Space Shuttle Makes Detour to California
NASA diverted the space shuttle Discovery to California early today after bad weather thwarted the opportunity for the first night landing at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
Discovery had been scheduled to touch down at 2:06 a.m. EDT at Kennedy after a spectacular plunge like a shooting star over Canada and the Midwest.
But clouds formed near Kennedy, forcing Mission Control first to delay the landing 1 1/2 hours and then to send the shuttle to Edwards’ Mojave Desert landing strip, the backup site, for a landing at 12:38 a.m. PDT.
Commander John Creighton and pilot Kenneth Reightler Jr. fired the twin braking rockets an hour before landing.
The shuttle passed over Oregon on its way down the middle of California to Edwards. A Kennedy landing would have sent the ship on a spectacular plunge over Canada, the Midwest and down into Florida.
About 600 people had gathered at Kennedy to welcome Discovery home, including the astronauts’ families.
During the five-day mission, the crew put a satellite into orbit to study Earth’s shrinking ozone layer.
Thrusters began boosting the satellite Tuesday toward its 372-mile-high orbit.
The shuttle program’s eight previous Florida landings were during the day. Shuttles have landed four times in darkness at Edwards.