Space shuttle Discovery's final mission has been delayed because of storms, but mission controllers hope for a Friday launch.
Space shuttle Discovery has encountered yet another obstacle
on the way to its final mission: storms.
Inclement weather led NASA's mission controllers to scrub
Discovery's Nov. 4 launch. "If it looked like there was any possible chance of
giving it a shot, then I think we would have," Pete Nickolenko, assistant
launch director, told
the Associated Press. "It was really very clear today that it just wasn't
looking to be our day weather-wise."
The shuttle's launch had already been pushed back due to
mechanical issues. NASA's Prelaunch Mission Management previously scrubbed
liftoff due to electrical glitches, saying it wanted to give engineers time to
delve into a problem involving the main engine computer controller.
NASA officials are apparently looking to Nov. 5 for
Discovery's next launch window. If the weather holds, the shuttle will lift off
just after 3 p.m. And if all goes according to plan after that point, the six
astronauts aboard will undertake an 11-day mission to the International Space
The shuttle's weather team estimates a 60-percent chance
that skies will be clear enough Nov. 5 for launch.
During the mission, astronauts will deliver spare parts to
the Station, along with the Express Logistics Carrier -4. The ELC will provide
electrical power, mounting surfaces, and command and data-handling services for
science experiments. The shuttle will also transport SpaceX's DragonEye
relative navigation sensor, and the signatures of the more than 500,000
students who participated in the 2010 Student Signatures in Space program
sponsored by Lockheed Martin and NASA.
Weather or no, NASA has until Nov. 7 to launch Discovery, or
risk scrubbing the mission until early December. Once the shuttle returns to
earth, it will be mothballed, although its sister Endeavor is due for at least
one more mission before meeting the same fate.
"We're wrapping up the Space Shuttle Program," Mission
Commander Steve Lindsey is quoted as saying. "Besides the excitement of
completing the International Space Station and all the things we do, I hope
people get a sense of the history of what the space shuttle is and what we've
done and what's ending. Because they'll probably never see anything like it
The loss of two space shuttles from orbit will have ripple
effects on Earth. NASA's main space contractor, United Space Alliance,
announced it would lay off around 15 percent of its space shuttle workforce, impacting
employees in Florida, Texas and Alabama.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.