A troubled road to space 183

rice crops and roads in Vietnam, as well as underwater reef structures just off the Egyptian coastline and high-population-density regions like Delhi in India. It even documented 'outgassing' from Colima Volcano in Mexico, which revealed reddish and pinkish tones under MOMS-2's infrared gaze and distinguished volcanic vegetation from that of nearby fields.

Although Colima had not erupted since 1913, the imagery suggested that it had experienced a number of smaller, 'quieter' upheavals since that time. Columbia's crew also supplemented the MOMS-2 data with their own photographs, taken from hand-held Hasselblad and Linhof large-format cameras, which featured the redistribution of ash from Lascar Volcano in the Altiplano of Chile. This volcano had erupted on 20 April 1993, only six days before the Shuttle lifted off, and the photographs clearly picked up several plumes of wind-blown material.

The chance to photograph a recently erupted volcano was serendipitously presented to the STS-55 crew, who were originally supposed to have been in orbit two months earlier, but were kept on the ground by a string of mechanical problems and a dramatic on-the-pad shutdown of Columbia's three main engines mere seconds before a launch attempt on 22 March. When the flagship Shuttle returned from STS-52 in November 1992, NASA engineers and technicians dove into readying her for the Spacelab-D2 mission, scheduled for launch in late February of the following year.

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