Atlantis' homecoming was delayed today until Monday as gusty winds at the Kennedy Space Center forced a waveoff of the Shuttle's landing at the Florida spaceport.
Commander Ken Cockrell, Pilot Mark Polansky and Mission Specialists Bob Curbeam, Marsha Ivins and Tom Jones were ordered to stay in orbit for an extra day after Entry Flight Director Leroy Cain concluded that crosswinds at the 3-mile long Shuttle Landing Facility were out of limits despite crystal clear skies. Atlantis' crew had only two opportunities today in which to return to Earth.
The astronauts closed the Shuttle's cargo bay doors just after 8 a.m. Central time this morning as Cain and his team of flight controllers closely monitored the winds in Florida. Chief Astronaut Charlie Precourt provided real-time observations as he flew the Shuttle Training Aircraft over the landing strip, a Gulfstream jet modified to mimic the landing characteristics of Atlantis.
Throughout the morning, winds were observed to be gusting in excess of the 15 knot crosswind limit for a daytime landing, and at 11:47 a.m. Central time, Cain called off today's landing efforts. Word of the waveoff was radioed up to Cockrell by Spacecraft Communicator Scott Altman in Mission Control.
Atlantis will have two opportunities again tomorrow in which to land at the Kennedy Space Center. The first, on orbit 185, calls for a firing of Atlantis' braking rockets at 11:21 a.m. Central time with a landing on KSC's Shuttle runway at 12:27 p.m. Central time. Atlantis' cargo bay doors would be closed at around 8:40 a.m. Monday in preparation for that first landing opportunity. A backup opportunity is also available on the following orbit, with a deorbit firing of the orbital maneuvering system engines at 12:57 p.m. Central time and a landing at 2:03 p.m. Central time. The weather forecast for the Cape tomorrow is promising, with only scattered clouds, a possibility of one deck of broken clouds, and somewhat lighter winds which are predicted to be acceptable for landing.
The backup landing site at California's Edwards Air Force Base is forecast to have unacceptable weather, with broken clouds, high winds and a chance of showers.
Shortly after today's landing attempts were called off, Atlantis' astronauts reopened the Shuttle's payload bay doors and removed their launch and entry suits to begin their bonus day in space. The astronauts will begin an eight-hour sleep period at 7:43 p.m. Central time tonight and will be awakened at 3:43 a.m. Monday to begin their pre-landing preparations.
Atlantis continues to orbit the Earth in excellent shape, completing an orbit of the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of 237 statute miles.
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev spent a relaxing day off aboard the orbital outpost and will enjoy an off-duty day again on Monday.
The Johnson Space Center newsroom will be closed overnight and will reopen Monday at 4 a.m. Central time. The next mission status report will be issued Monday morning shortly after crew wakeup.
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