Sunday, February 21, 2010

Endeavour prepares for Space Coast landing tonight

The six member crew of the space shuttle Endeavour spent this morning preparing their ship for tonight's planned landing upon America's Space Coast -- weather permitting.

After nearly 14 full days in space, Endeavour will leave orbit and glide in for a landing here at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:20 pm EST. If weather prompts a delay, there is also a back up landing time at 11:55 pm.

If weather goes further to rule out both Florida landing opportunities, NASA has called up Edwards, AFB for tonight and will work to get Endeavour down in southern California at either 1:25 am or 3:00 am EST.

Currently, low clouds at 6,000 feet and a chance of rain showers within a 30 nautical mile radius of the landing strip is forecast for both landing sites.

If Endeavour does not land overnight tonight, then the crew will spend an extra day in space and try again Monday night, however the weather forecast remains poor in Florida while California's Edwards looks much better.

Entry Flight Director Norm Knight this morning discussed the outlook for Monday, "For end of mission plus one, which is Monday, for KSC the current forecast indicates the site is degrading. That system that's moving across the central U.S. encroaches Florida and it brings thunderstorms, rain, high crosswinds and ceilings to the site. So if the forecast holds true for KSC, it doesn't look good for Monday".

Once Endeavour is cleared to land on the first opportunity tonight, the crew will suit up a few hours earlier in their partial pressure suits, drink plenty of fluids and strap in for the deorbit burn planned for 9:14 pm.

The burn by the shuttle's twin oms (orbital manuvering system) engines will slow the spacecraft's orbital velocity by a few hundred feet, just enough to being it's drop out of orbit.

The 130th space shuttle crew includes commander George Zamaka, pilot Terry Virts and mission specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken.

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