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Air flow about the shuttle upon reentry. A computational fluid dynamics simulation.
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NASA

Welcome Home Columbia!
News story originally written on July 18, 1997

The shuttle Columbia returned to Earth Thurday, July 17. It carried with it important research on the topics of fire and plants.

During the 16 day journey (6.2 million miles later!), the astronauts took turns setting 206 small fires in sealed chambers. They also ignited the weakest flame ever recorded- one that flickered at 1/50 the brightness of a birthday candle!

Cartoon character Popeye would have been content on this mission, as the Columbia astronauts grew spinach, clover and protein crystals during the mission. Future space station residents will also have to grow some of their own food.

"Columbia has performed almost flawlessly, " said Commander James Halsell Jr. Columbia did have a window dent less than an inch across caused by a tiny meteoroid. The shuttle didn't have any more problems.

NASA's next shuttle flight is a research mission by Discovery in August.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA