Columbia launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 8, 1994 at 12:43 PM EDT and landed at Kennedy on July 23 at 6:38 AM EDT. The dhuttle orbited 235 times at an altitude of 160 nautical miles at an inclination of 28.45 degrees and travelled 6.1 million miles. The mission lasted 14 days, 17 hours, and 55 minutes.
This was the longest mission to date, travelled the furthest, and orbited the most times. Payload Specialist Chiaki-Mukai became the first Japanese woman to fly in space; she also set the record for the longest flight to date by a female astronaut.
STS-65 marked second flight of the International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-2), which carried more than twice the number of experiments and facilities as IML-1. Crew split into two teams to perform around-the-clock research. More than 80 experiments, representing more than 200 scientists from six space agencies, were located in Spacelab module in payload bay (one piece of equipment stowed in middeck lockers). Fifty of the experiments delved into life sciences, including bioprocessing, space biology, human physiology and radiation biology.
Some of the equipment used for these investigations had flown on previous Spacelab flights, such as European Space Agency’s Biorack, making its third flight. IML-2 Biorack housed 19 experiments featuring chemicals and biological samples such as bacteria, mammalian and human cells, isolated tissues and eggs, sea urchin larvae, fruit flies and plant seedlings. Over the course of a single mission, specimens can evolve through several stages of life cycles, allowing study of effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on living tissues.
The German Space Agency (DARA) provided the NIZEMI, a slow rotating centrifuge that allowed study of how organisms react to different gravity levels. Samples studied included jellyfish and plants. For the first time, researchers were able to determine how organisms react to forces one-and-a-half times Earth’s gravity.
Nearly 30 experiments in materials processing were conducted with nine different types of science facilities. DARA provided the TEMPUS, flying for first time on IML-2, designed to allow study of solidification of materials from liquid state in a containerless environment. Solidification phenomena are of great interest to science and also used in many industrial processes. Science teams detected for first time a phase in a nickel-niobium sample that is masked by other forces on Earth.
Another facility, Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility developed by European Space Agency, was flying for second time. Housed in two middeck lockers, it operated autonomously after being activated on first flight day. Some 5,000 video images were made of crystals grown during flight.
The mission further advanced the concept of telescience, where researchers on the ground can monitor in realtime experiments on board the orbiter. This flight set a new record of more than 25,000 payload commands issued from Spacelab Mission Operations Control at Huntsville, Ala.
In addition to IML-2 investigations, following payloads also were flown: Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment (OARE); Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG); Military Application of Ship Tracks (MAST); Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX); and Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS), which does not require onboard equipment.
The flight marked the first time liftoff and reentry, as experienced from the crew, were captured on videotape. Crew took time during mission to honor 25th anniversary of Apollo 11, noting it also featured a spacecraft named Columbia.
Columbia was crewed by Commander Robert D. Cabana, Pilot James D. Halsell, Payload Commander Richard J. Hieb, Mission Specialists Carl E. Walz, Leroy Chiao, and Donald A. Thomas, and Payload Specialist Chiaki Naito-Mikai (Japan).