NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger returned to Earth aboard the STS 84/Atlantis on 25 May, after a 132-day spaceflight, mainly aboard the Russian space station Mir. He was replaced by Michael Foale, the fifth NASA astronaut to fly on the Mir (Flight International, 28 May-3 June).

The STS84 was the most cosmopolitan mission yet flown, with a crew consisting of people born in China, France, Peru, Russia, the UK and the USA.

The next Space Shuttle flight will be the STS94, the reflight of the aborted STS83/Columbia microgravity-laboratory mission, scheduled for 1 July.

NASA may add up to three more microgravity-research missions to the Columbia's manifest between 1998 and 2002 to allay criticism from scientists.

The final microgravity mission planned is the STS 90/Neurolab in March 1998.

United Space Alliance, the Lockheed-Boeing company which operates the Shuttle ßeet for NASA, plans to offer commercial space on the Columbia, the only orbiter not to be used for International Space Station missions.

Opportunities will range from the placing of company logos on the Shuttle's solid-rocket boosters, to carrying fare-paying passengers on rides to orbit, costing about$5-10 million .

Source: Flight International