NASA managers, facing a tight schedule, Tuesday cleared the space shuttle Columbia for a Dec. 18 night liftoff on a 10-day flight to launch one satellite and return another to Earth.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced the official launch target at the conclusion of a two-day flight readiness review to assess the status of work at launch pad 39-A to prepare the craft for its ninth flight.
Liftoff of the eighth post-Challenger shuttle mission, the sixth of 1989, is scheduled for 4:29 p.m. PST, with landing set for Dec. 28 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. It will be the first American manned spaceflight spanning the Christmas holidays since a Skylab mission in 1973.
Columbia's flight also will mark the first from pad 39-A since before the Challenger disaster and the first from mobile launch platform No. 3, a firing stand originally built for the Apollo moon program and modified for use by the shuttle program.