Bad weather here at the Kennedy Space Center forced NASA this evening to give the space shuttle Discovery a free day in space as Mission Control looks to bring the craft home tomorrow night.
The crew of seven received word this evening that the space center's weather would not improve inside the thirty mile radius. Thick clouds and popcorn thunderstorms were forecast to remain over Cape Canaveral for the two landing attempts.
NASA will try again on Friday evening at Kennedy's three mile runway, however the weather is forecast to be much worse with a broader, thicker cloud deck for the two landing attempts. Thus, Mission Control announced tonight that they will "call-up" the Edwards, AFB runway strip out in the California desert for two landing try's on Friday evening as well.
This will give Discovery four opportunities to land tomorrow, with California being the more likely site due to a better weather forecast.
The first landing opportunity at Kennedy will set up with a deorbit burn at 4:45 pm EDT, as Discovery aims for a landing on runway 15 at 5:48 pm. If weather puts a damper on the first try, a second Florida attempt would occur with the orbiter's engines firing at 6:21 pm to drop it out of orbit. Landing would then take place at 7:23 pm.
The first Edwards attempt would see the deorbit burn take place at 7:50 pm EDT, with a landing time of 8:53 pm on runway 22 -- a daytime landing as the sun sets in the Mojave Desert.
The crew of Discovery's 37th journey into space includes commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Tim Kopra. Kopra will be returning home on Friday following over two months in space as a member of the space station's expedition 20 crew.