The orbiter Columbia returns to Earth, laden with microgravity research samples accumulated over a nearly 16-day spaceflight. Columbia touched down on the first landing opportunity at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility, Runway 33, at 6:45 a.m. EST. Mission STS-73 marked the second flight of the U.S. Microgravity Laboratory (USML-2). The seven crew members assigned to STS-73 split into two teams to conduct around-the-clock microgravity research in a Spacelab module located in the orbiter payload bay as well as in the orbiter middeck. The mission commander is Kenneth D. Bowersox; Kent V. Rominger is the pilot. Kathryn C. Thornton is the payload commander, and the two mission specialists are Catherine G. Coleman and Michael E. Lopez-Alegria. To obtain the best results from the many experiments conducted during the mission, two payload specialists, Albert Sacco Jr. and Fred W. Leslie, also were assigned to the crew. The STS-73 mission will become the second longest in Shuttle program history, and Columbia -- loaded with research samples and USML-2 hardware -- weighs the most of any orbiter upon return. (Photo Release Date: 11/05/95 )

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