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NASA Launch May Be Postponed

A problem with a battery installed in the first stage of a Delta 2 rocket may delay NASA's planned Saturday launch of the Stardust spacecraft, reports CBS News Space Consultant Bill Harwood.

The $166 million probe is set to begin a seven-year mission to bring samples of a comet back to Earth. Comets are believed to hold some of the keys to the origin of the Earth.

If the battery issue can be resolved, the launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. ET Saturday. Weather forecasts call for ideal weather with a zero percent chance of a launch constraint violation.

The battery stalled in the Delta first stage apparently is not the unit originally earmarked for the mission, NASA officials say. An engineering meeting was called Friday to discuss whether the battery can meet the power requirements of the rocket or whether it must be replaced.

A launch readiness review is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Friday. If the battery has to be replaced, the Stardust launch would be delayed at least two days and possibly longer because of potential conflicts with an already scheduled Atlas launch Feb. 10.

Harwood said the Stardust probe will act like "a high-tech catcher's mitt to bring stardust back to earth so scientists can have a snpshot, if you will, of what the solar system looked like 4 1/2 billion years ago."

Scientists believe information from the mission could provide answers to questions about how the solar system evolved.

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