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Columbia Crew Sets Record Second Landing Delay Keeps Shuttle Up Nearly 18 Days

Sat., Dec. 7, 1996, midnight

Columbia and its astronauts set a space shuttle endurance record Friday - almost 18 days in orbit - after bad weather scuttled NASA’s landing plans for the second day in a row.

It was so foggy that the shuttle training aircraft, patrolling overhead for safety, had to land at a nearby Air Force base instead of at Kennedy Space Center.

“I’m glad we didn’t,” said Columbia’s skipper, Kenneth Cockrell.

The five astronauts were getting ready for bed - they’ve been working nights and sleeping days - when their mission surpassed the previous shuttle flight-duration mark of 16 days, 21 hours, 48 minutes and 30 seconds. Columbia set that record last July.

Mission Control piped up music from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to mark the occasion. Like most everything else on this mission, the music was late.

“We’re real interested in what you’re going to play us for an encore tomorrow night,” joked astronaut Story Musgrave.

Barring further trouble - and this mission has had its share - NASA expected to bring Columbia back this morning, if not in Florida then at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Gusty wind prevented an Edwards landing on Friday; the weather there, at least, was expected to improve.


 

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