CNN logo


Tech half banner

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 spacewalks.

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 said.


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 stories:

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

What You Think Tell us what you think!

You said it...

To the top

© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.