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The space shuttle Discovery landed during the early hours of June 6, 1999.
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Courtesy of NASA

Discovery Landed, Columbia Launch in Question
News story originally written on June 7, 1999

The space shuttle Discovery made a successful landing during the early hours of June 6, 1999. The night landing was only the 11th of its kind in 94 flights. The highlights of the mission include attaching construction cranes on the International Space Station (ISS) and delivering supplies that will be used by the station's first crew, scheduled to be aboard next March.

Most of the attention, however, is focused on the next scheduled mission. The shuttle Columbia is supposed to launch on July 22, 1999. It's payload is an X-ray observatory similar to the Hubble Space Telescope. The observatory is supposed to be propelled into its orbit by a motor. During an earlier mission, a similar motor failed to work, stranding a satellite in space.

The launch will not take place until the cause of the motor failure is found. If the shuttle doesn't launch by August, it will have to re-schedule for next year.

If Columbia does not complete its mission by August, it will most likely make a trip to California for an overhaul. The earliest it would be able to begin a mission is the fall of 2000. Unfortunately, Columbia is the only shuttle with a cargo bay big enough to hold the observatory.

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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