Space Shuttle Discovery STS-114 landing postponed for weather

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Monday, August 8, 2005

Discovery landing at the end of STS-92 in 2000.
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NASA has postponed the landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-114, planned for today.

Officials initially delayed the landing, but finally cancelled any attempts for today citing the reason as "unstable, unacceptable cloud cover [with the] potential for showers in vicinity of landing site."

Landing the space shuttle craft has been likened to landing a "brick". The approach to the landing field is at a steep pitch (nose up) and a high rate of descent. The shuttle is not very maneuverable and has one shot at the correct landing approach. Pilots cannot re-fire the engines to circle around for another approach, which is why low cloud cover is of such concern.

Discovery has spent twelve days in orbit. On Tuesday, there will be six landing opportunities: two each at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Edwards Air Force Base in California, and White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. Shuttle managers prefer a landing at Kennedy, but will consider the alternate sites if bad weather in Florida rules out landing there. NASA administrators insist that the shuttle will land tomorrow at one of the three sites, rather than spending yet another day in orbit.

The flight marked the first time a shuttle has been inspected in orbit. The crew made two space walks to effect minor repairs to the Orbiter's thermal protection system as a result.

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