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Thursday, December 07, 2006

NASA calls off space shuttle launch

NASA postponed space shuttle Discovery's liftoff on Thursday night because of thick, low clouds at the Florida launch site.

The next opportunity for flight is at 9:13 p.m. on Friday (0213 GMT on Saturday), but meteorologists were forecasting a 90 percent chance of another delay due to high winds stirred by a cold front pushing through central Florida.

"We gave it the best shot and did not get clear," said NASA launch director Mike Leinbach.
Replied Discovery commander Mark Polansky, "Try not to be too disappointed and we will be ready to support the next time we get a chance."

NASA is hoping to launch its third mission in six months and get a jump on the looming deadline to finish International Space Station assembly before the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010. The launch will be NASA's first in darkness since before the 2003 Columbia disaster. Managers recently lifted the ban on night launches, imposed to ensure cameras had good lighting to spot any debris falling off the shuttle's fuel tank.

Debris damaged Columbia, triggering the breakup of the ship and the death of its seven astronauts as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

On the last flight, astronauts delivered new solar arrays to provide power for additional modules scheduled to be installed next year. The tricky task of wiring the arrays into the station's power grid falls to Discovery's crew. At least 14 more missions are needed to finish the $100 billion outpost. Discovery's flight is scheduled to last 12 days.

In addition to Polansky, the five-man, two-woman crew consists of Sweden's first astronaut, Christer Fuglesang, pilot William Oefelein, flight engineer Robert Curbeam and mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Joan Higginbotham and Sunita Williams.

Only Polansky and Curbeam have made previous spaceflights.

from yahoo news

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