Seventh Time Lucky

The repeated launch delays did not appear to have diminished the enthusiasm of Bowersox and his six crewmates - Pilot Kent Rominger, Payload Commander Kathy Thornton, Mission Specialists Cady Coleman and Spanish-born Mike Lopez-Alegria and Payload Specialists Fred Leslie and Al Sacco - as they left the Operations and Checkout Building that morning, wearing back-to-front baseball

STS-73 crew portrait. Front row (left to right) are Al Sacco, Kent Rominger and Mike Lopez-Alegria and back row are Cady Coleman, Ken Bowersox, Fred Leslie and Kathy Thornton.

caps. Sacco would later explain their reasoning: "Our intention was to show that science is not for geeks!"

A short, three-minute delay was enforced by a computer glitch when the range command destruct system momentarily experienced a communications dropout, but after so many foiled attempts it seemed that nothing would stop Columbia from spearing into space on 20 October. "Patience and perseverance are a couple of real good virtues to have in this business," said the head of the Mission Management Team, former astronaut Loren Shriver, after the Shuttle's typically rousing 1:53 pm liftoff, "along with a couple of real crack weathermen and a superhuman launch team.''

Added astronaut Blaine Hammond, who followed Columbia's climb to orbit from the Capcom's seat in Mission Control, "Good things come to those who wait.'' Overall, the ascent was normal, with the exception of a minor oil temperature problem with one of three water-spray boilers which required Bowersox and Rominger to shut down an APU sooner than planned. Earlier, as they strapped the crew into their seats, the closeout team at Pad 39B had also been startled by a fire alarm, although fortunately there were no indications of a real blaze having broken out.

Orbiting in a gravity gradient attitude, Columbia's port-side payload bay door is in a 62-degrees-open position to protect its radiators from orbital debris impacts.

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