x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Bad weather sends shuttle to California

Nasa decides to send Atlantis to its backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base after a trip to repair Hubble.

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA // Space shuttle Atlantis has been rerouted to California. This morning, NASA decided to send Atlantis and its seven astronauts to the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base after their successful Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. The decision was made because a third straight day of stormy weather at the shuttle's home base in Florida made it too risky for a touchdown. Mission Control passed up the first landing opportunity at Kennedy Space Center because of storm clouds offshore. The astronauts made an extra orbit around the world as flight controllers kept watch on the weather. Mission Control waited as long as possible before deciding to reroute to California. The 13-day mission was the last ever to Hubble. Yesterday's heavy cloud cover and crosswinds forced the US space agency to put off the space shuttle Atlantis' return to Earth for at least another day, extending an otherwise successful mission to repair the Hubble telescope.

NASA had hoped to land the shuttle at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but the weather did not co-operate, waving off landing for a second straight day. The crew has enough fuel to fly until Monday at the latest. "The forecast for tomorrow is slightly better," Allard Beutel, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, told AFP. The US space agency has prepared Edwards Air Force Base in California as a back-up landing point in case conditions do not clear up in Florida.

"There's a chance for a landing at Kennedy tomorrow, and we're going to keep that option open," NASA spokesman Greg Johnson said today. "Edwards remains good for tomorrow and Monday, if needed." The first chance to land at the Kennedy Space Center today is at 17.11pm, he said. A second window of opportunity will appear nearly an hour and a half later - 6.40pm in California - and a third just nine minutes later: at 6.49pm in Florida.