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Shuttle Crew Trains Cameras on North Africa

January 16, 1990|From Times Wire Services

HOUSTON — The space shuttle Columbia's astronauts on Monday photographed North Africa for a film documenting damage to Earth's environment, checked a navigational aid that sounded a false alarm and wrapped a makeshift diaper around a leaky humidity unit.

The astronauts shot pictures of Lake Chad, the Nile Valley and fires in Kenya for the giant-screen IMAX film. Shuttle commander Daniel C. Brandenstein said the crew "got fires and deforestation and ocean phenomenon."

Although the five-member crew had been awakened early when a navigational unit generated erroneous data, Brandenstein and co-pilot James D. Wetherbee ran the device through its paces and detected no further problems.

If one of those devices failed, ground controllers would be forced to order the astronauts home ahead of their scheduled Friday landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Mission specialist Bonnie J. Dunbar experienced some problems Monday climbing into a collapsible Lower Body Negative Pressure Unit, a new piece of gear aboard the shuttle designed to help astronauts readjust to Earth's gravity.

Columbia's crew also turned to a makeshift diaper to control the leak in a humidity separator, or space dehumidifier, that has been trickling water in a cramped equipment compartment beneath the crew cabin.

"We've gone ahead and installed a plastic bag on the outlet with a towel in it to absorb the water and just keep it from getting in the equipment compartment," flight director William Reeves said.

The crew got some good news from mission control. The 8-ton Navy communications satellite they launched last Wednesday like a giant Frisbee has sucessfully reached its final orbit high above the Earth.

On the lighter side, officials of the Houston Marathon used a fax machine to send Wetherbee an honorary completion certificate for flying over the 26-mile course Sunday in 5.3897144 seconds.

Wetherbee ran on a treadmill aboard the shuttle at the same time that his mother, Althea, 70, actually ran the race on Earth. She finished the 26-mile, 385-yard course in 4 hours, 59 minutes and 7 seconds.

"Many of us were surprised you weren't disqualified for leaving the course," said a message from Mission Control.

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