The Space Shuttle Columbia's extended STS80 mission was completed with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 7 December. The mission duration of 17 days 15h was a new Shuttle record.

The prime objectives of the mission were completed successfully. These were to deploy and retrieve the Wake Shield and the Orfeus Spas free-flying spacecraft, tasks which called for unique and complex joint flying operations.

The Wake Shield was used to manufacture ultra-pure semiconductor material. This appears to have been a success, and it may now be used on a fourth trip. The US-German Spas, built by Daimler- Benz Aerospace, was on its third Shuttle mission, carrying an ultra-violet astronomical telescope.

Also on board the Spas was a European Space Agency (ESA)-developed GPS receiver, which was used to test elements of the automated rendezvous and docking system which ESA is developing for the Ariane 5-launched Automated Transfer Vehicle for the International Space Station.

The major disappointment of the STS80 mission was the cancellation of two space walks, which were to have been used to practice assembly procedures for the station. Astronauts Tom Jones and Tamara Jernigan were left in the airlock by a jammed outer door.

Although the door of the Columbia has not previously been used during space walks, it has been operated several times to provide access to pressurised Spacelab payload-bay modules.

Properly functioning airlock doors will be critical for the next Shuttle missions: the STS81, which will be used for the fifth Shuttle Mir Mission on 12 January; and the STS82, to enable the second space walking-servicing mission to the Hubble Space Tele- scope on 13 February. Two routine space walks, meanwhile, were performed outside the Mir 1 by Valeri Korzun and Alexander Kaleri on 2 and 9 December, to install a second US solar panel to bring the Russian space station back to full power.

Source: Flight International