The homecoming of the shuttle Atlantis and astronaut Mike Foale was postponed 24 hours after clouds at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida prevented a landing on the two opportunities available at the Florida spaceport.
Atlantis’ landing was waved off until Monday early this evening by Flight Director Linda Ham after forecasters predicted broken clouds and extensive cloud coverage over the 3-mile long landing strip at KSC.
The waveoff offered Foale and his crewmates a bonus day in space, extending Foale’s time on orbit to a 145th day since his launch in May, the second longest single mission by an American astronaut in U.S. spaceflight history.
Mission managers decided after tonight’s waveoff to call up landing support at the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base, California Monday with forecasters calling for similar weather conditions in Florida tomorrow and clear skies and winds near crosswind landing limits forecast for Edwards.
There will be four landing opportunities Monday, two at KSC and two at Edwards on consecutive orbits. The first landing opportunity at KSC would call for a deorbit burn at about 3:48 p.m. Central time with a landing at the Florida spaceport at about 4:55 p.m.
During their deorbit preparations, Atlantis’ astronauts viewed the rocket plume from the launch of a Russian Progress resupply ship for the Mir Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan. Atlantis was flying over Jordan at the time of the launch. The Progress currently attached to the Mir will be jettisoned Monday morning to make way for the new Progress’ linkup on Tuesday. All of the Mir’s systems continue to function normally in support of astronaut David Wolf and his new Mir 24 crewmates.
Atlantis’ astronauts will begin an eight-hour sleep period at 11:34 p.m. Central time and will be awakened at 7:34 a.m. to resume deorbit preparations. The shuttle continues to fly flawlessly in a 207 by 191 nautical mile orbit in support of on-orbit operations.
The next STS-86 status report will be issued at 8 a.m. Central time, Monday.
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