Shuttle Carrying Israeli Astronaut Comes Home Tomorrow
Space Shuttle Columbia, at the tail-end of a 16-day mission, is
scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on
"This flight has been absolutely fantastic, the science has been
spectacular and we just can't wait to bring it all home so the
scientists can really take a close look at what we've done," said
Michael Anderson, Columbia's payload commander. "I think a lot of
our experiments have exceeded our expectations by 100 percent.
We've seen things we never expected to see."
The crew has been working in 12-hour shifts, taking turns
sleeping. With another shift hard at work, the slumbering shuttle
crewmembers wear eyeshades and earplugs.
The seven astronauts aboard Columbia, including Israel's
first-ever man in space, Col. Ilan Ramon, said during a news
conference earlier in the week, "The world looks marvelous from up
here, so peaceful, so wonderful and so fragile."
Ramon, who participated in the daring 1981 Israeli attack on
Saddam Hussein's burgeoning nuclear research facility, said, "The
atmosphere is so clean and fragile and I think that everybody, all
of us, have to keep it clean and good. For the people of Israel, I
wish we will have a peaceful land to live in very soon."
Ramon is running the MEIDEX experiment, mounted
inside the shuttle's cargo bay. it consists of a
multi-spectral camera, designed to photograph dust storms in the
upper atmosphere. "In the first seven days, I believe, we didn't
have any dust up in the atmosphere," Ramon said. "But it looks like
... we had a big dust storm over the Atlantic (recently) that
lasted for two or three days and I think the scientists were very,
very successful with their experiment. Other than that, we had
another quite big experiment with MEIDEX, which is called Sprite,
which is actually lightning going up from the top of the clouds
through the atmosphere and we have a lot of lightning storms
Columbia is scheduled to touch down at the Kennedy Space Center
in Florida at 9:15 EST Saturday. Weather at the landing site is
expected to be clear skies, 56 degrees, with 63% relative humidity.
KSC officials say they don't expect any need to divert to Edwards