Columbia Was On a Science Mission

Kennedy Space Center-AP -- Space shuttle "Columbia" was launched on January 16th on a science mission that made headlines because of the presence of the first Israeli astronaut in space.

Security was tighter than usual because of Ilan Ramon's (ee-LAHN' rah-MOHNZ') presence but blast off went smoothly and the mission was going well until Columbia was reported missing just minutes before it was supposed to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

There are six Americans on board the shuttle along with Ramon.

Columbia's crew completed all of their 80-plus experiments in orbit. They studied ant, bee and spider behavior in weightlessness as well as changes in flames and flower scents, and took measurements of atmospheric dust with a pair of Israeli cameras.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.