"We will attempt to land somewhere," flight director LeRoy Cain said after Monday morning's two unsuccessful landing opportunities due to bad weather.
More cloudy weather was expected at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday with a chance of rain, but it remained NASA's first choice for an early morning touchdown, scheduled for 5:07 a.m. Second choice for landing Tuesday is Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert, and if that's not suitable, NASA is ready to try landing the shuttle at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
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Discovery on its way back to Earth.
Good conditions have been predicted for Edwards, and rain has been in the forecast for White Sands.
After nearly two weeks orbiting the Earth, astronauts aboard space shuttle Discovery were told to hold off one more day before re-entering Earth's atmosphere as bad weather in Florida forced NASA to delay Monday's scheduled landing.
Theand were awaiting word from Mission Control to fire their braking rockets and head for home at the expected time of 4:47 a.m. when controllers announced early Monday that low clouds over Cape Canaveral would postpone the landing.
There was an air of disappointment at Houston's Mission Control, Cowan reports.
"We've been working this pretty hard as I'm sure you can imagine from our silence down here," Mission Control radioed Discovery commander Eileen Collins. "We just can't get comfortable with the stability of the situation for this particular opportunity, so we are going to officially wave you off for 24 hours."
When cloud cover still threatened after the second of two landing opportunities, NASA officials rescheduled the landing for Tuesday.
"There's no agony," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said from the landing strip.
Weather delays of space shuttle landings are fairly routine, but because the Discovery mission is under a public microscope, even such a standard procedure is getting extra attention.
"There's a lot of things to think about," said Flight Director LeRoy Cain, who was also director for Columbia's fatal flight on Feb. 1, 2003. "There's a lot of things to worry about, and that's what I get paid to do is to worry - and I do it a lot."
Before the weather deteriorated, Discovery had been set to land at Florida's Kennedy Space Center before dawn. Its return to Earth would have concluded the first shuttle flight since Columbia disintegrated while re-entering the Earth's atmosphere 2 1/2 years ago.
Observed astronaut John Herrington, who was at the runway waiting: "It's better to be on the safe side."
Getting an extra day in space isn't all that bad, according to astronaut Robert Curbean.
"Usually it's mostly sightseeing. You're taking pictures, and just enjoying the free time," said Curbean, who has been on two shuttle mission — neither of which returned on time.
His only complaint, Cowan reports: getting in and out of his space suit.