November 12, 2008

Cold Front Threatens Scheduled Shuttle Launch

A cold front could keep NASA from launching the shuttle Endeavour on Friday.

But the seven astronauts are still hoping to start their mission to the International Space Station without postponement.

"This mission is all about home improvement, home improvement both inside and outside," said Endeavour commander Christopher Ferguson.

The 15-day mission will include installing a new bathroom, kitchenette, two bedrooms, an exercise machine, and a water recycling system to the ISS.  In addition, one of the astronauts will remain on the station as a resident.

The goal of the mission is to prepare the space station to hold a crew of six by next June.  Currently the ISS is only capable of holding 3 residents.

"On the inside of the space station, the walls are largely up," Ferguson said. "Well, it's moving day. It's time to fill them up."
Three of the astronauts on the mission will also perform spacewalks to repair a clogged joint that is keeping a set of solar wings from turning towards the sun.

Friday's launch will be the first since May.

"We haven't had a launch for a while, so we're really excited to be back in the saddle again," said Jeff Spaulding, a NASA test director.

The looming cold front moved across the central U.S. on Tuesday, and is expected to bring rain and clouds to the launch site by Friday.

Kathy Winters, the shuttle weather officer, said there is a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions for the schedule 7:55 p.m. Friday liftoff, but only a 40 percent chance if the launch is postponed until Saturday.

"The timing of the front will be critical," Winters added.

NASA's shuttle launch window for this mission extends to Nov. 25.


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