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Shuttle landing delayed

The Atlantis crew held a news conference on orbit after undocking from Alpha
The Atlantis crew held a news conference on orbit after undocking from Alpha  

By Richard Stenger

(CNN) -- NASA delayed landing the space shuttle Atlantis for at least 24 hours because of bad weather at Kennedy Space Center. Because of showers near the landing strip, NASA decided to try again Tuesday

The crew was scheduled to land in the glare of runway floodlights early Tuesday, having installed a new front door on the international space station.The $164 million air lock will allow spacewalking astronauts to venture from space station Alpha without the assistance of visiting shuttles.

"The forecast is not favorable," a NASA manager told the shuttle crew.

Launch a trip to KSC  
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Mission Guide  

The next landing opportunity at KSC is at 11:39 p.m. EDT Tuesday on the 200th orbit of the mission. There's a second Florida landing opportunity at 1:15 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

NASA tries to avoid using a backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California because it costs about $1 million to ferry the shuttle back to Florida.

Opening a door on Alpha

The five Atlantis astronauts worked eight days at the space station, setting up a 6.5-ton air lock that will permit Alpha crews to venture from the station in U.S. or Russian spacesuits.

Alpha's new air lock juts off the side of the space station
Alpha's new air lock juts off the side of the space station  

Previously, Alpha residents would have had to rely on Russian suits and a much more cramped portal into space.

The air lock construction job was the first in which Alpha's new robotic arm was used. Despite nagging problems during earlier testing, the $600 million crane performed well.

But a flurry of missteps onboard Atlantis and Alpha forced NASA to add another day to the scheduled 11-day mission. A computer crashed. Water spilled. Alarms went off. Air leaked from the air lock. Battery acid appeared to have oozed from a spare spacesuit.

Alpha crew to come home soon

The shuttle visitors were the first to the space station in more than two months. But the Alpha residents should greet their next guests soon. In early August, the shuttle Discovery is expected to bring a fresh crew to the three-story complex and return with the old one.

The Atlantis mission marked a major milestone in space station construction. With the new air lock installed and the 58-foot (17-meter) robotic arm operational, Alpha crews can install station parts that arrive via unmanned cargo ships, without help from shuttle crews.

A project of the United States, Russia, Europe and Japan, the expanding international space station could eventually cost more than $60 billion.

• NASA Human SpaceFlight
• The Space Shuttle Clickable Map
• Oceanography from the Space Shuttle
• NASA Space Shuttle Virtual Tour
• Boeing: Space Shuttle Homepage
• Earth from Space

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