NASA to shuttle: Come home
December 4, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- After a navigation tool failed
unexpectedly and weather forecasts worsened at all three
possible shuttle landing sites, NASA told the shuttle Columbia
to plan on landing Thursday morning.
The decision to bring the shuttle down came after one of the
orbiter's three key navigation tools -- an inertial measurement
unit -- stopped working. That glitch followed last weekend's
jammed airlock hatch that forced NASA to cancel a pair of
NASA engineers have been stumped by the hatch problem,
the first such hatch problem in the shuttle program's 15-year history.
Although safety rules ordinarily would force a
shuttle with a navigation problem to cut short its mission
immediately, Columbia is equipped with two back-up units, NASA
Astronauts were told to prepare for landing at the Kennedy
Space Center as early as 7:34 a.m. EST Thursday, if the weather
is clear and calm.
"We would like to land the shuttle tomorrow in Florida,"
said flight director Wayne Hale. "If the weather dictates
otherwise, we have options at Edwards Air Force Base (in
California) or we can stay up several more days."
NASA managers said forecasts called for rainy, unstable
weather in central Florida Friday, and windy conditions at two
backup landing sites on the West Coast.
Although Hale said the "primary factor" for the shuttle's
early return was the weather, he acknowledged the two equipment
problems also played a role. "They certainly indicate that you
ought to button things up and be prepared to come down at the
earliest opportunity," he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Special section: CNN Interactive's extended coverage
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
Watch these shows on CNN for more sci-tech stories:
CNN Computer Connection | Future Watch | Science & Technology Week
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.