July 13, 1999 NASA managers set Tuesday, July 20, 1999, as the official launch date for NASA's second Space Shuttle Mission of the year that will mark the launch of the first female Shuttle Commander and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.
Columbia is scheduled to liftoff from Launch Pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center on July 20 at the opening of a 46-minute launch window at 12:36 a.m. EDT. Columbia's planned five-day mission is scheduled to end with a night landing at the Kennedy Space Center just after 11:30 p.m. EDT on July 24.
Following its deployment from the Shuttle, Chandra will join the Hubble Space Telescope and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory as the next in NASA's series of "Great Observatories." Chandra will spend at least five years in a highly elliptical orbit which will carry it one-third of the way to the moon to observe invisible and often violent realms of the cosmos containing some of the most intriguing mysteries in astronomy ranging from comets in our solar system to quasars at the edge of the universe.
Columbia's 26th flight is led by Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, who will command a Space Shuttle mission following two previous flights as a pilot. The STS-93 Pilot is Navy Captain Jeff Ashby who will be making his first flight into space. The three mission specialists for the flight are: Air Force Lt. Col. Catherine "Cady" Coleman, who will be making her second flight into space; Steven A. Hawley, Ph.D, making his fifth flight; and French Air Force Col. Michel Tognini of the French Space Agency (CNES), who is making his first Space Shuttle flight and second trip into space after spending two weeks on the Mir Space Station as a visiting cosmonaut in 1992.
Editor's Note: Background information and the latest updates on the Chandra X-Ray Observatory can be found at http://www1.msfc.nasa.gov/NEWSROOM/chandra/chandra.html
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