Astronaut Swap

Fifteen years ago today — September 16, 1996 — the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched from Kennedy Space Center on a mission to the Mir space station.

(Space Shuttle Atlantis on its 2nd rollout to the launch pad for STS-79. NASA image.)

Astronauts William F. Readdy, Terrence W. Wilcutt, Jerome Apt, Thomas D. Akers, Carl E. Walz, and John E. Blaha flew up to Mir as part of mission STS-79. Atlantis dropped off John Blaha and picked up Shannon Lucid for her return to earth after a record-setting 188 days in space (179 aboard the Russian station).

STS-79 marked the first time a shuttle was rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building twice because of hurricane warnings: first because of Hurricane Bertha, and again because of Hurricane Fran. Thus, the rollout picture above.

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