April 19, 2010

Clouds Delay Shuttle Landing Until Tuesday

NASA is delaying the homecoming of the Discovery space shuttle until Tuesday after bad weather has spoiled two landing attempts on Monday, according to NASA officials.

The landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been rescheduled for 7:33 am (EDT) Tuesday morning. NASA has allowed for several backup plans that could possibly push the landing to the west coast if the weather doesn't cooperate.

NASA would rather land in Florida than California, as the shuttle would have to be ferried back to Florida for processing, which would be both costly and time-consuming.

The 13 day mission has already been extended an extra day so astronauts could use the International Space Station's communications system to relay heat shield inspection results, as NASA discovered a communications antenna failure on the shuttle shortly after the April 5 launch.

The Discovery crew has enough supplies to last until Wednesday, however, NASA will land on Tuesday even if they have to move the landing to Edwards Air Force Base in California, said flight director Bryan Lunney.

Tuesday's forecast for Florida shows improvement, but still includes a chance for rain showers within 30 miles of the space center.

Discovery spent 10 days at the space station, a $100 billion project that is due to be completed this year after more than a decade of construction. The shuttle delivered a new ammonia coolant tank and other necessary supplies including a darkroom for Earth observations.

Three shuttle missions remain to ferry supplies to the station before the shuttle fleet is retired. Many shuttle workers for NASA had hopes that the shuttle program might be extended. Those hopes were crushed when President Obama announced his space policy at Kennedy Space Center on April 15.


Image Caption: Weather conditions partially obscure this view of the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image credit: NASA TV


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