NASA

Space Shuttle to launch on April 3 for new manned mission
News story originally written on March 31, 1997

At 2:01 PM on April 3, NASA plans to launch Space Shuttle Columbia into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle will stay in orbit for two weeks in which several experiments will be carried out. Columbia is expected to land at Kennedy Space Center on April 19.

The Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1) mission, will study the effects of gravity on different materials. Gravity is a force from our planet that keeps us on the ground. In space, gravity is minimal or almost non-existent--this is called a "microgravity environment."

Certain materials are easier to make in microgravity than on the Earth's surface where the gravity is much greater. The reason is due to that the microscopic structure of certain materials get pulled apart by gravity's force, causing defects in the material itself. In a microgravity environment, these defects don't occur, allowing the material to be much stronger and therefore more usable to humans in certain trades.

MSL-1 will conduct experiments to study how different kinds of materials and liquids behave or change in space. MSL-1 will serve as a test run to the future International Space Station (ISS). ISS will serve as a research facility for microgravity studies. MSL-1 will test some of the equipment that is planned for use on ISS.

The Columbia Space Shuttle crew consists of the following: commander Jim Halsell, pilot Susan Still, Janice Voss, Michael Gernhardt, Donald Thomas, Roger Crouch, and Greg Linteris. STS-83 will be the 22nd Flight of Columbia.

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