The six astronauts aboard Space Shuttle Columbia were awakened at 8:46 p.m. tonight to make final preparations for their return to Earth early Friday morning.
Two opportunities exist for a Kennedy Space Center landing on Friday. The first calls for firing the Orbital Maneuvering System engines on orbit 251 at 5:21 a.m. CST followed by a landing on runway 33 at 6:20 a.m. This entry path will take Columbia across northern Mexico and southern Texas, the northern Gulf of Mexico and north central Florida.
The second landing opportunity Friday has deorbit ignition at 6:56 a.m. with landing at 7:55 a.m. Central time. Columbia’s grountrack on this approach crosses the Texas Big Bend and central Texas, southern Louisiana and New Orleans, and completing its track to Florida over the northern Gulf of Mexico just south of the coast line.
With weather conditions in Florida forecast to be favorable, the backup landing site in California is not being called up for support.
With a nominal landing on the first opportunity, crew return to Houston is expected at 7 p.m. Friday at Ellington Field.
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