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NASA Says Columbia Crew Can Extend Mission, Set Record

<i> Associated Press</i>

NASA decided Saturday to keep the space shuttle Columbia aloft a 17th day, which would make the medical-research flight the longest in shuttle history.

Flight directors determined the U.S., French and Canadian crew had conserved enough power to lengthen the mission by one day. Columbia now is scheduled to land next Sunday.

In making the announcement, Mission Control piped the theme song to the movie “Mission: Impossible” into the shuttle’s laboratory as the seven astronauts worked.

A ground controller said: “Your mission, and we know you’ll be glad to accept it, is to extend to 17 days on orbit. Congratulations.”

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The astronauts smiled, punched their fists into the air and exchanged high-fives.

They will continue testing how weightlessness is affecting their bodies. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is trying to understand these changes before sending crews to the planned international space station.


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