Shuttle Shoots for Tuesday Landing in Florida
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Discovery's seven astronauts will try again Tuesday to land at Kennedy Space Center, but will likely touch down in California if there's a repeat of the clouds and rain that thwarted Monday's two landing attempts.
"Folks really worked it hard down here," Rick Sturckow, an astronaut communicating with the crew from Houston, radioed to wave off the second attempt just before 9 a.m. Monday. "But in the end of the day, it's just too low of a ceiling and visibility."
"We'll be hopeful for better weather tomorrow," replied Discovery commander Alan Poindexter.
By that time, fog had enveloped the top of KSC's 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building and low clouds obscured the spaceport's three-mile runway.
Tuesday, Discovery can return home at 7:34 a.m. or 9:08 a.m., or touch down at Edwards Air Force Base in California at 9:01 a.m., 10:35 a.m. or 12:11 p.m.
NASA will likely try the first two opportunities in Florida, and if necessary, the latter two in California.
The weather forecast as of Monday afternoon looked good for Edwards and iffy again - but improving - at KSC.
"There's good cause for optimism," said Sturckow.
Discovery is returning from the International Space Station, where during a more than 10-day stay the crew transferred tons of equipment and supplies to and from the science complex and performed maintenance on three spacewalks.
A failed communications antenna had already extended Discovery's planned 13-day mission by a day.
The orbiter has enough propellant, oxygen and other consumables to stay aloft until Wednesday, but NASA typically does not wait until the last chance to land unless there is a technical problem. Because of Discovery's delayed return, United Launch Alliance pushed back by a day its planned launch of an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to 7:52 p.m. Thursday.