Space Shuttle Discovery Landing Delayed for Non-Volcano Reasons
NASA buffs may be sad to learn that after much anticipation, Space Shuttle Discovery will not be landing today as planned. Unlike seemingly every other travel delay these days, the cause of Space Shuttle Mission STS-131‘s setback is not dust and ash scattered by the volcanic eruption in Iceland, but plain old rain and clouds over the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Clearer skies are expected over Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. If the clouds linger, however, NASA will try for the backup landing site in Southern California. The first landing opportunity is at 7:34 a.m., shortly after sunrise in Florida.
The mission takes on an added poignance due to the Obama administration’s plans to wind down the current space program.
This is Discovery’s next-to-last flight. NASA has only three shuttle flights left before retiring the fleet. Atlantis is next up in less than four weeks. The final shuttle mission — by Discovery — is scheduled for September.
A few other factoids about the finality of this shuttle mission: It’s the last U.S. mission which features space flight rookies — future missions will have all-veteran crews — as well as the last mission with a crew of seven astronauts. Sadness.
We wish the Discovery crew the best of luck and a smooth landing tomorrow.