Space: Coming in High and Hot

After a wave-off, Columbia soars home to an uncertain future

The report from Mission Control in Houston was a pilot's nightmare. A blinding dust storm, with winds up to 55 m.p.h., was whipping across the White Sands Missile Range, in southern New Mexico. Even from 150 miles up, Astronauts Jack Lousma and C. Gordon Fullerton could see the swirl of white powder. "There will be no landing today for Columbia" said Houston. "The situation has degraded."

Usually NASA's biggest headache is to get spacecraft safely off the ground. But after the White Sands wave-off last...

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