Space: Loafing on the Last Lap

The shuttle returns home to prepare for its next flight

Exactly 16 days after its fiery liftoff, the space shuttle Columbia last week reappeared in the Florida skies. This time it was only a piggyback passenger, riding on a Boeing 747. The coast-to-coast flight required an overnight refueling stop in Oklahoma. As a result, the ship that circled the earth in 90 minutes and plunged back into the atmosphere at 25 times the speed of sound took a full day to complete the final lap of its epic journey.

When the big Boeing and its...

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