Shannon Lucid, the astronaut who spent a record 188 days in space this year, became the first woman to be awarded the congressional Space Medal of Honor. President Clinton praised her Monday as a "determined visionary."
In an Oval Office ceremony, Lucid said her history-making flight aboard the Russian space station Mir was a story of "two great space-faring nations" cooperating on a landmark mission and setting the stage for more joint exploration.
Clinton called Lucid a pioneer whose example will inspire young Americans.
Lucid is the 10th astronaut, and the first woman, to be awarded the medal, created in 1969. "Most pioneers set their sights on just one frontier," Clinton said. "Shannon Lucid has pushed to the furthermost reaches of two: the frontiers of both space and science. She has done so with brainpower, willpower, courage, skill and good humor."
With Russian ambassador Yuri Vorontsov looking on, Clinton said Lucid's mission, which ended in September, also helped cement a space alliance with Russia.
Meanwhile, NASA scrambled to form a plan for Columbia's astronauts to safely open and close a jammed hatch in the remote chance an emergency spacewalk is needed.
In 15 years of space shuttle flight, astronauts have never had to perform an emergency spacewalk. But they've also never encountered a stuck hatch before, so Mission Control is considering several scenarios--just in case.
Most of the talk at Mission Control focuses on what it would take to open the stuck hatch, even if it means destroying the hatch.
Scientists also hoped for no further delays in launching a Mars spacecraft today carrying the first interplanetary rover.
The Mars Pathfinder was to take off aboard an unmanned rocket Monday, but stormy weather delayed the launch 24 hours.