Astronauts’ Trip Becomes Longest Shuttle Flight

Associated Press

Columbia’s seven astronauts broke the shuttle endurance record Friday after thunderstorms offshore forced them to stay up for a 15th day.

Their science mission became not only the longest shuttle trip ever but the longest U.S. spaceflight in more than 20 years.

“We’re just tickled to death to pass the baton and that trophy to you guys,” said Mission Control’s Bill McArthur, who flew on the previous record-setter.


“Well, I’m sure that baton won’t get hot in our hands,” replied commander Robert Cabana. “This is something that’s not going to last real long because we’re just going to keep doing this longer and better.”

Columbia is carrying newts, fish, flies and other creatures for research into how organisms reproduce, develop and adapt in space.

The six Americans and one Japanese broke the record in the afternoon, six hours after being diverted from a sunrise landing at the space center.

If Columbia lands on time at 3:38 a.m. PDT today, the flight will have lasted 14 days and nearly 18 hours. The previous record, set last fall by another Columbia crew, was 14 days, 13 minutes.