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Tue, Aug 21, 2007

NASA Clears Endeavour For Tuesday Return

Wind, Rain, Hurricane Not Expected To Pose Problems

They're committed now. Despite a weather forecast now showing Houston will be spared the worst from Hurricane Dean, the space shuttle Endeavour crew, led by Commander Scott Kelly, is scheduled to complete its mission to the International Space Station with a landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday -- one day earlier than originally planned.

An ANN reported, the STS-118 mission began August 8. During their 13-day mission, the crew installed a new gyroscope, an external spare parts platform and another truss segment to the expanding station. This weekend, NASA decided to cut the mission a day short, due to forecasts showing the Gulf Coast of Texas -- and Mission Control in Houston -- in the path of the approaching hurricane.

It appears that storm will now track further south... which gives NASA managers some breathing room in returning the shuttle to Earth. Officials at the space agency will evaluate weather conditions at Kennedy before permitting Endeavour to return.

"I would say our chances are pretty good," said Steve Stich, NASA's launch and entry flight director on STS-118 mission. For the moment, a slight chance of rain -- combined with strong crosswinds along runway 15/33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida -- are the only possible hinderances to a return at Kennedy.

Tuesday's landing opportunities are at 1232 and 1406 EDT. The backup landing site at California's Edwards Air Force Base (shown below) is available, but likely will not be considered for Tuesday. The other backup site at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico will not be activated on Tuesday (rats -- Ed.)

After touchdown, the astronauts will undergo physical examinations and meet with their families. Some crew members are expected to hold a news conference six hours after returning to Earth.

Should weather prevent a Kennedy landing Tuesday, NASA will activate backup landing sites for attempts on Wednesday.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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