Wed, Dec 20, 2006
Loss Of Weather Contingency Day May Prove Challenging
NASA reports the space
shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station at
5:10 pm EST Tuesday, ending an eight-day stay. Pilot Bill Oefelein
guided the shuttle through a partial fly-around of the space
station, before firing Discovery's rockets to begin the final
separation from the station and the trip back home.
The STS-116 crew bid farewell to the International Space
Station’s Expedition 14 crew before entering Space Shuttle
Discovery. The hatches closed between the two vehicles at 2:42 pm
Then, the two crews conducted leak checks before Discovery
Discovery is scheduled to land at 3:56 pm Friday at the Shuttle
Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, FL. However, forecasted
weather conditions may force the shuttle to land at either Edwards
Air Force Base in California, or New Mexico's White Sands Missile
The STS-116 crew had a busy stay at the station. The crew
continued the on-orbit construction of the station with the
addition of the P5 spacer truss segment during the first of four
spacewalks. The next two spacewalks were devoted to the rewiring of
the station’s power system, leaving it in a permanent setup.
A fourth spacewalk was added to allow the crew to retract solar
arrays that had folded improperly.
Discovery also delivered a new crew member and more than two
tons of equipment and supplies to the station. Almost two tons of
items no longer needed on the station will return to Earth with
Little Room For Error In Tight Schedule
The addition of the fourth spacewalk bumped Discovery's
scheduled landing by 24 hours... and forced mission managers to
face a high-risk decision. As the shuttle only has 48 hours of
reserve fuel onboard -- meaning Discovery can stay in orbit no
longer than Saturday -- NASA mulled over scrapping a final
inspection of the shuttle's heat shield to make up for the extra
day spent at the ISS.
NASA decided to go ahead with the inspection, now scheduled for
Wednesday. But that means the loss of one of Discovery's two
weather contingency days... and as a result, NASA could be forced
to land the shuttle in a less-than-optimal location, and perhaps
even in less-than optimal weather conditions.
ABC News reports weather forecasts for Friday and Saturday at
all three landing sites don't look good.
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