Flashback: Longest mission in space shuttle program history

Columbia STS-80 logged 17 days in space

File photo: Space Shuttle Columbia climbs into orbit from Launch Pad 39B at 2:55 p.m., Nov. 19, 1996. (Image: NASA/KSC)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Before the tragedy in 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia completed 27 missions from 1981 to 2002, including the longest shuttle mission ever flown at more than 17 days. 

Mission STS-80, as it was known, was delayed two weeks before it launched on Nov. 19, 1996. News 6 was there 22 years ago as bad weather prevented the shuttle from landing on Dec. 5, until it eventually touched down at the Cape Canaveral shuttle landing facility on Dec. 7.

Cmdr. Kenneth Cockrell, pilot Kent Rominger, and mission specialists F. Story Musgrave, Thomas Jones and Tamara Jernigan made up the mission crew. 

1996 file photo: STS-80 crew members pose for a photo at Launch Pad 39B. From left, are Mission Specialists Thomas D. Jones and Tamara E. Jernigan, Commander Kenneth D. Cockrell, Pilot Kent V. Rominger and Mission Specialist Story Musgrave.(Image: NASA)

As News 6 originally reported, the five-member crew worked on very prolific experiments on a semiconductor factory and infrared telescope. The crew also dealt with two scrubbed spacewalks because of a jammed hatch.

In the end, the mission lasted 17 days, 15 hours and 53 minutes.

In February 2003 on its 28th mission, Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry, killing all seven crew members.

Watch the News 6 file reports from the mission below:

About the Author:

It has been an absolute pleasure for Clay LePard living and working in Orlando since he joined News 6 in July 2017. Previously, Clay worked at WNEP TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he brought viewers along to witness everything from unprecedented access to the Tobyhanna Army Depot to an interview with convicted double-murderer Hugo Selenski.