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Three-and-a-half hours after launch, the astronauts doffed their bulky pressure suits and stowed them in the middeck. With the exception of a donning-and-doffing exercise on 13 April, they would not need them again until just a few hours before reentry. For the remainder of the mission, Columbia circled the Earth with her topside and open payload bay facing 'down'. In general, the men found that the pristine new spacecraft was performing with very few problems - ''The vehicle is performing like a champ, real beautiful,'' Young told Mission Control - and that life on board was comfortable and positively roomy.

Of course, compared to the cramped capsules Young had flown previously, Columbia was indeed voluminous, but conditions were basic and comparatively spartan compared to later Shuttle missions. The men slept in their seats on the flight deck, although plans were already well advanced to carry sleeping bags, bunks and phonebox-sized 'sleep stations' in the future. These would be particularly useful on Spacelab research missions, when crews would be split into two 12-hour shifts.

The 'middeck' was situated directly beneath the flight deck and, in space, astronauts accessed it by floating through a small 66 x 71 cm opening; there were actually two openings, but normally only one was used. Essentially, the middeck provided a living area for the crew, including storage lockers for experiments or equipment, sleep stations, a galley, toilet and the huge airlock module providing entry to Columbia's payload bay. Before launch and after landing, the astronauts entered and departed the Shuttle through a circular hatch in the middeck's port-side wall.

Above the middeck, the ten-windowed flight deck - once described by STS-107 astronaut Kalpana Chawla as ''our favourite place'' - was the location for controlling the Shuttle during ascent, re-entry and conducting the bulk of orbital operations. Its forward portion contained fixed seats for the Commander and Pilot, although on later missions two collapsible seats for Mission Specialists could be mounted directly behind them, and a bewildering array of displays, dials and switches. Six windows wrapped, airliner-like, around the front of the flight deck, with two more in the 'roof and another two looking back over the payload bay.

Young and Crippen experienced a colder-than-normal first night in space, thanks to a temperature controller problem. Conditions improved on the second night. They prepared their meals using an onboard food warmer, although a larger and more elaborate galley was planned for later missions. Minor problems were experienced with a suction hose on the toilet, which stubbornly refused to work properly. When the time came to return to Earth, Young and Crippen - rather ignominiously for seasoned space explorers - were obliged to stuff paper towels into the hose to prevent it from overflowing and use the urine-collection devices in their pressure suits.

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