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February 23, 2001

James Hartsfield
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(281/483-5111

Release: J01-16

Space Shuttle Columbia Houston Stopover Delayed

Due to rain and high winds in southern California, Space Shuttle Columbia’s departure for Florida has been delayed until no earlier than Saturday afternoon. There is still a chance that the orbiter atop its 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will make a stopover at Houston’s Ellington Field, but that will not occur before Sunday. Please call the NASA Broadcast News Service at (281) 483-8600 for updates on the schedule.

Because of the strict weather criteria regarding shuttle ferry aircraft flights, Columbia’s potential visit is subject to change or cancellation up until only a few hours before its arrival. The public and media can track the progress of Columbia’s cross-country flight and the potential for a Houston stop by calling the NASA Broadcast News Service, (281) 483-8600. The recorded message will be updated frequently to provide the latest information on the progress of Columbia’s flight.

If weather allows, the cross-country voyage of America’s first space shuttle will begin with a departure Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning and include a stopover at Ellington Field Sunday, arriving about 3 p.m. CST. The 747 with Columbia on its back would park near NASA’s Hangar 990 on the north end of the field and remain overnight. The Ellington gate at Hangar 990 will be opened to permit public viewing beginning about 45 minutes after landing and will remain open until dusk. Departure time Monday will be assessed after Columbia’s arrival.

Media wishing to cover Columbia’s arrival will be allowed through the gate at NASA Hangar 990, about 30 minutes before the anticipated landing time. Media also will be allowed into Ellington about 30 minutes before Columbia’s departure on Monday.

Fresh from a year and half at Boeing’s Palmdale, Calif., shuttle factory for maintenance, inspections and upgrades, Columbia is being taken back to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, to prepare for its next space flight, planned for launch this fall. The more than 100 improvements made to Columbia make it safer and more capable than ever before, and include a new “glass cockpit” that has replaced mechanical instruments with flat computer screens.

Other improvements included reducing Columbia’s weight by more than a thousand pounds; increasing protection from space debris; intensive wiring inspections and protective measures; thorough structural inspections and maintenance; enhanced heat protection for the wing edges; and preliminary preparations that could allow Columbia to make flights to the International Space Station if needed.

Columbia has flown in space 26 times and is nearing the 20th anniversary of its maiden voyage on the STS-1 mission, which launched April 12, 1981.

 

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