueled at launch pad 39A. The loading of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into the external tank officially began at 3:06 a.m. EST. The operation went smoothly and was completed at 5:48 a.m. EST. A stable replenishment mode was started to continuously top-off the respective tanks within the external tank through the final minutes of the countdown.

Following tanking procedures, a team called the Final Inspection Team was dispatched to the pad to check the vehicle one last time prior to liftoff. The six-person team, comprised of five engineers and one safety official, is currently performing the inspections at pad 39A. At the conclusion of their two-hour tour-of-duty, they will have walked up and down the entire 380-foot fixed service structure and mobile launcher platform.

The team is on the lookout for any abnormal ice or frost build-up on the vehicle that could break-off during ignition and damage the spacecraft. The team is also searching for any loose debris that could possibly fly up and strike the vehicle at launch. And the third item of interest to the team is the thermal integrity of the external tank foam insulation.

The team uses a portable infrared scanner that gathers temperature measurements on the surface area of the shuttle and can spot leaks. The scanner will be used to obtain temperature data on the external tank, solid rocket boosters, space shuttle orbiter, main engines and launch pad structures. The scanner can also spot leaks of the cryogenic propellants, and due to its ability to detect distinct temperature differences, can spot any dangerous hydrogen fuel that is burning. One team member is also responsible for photo documentation.

Each member of the Final Inspection Team is in constant contact with the NASA Test Director in the Firing Room.

The team wears the highly visible day-glow orange coveralls that are anti-static and flame resistant. Each member also has a self-contained emergency breathing unit that holds about 10 minutes of air.

Following the Final Inspection Team's activities, they will meet with NASA Launch Director Mike Leinbach, the Mission Management Team, and engineering directors in the launch control center, providing a detailed report on the inspections and findings at the pad 39A.

A full inspection of the vehicle and pad was performed yesterday and the external tank received a thorough check prior to fueling last night.

An inspection of the launch pad and beach will be made following launch. That inspection will be to look for anything unusual, particularly anything that could have fallen off of the vehicle during the first few seconds of flight. Later, there will be a meeting to review high-speed videotape and film of the launch and early ascent to determine if there was any damage to the vehicle.

1052 GMT (5:52 a.m. EST)

Columbia's external fuel tank is now full with 528,000 gallons of super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. Tanking was officially completed at 5:48 a.m. EST.

But given the cryogenic nature of the oxidizer and propellant, the supplies naturally boil away. So the tanks are continuously topped off until the final minutes of the countdown in a procedure called "stable replenishment."

With the hazardous tanking operation completed, the Orbiter Closeout Crew and Final Inspection Team are being dispatched to the pad to perform their jobs. The closeout crew will ready Columbia's cockpit for the astronauts' boarding in a couple of hours; and the inspection team will give the entire vehicle a check for any ice formation from fueling.

NASA officials say all systems remain "go" for an on-time liftoff at 10:39 a.m. EST today.

1019 GMT (5:19 a.m. EST)

T-minus 3 hours and holding. The countdown has just entered a two-hour planned built-in hold at the T-minus 3 hour mark. Fueling operations are still in work, having been delayed about an hour this morning after the launch team got behind. Liftoff remains scheduled for 10:39 a.m. EST.

0940 GMT (4:40 a.m. EST)

The high-speed pumping of super-cold rocket fuel into the space shuttle Columbia continues at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A with no problems reported. The loading of cryogenic oxygen and hydrogen takes about three hours and the process is about half-way completed at this point.

0810 GMT (3:10 a.m. EST)

Space shuttle Columbia is being filled up with over a half-million gallons of cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants in preparation for today's 10:39 a.m. EST (1539 GMT) blastoff on a 16-day scientific research spaceflight.

The three-hour process to load the shuttle's orange external fuel tank began at 3:06 a.m. EST.

There are actually two tanks inside the orange tank. The liquid oxygen tank fills the top third of the external tank. It will be filled with 143,000 gallons of liquid oxygen chilled to minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 183 degrees Celsius). The liquid hydrogen tank is contained in the bottom two-thirds of the external tank. It holds 385,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen chilled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 253 degrees Celsius).

The cryogenics are pumped from storage spheres at the pad, through feed lines to the mobile launcher platform, into Columbia's aft compartment and finally into the external tank.

The fueling process is being orchestrated by engineers in the safe confines of the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Control Center located about 3 1/2 miles from launch pad 39A.

0740 GMT (2:40 a.m. EST)

Fueling has still not started. A NASA spokesman says the launch team is playing a bit of catch up after spending some time troubleshooting a minor glitch earlier. There are no problems of any of significance at this time and the "go" to begin fueling has been given once the team is ready.

0719 GMT (2:19 a.m. EST)

T-minus 6 hours and counting. Clocks have resuming ticking from a one-hour planned built-in hold. The countdown is headed to the T-minus 3 hour mark where a two-hour pause is scheduled.

0700 GMT (2:00 a.m. EST)

Mission managers have given the Kennedy Space Center launch team a "go" to begin fueling space shuttle Columbia for liftoff. The "pre-tanking" meeting of the management team has concluded with no significant issues to report. The weather forecast remains favorable with a 95 percent chance of acceptable conditions during today's launch window of 10:39 a.m. to 1:09 p.m. EST.

Pad panorama
As the rotating service structure swung away from space shuttle Columbia at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A Wednesday afternoon, Spaceflight Now was there to capture this 360-degree panorama. Available to our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers.
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Hubble Posters
Stunning posters featuring images from the Hubble Space Telescope and world-renowned astrophotographer David Malin are now available from the Astronomy Now Store.
 U.S. STORE
 U.K. & WORLDWIDE STORE


New DVD
The conception, design, development, testing and launch history of the Saturn I and IB rocket is documented in this forthcoming three-disc DVD.
 U.S. STORE
 U.K. & WORLDWIDE STORE

The ultimate Apollo 11 DVD
NEW 3-DISC EDITION This exceptional chronicle of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission features new digital transfers of film and television coverage unmatched by any other.
 U.S. STORE
 U.K. & WORLDWIDE STORE