Shuttle Crew Back for Third Try at Launch
Five astronauts whose attempts to get to space have been thwarted by mechanical failures and a meteor shower returned to NASA’s shuttle launch site Monday for countdown No. 3.
“And you thought you could get rid of us,” shuttle commander Frank Culbertson Jr. joked upon arriving at the Kennedy Space Center.
Asked what he’s been doing lately, Culbertson replied: “Building meteor shields.”
The countdown clocks began ticking again Monday for Discovery’s satellite-delivery and spacewalking mission. Liftoff is set for 6:10 a.m. PDT Thursday, almost one month late. Good weather is forecast.
The annual Perseid meteor shower, the cause of the latest delay, is expected to peak well before liftoff. Astronomers believe that the meteor shower may produce a rare storm of shooting stars Wednesday night, and shuttle managers opted to wait until after the shower to launch Discovery for fear that comet debris could damage the shuttle and endanger the crew.
Culbertson said NASA was right to wait. It was the first NASA launch postponement attributed to a meteor shower.
Discovery’s nine-day flight has been on hold since July 17, when the first launch attempt was foiled by a failed electronics switch. The switch is part of the rocket-release system at the pad.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration came within 19 seconds of launching Discovery on July 24. That countdown was halted because of a problem with one of two steering mechanisms in Discovery’s solid-rocket booster.
NASA replaced the bad switch and the power unit containing the faulty steering mechanism, and aimed for an Aug. 4 launch. Because of the meteor shower there was no countdown.
Discovery holds two satellites to be deployed by the astronauts, one for experimental communications and the other bearing an ultraviolet telescope.