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Shuttle Crew Gives Up on Use of Brightener for Comet Photos

January 13, 1986|United Press International

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The crew of the shuttle Columbia was forced to abandon plans to use a special image-brightening device to observe Halley's comet today because the instrument was left on by mistake before launch.

But astronomer-astronaut George Nelson proceeded with plans to observe the famous visitor from deep space with longer camera exposure times to salvage as much as possible from the first opportunity to study the comet from orbit as it nears the sun.

Scientists in charge of the operation said the crew should still be able to obtain useful information about the comet, making a once-every-76-years visit to the inner solar system.

The problem with the image intensifier turned up a day after Columbia reached orbit following a record number of launch delays. The intensifier was to make the comet appear up to 100,000 times brighter for photography.

Flight Director Jay Greene reported other niggling problems today with a materials-processing experiment and a medical experiment, two of the more than a dozen that are on board.

Greene also said officials may consider returning Columbia to Earth on Thursday instead of Friday to get a head start on Columbia's next mission, which is scheduled March 6 and has a short launch window of only a few days.

The seven postponements of the current mission tightened up the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's ambitious schedule of 15 launches this year.

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