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NASA Decision on Expected Monday

November 30, 1997

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) _ NASA managers were planning additional runs in a virtual-reality computer lab in case they decide to have astronauts aboard space shuttle Columbia grab a satellite by hand for the second time this mission.

A decision was expected Monday on whether to set loose the satellite again.

The $10 million craft, called Spartan, originally was supposed to be released from Columbia for two days of free flight to study the sun and then be picked up with the shuttle’s robot arm.

But the satellite failed to work after its release Nov. 21 because of a missing computer command, and then it accidentally was sent into a slow spin when the crew tried to grab it with the robot arm.

Three days later, two spacewalking astronauts had to catch the 3,000-pound craft with their hands.

The crewmen might have to do it again under a plan being considered by flight controllers, who want spacewalking experts to go back to the virtual-reality laboratory to prepare for anything unusual that might come up the second time around.

The main issue flight controllers have been discussing is whether Columbia will have enough fuel for another retrieval.

Columbia is scheduled to return to Earth on Friday.

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