Columbia's crew packed up gear today and checked out the equipment needed for the shuttle's return to Earth, finding all systems ready for a landing at the Kennedy Space Center scheduled for 3:32 a.m. CST Tuesday.
Columbia is planned to fire its engines at 2:22 a.m. CST Tuesday to begin its descent toward Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility runway and the 3:32 a.m CST touchdown. A second landing opportunity also is available Tuesday, with Columbia firing its engines at 4:05 a.m. CST to descend to a 5:13 a.m. CST touchdown at Kennedy.
Shuttle managers will focus only on a landing in Florida Tuesday and will not activate landing support at the alternate site of Edwards Air Force Base, Ca.
The crew tested Columbia's flight control systems and test-fired the shuttle steering jets today. During the test-firing, one of the shuttle's 38 primary jets was found to be failed, but the failure will not affect landing. The crew also fired Columbia's jets to adjust the shuttle's orbit, lowering it slightly to optimize the landing opportunities.
The weather forecast for landing calls for generally acceptable conditions, although there is a slight chance of rain showers developing offshore. The crew began a sleep period at 11:22 a.m. CST and will awaken to begin landing preparations at 7:22 p.m. CST. For the primary landing opportunity, the crew would close Columbia's payload bay doors in preparation for the descent at 11:42 p.m. CST.
The next mission status report will be issued after landing or as events warrant.
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