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Shuttle Returns Safely - Windows to the Universe

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The shuttle Columbia landing after mission STS-58. The drag chute is deployed to slow the shuttle down.
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Courtesy of NASA

Shuttle Returns Safely
News story originally written on May 7, 1998

The shuttle Columbia returned after 16 days in space. Some interesting things happened after the shuttle landed!

There were many scientists waiting at the landing site. In fact, 200 researchers awaited Columbia's arrival so they could begin dissecting the animals that had traveled aboard the shuttle. Scientists would work with 2,000 fish, snails, crickets and other rodents that flew as part of Columbia's Neurolab. A few dozen baby rats were also of interest. It was a race against gravity: the sooner the animals could be tested, the greater the chance of seeing microgravity's effect on the nervous system.

You may wonder why there was all of this fuss about some animals that were sent up on the shuttle. The main focus of the research done on the shuttle was the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and sensory organs. Scientists need to know about the nervous system because if that system of our bodies isn't working right, we could end up with motion sickness, insomnia or even muscular dystrophy.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF