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Astronaut, 61, Blasts Off For Last Time

Wed., Nov. 20, 1996, midnight

NASA’s oldest shuttle soared into orbit Tuesday carrying the oldest person ever to fly in space, 61-year-old Story Musgrave.

Eight hours later, the crew of Columbia released the first of two science satellites, an ultraviolet telescope that will peer at stars for the next two weeks.

The near-perfect weather was in contrast to the dangerously high wind, rain and dark clouds that prevented a launch last week.

NASA added something to the payload because of the postponement: dehydrated turkey and dressing.

“Enjoy a weightless Thanksgiving,” launch control told the five astronauts moments before they left on the 16-day flight.

Musgrave broke the age record held by former astronaut Vance Brand, who was 59 when he flew in space in 1990. Musgrave also became the first person to fly six times on space shuttles. Only one other person, moonwalker John Young, has flown so many times in space.

This is his last spaceflight; his bosses have told him not to expect another.

“I’m hugely blessed, just hugely blessed,” Musgrave said before boarding Columbia, which in 1981 made the first shuttle flight.


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