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Astronauts Take a Break, Enjoy the View

March 8, 1994

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) _ Medical experiments continued aboard Columbia today while three of the five crew members took a half-day off from one of the longest shuttle missions to date.

Because the flight lasts 14 days - an hour short of the longest shuttle trip if all goes as planned - NASA has scheduled time off for the astronauts. Each gets two four-hour breaks.

Commander John Casper and astronauts Pierre Thuot and Marsha Ivins took the first part of today to relax and enjoy the view from 184 miles up.

Charles ″Sam″ Gemar and Andrew Allen, who took some of Monday off, stuck to the usual schedule. That included the collection of blood, urine and saliva for medical studies and a third day of tests with a miniature truss that NASA hopes will help space station architects design the orbiting outpost.

Astronauts snap together thin rods and cylindrical joints in the shape of a scaffold and jolt it with electronic vibrations so engineers can gauge its sturdiness.

NASA was still watching the shuttle’s auxiliary power units, one of which had unusually high pressure readings earlier in the flight. The crew performed a test Monday and everything appeared to be fine. A clogged fuel line or faulty heaters might have caused the problem, officials said.

The three auxiliary power units supply power to hydraulic systems needed to land the spacecraft. The shuttle can operate with just one unit, but under flight rules, the spaceship must return to Earth as soon as possible if one fails.

Mission Control woke up the crew to the song ″Space Shuttle Boogie.″ The tune was chosen by Thuot’s 2-year-old son, Christopher.

″I really miss that little guy,″ Thuot said. ″I think all of us are missing our kids right now.″

Columbia is scheduled to land March 18 in Florida.

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