Space: Capturing an Errant Satellite

Challenger's astronauts complete a historic repair mission

Trailing streaks of vaporized gas, with the dawn light glinting on its white thermal coating, space shuttle Challenger swooped over the sun-baked mountains of California's Mojave Desert late last week for a perfect, centerline landing. Indeed, the touchdown was what shuttle pilots approvingly call a wow WONG (weight on wheels, weight on nose gear). As the 98-ton orbiter rolled to a stop on the seven-mile-long, hard-baked desert runway at Edwards Air Force Base, mission control radioed a heartfelt "Welcome back!"

The finale of the shuttle's eleventh and...

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