Space: A Giant Workshop in the Sky

On its ninth mission, the shuttle will carry aloft Spacelab

To the irreverent eye, it looks like an outsize Thermos bottle. But the oddly configured contraption, nestled in the big cargo bay of the space shuttle, represents a giant step into the cosmos. When Columbia roars off its Florida pad on Monday morning, Nov. 28, it will be carrying the billion-dollar Spacelab, the first true scientific research station in orbit.

There are other noteworthy aspects about the ninth shuttle flight. By the time Columbia lands on the California desert 144 orbits later on Dec. 7,...

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