A photo of yesterday's launch.
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The Final Mission of the Year
News story originally written on November 20, 1997

The eighth and final shuttle launch of 1997 has been completed, as NASA launched Columbia for a 16-day flight on November 19, 1997. It was the sixth time this year that NASA launched a shuttle at the exact moment on the exact day as planned. "You can't end the year on a better note," said Launch Director Jim Harrington.

This shuttle mission has some exciting days planned. The crew, composed of U.S., Japanese, and Ukrainian crew members, are releasing the SPARTAN science satellite from the shuttle's payload bay for two full days. During its deployment, the SPARTAN satellite is designed to study the Sun's corona and solar wind. Later in the mission, two members will complete a spacewalk in preparation for the construction of the International Space Station (ISS). Throughout the entire mission the United States Microgravity Payload-4 (UMSP-4) will be in full swing. These microgravity science experiments cover a wide range of fields - anything from metallurgy to growing plants (for food purposes).

Columbia orbits the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of 150 nautical miles.

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