The shuttle Columbia and its multi-national crew of astronauts
blasted off on time today from the Kennedy Space Center.to begin a
16-day flight devoted to microgravity science, satellite-based studies
of the sun and a spacewalk to prepare for the assembly of the
International Space Station.
Commander Kevin Kregel, Pilot Steve Lindsey, Mission Specialists
Kalpana Chawla, Winston Scott and Takao Doi and Payload Specialist
Leonid Kadenyuk lifted off at 1:46 p.m. Central time, the sixth time
this year that a shuttle has begun its mission right on time. All
eight flights this year launched on the day set in NASA's Flight
Readiness Review. Doi will become the first Japanese astronaut to walk
in space Monday night when he conducts a six-hour excursion into
Columbia's payload bay with Scott. Kadenyuk is the first Ukrainian to
fly in space.
Six minutes into the climb to orbit, Columbia's computers commanded
the orbiter to roll from an inverted position under its fuel tank to
a."heads-up" position to provide early communications access to the
Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. That will enable NASA to
phase out its Bermuda tracking station to save costs to the shuttle
Later today, the astronauts will activate experiments associated
with the United States Microgravity-4 payload in the cargo bay, which
will gather data for more than two weeks on the effects of
weightlessness on a number of materials. Chawla and Lindsey will also
unfurl and checkout Columbia's robot arm, which will be used tomorrow
to deploy the SPARTAN science satellite for two days of solar science
The astronauts will begin an eight-hour sleep period at 12:46
a.m. tomorrow morning and will be awakened at 8:46 a.m. to start
SPARTAN pre-deploy operations.
Columbia is in an orbit about 150 nautical miles above the Earth,
circling the planet every 90 minutes.
The next STS-87 status report will be issued at about 6 a.m. Central