Science

NASA delays shuttle landing

NASA has identified five possible times to land the space shuttle Atlantis on Friday, after thunder and low clouds halted plans for it to return to Earth Thursday.

NASA has identifiedfive possible times toland the space shuttle AtlantisonFriday, after thunder and low cloudshalted plans for it to return to Earth Thursday.

The shuttle's first landing opportunity was to be at 1:55 p.m. ET.A3:30 p.m. landing was also scrubbed because of the weather.

NASA said Atlantis will have morelanding opportunitiesin the next three days, including five on Friday.

On Friday, three of the possible times would meanlandingat Edwards Air Force Base in California.There are also two possible times to land in Florida if the weather clears. The earliest is 2:18 p.m. ET.

Atlantis has enough power for its systems to orbit until Sunday, but managers want the shuttle to land by Saturday.

NASA managers also prefer landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, since there would be less cost and time needed to prepare Atlantis for its next mission, in December. NASA hopes to fly four missions this year.

'Everything looks great'

During the crew's 13-day mission to the International Space Station, the astronauts installed a new truss segment, unfurled a new pair of power-generating solar arrays and activated a rotating joint that allows the new solar arrays to track the sun.

The mission was extended by two days to give astronauts time to repair a tear in the thermal blanket on the shuttle.Atlantis commander Rick Sturckow said he was confident the repair job would hold up.

"Everything looks great," he said Wednesday in an interview with reporters.

The shuttle's visit to the space station was complicated by the crash of Russian computers that control orientation and oxygen production.

The computers were revived several days later, after cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov used a cable to bypass a circuit board. Astronauts conserved the shuttle's power in case they needed to spend an extra day at the station.

Sturckow got a haircut from Yurchikhin while at the space station. Astronaut Sunita (Suni) Williams said a haircut is one of many things she's looking forward to when she returns to Earth on the shuttle after more than six months at the station.

Williams set the record for longest single space flight by a woman.

"I'm looking forward to going to the beach and hopefully taking a walk with my husband and my dog on the beach," she said. "I can't wait for a good piece of pizza."

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