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Columbia landing postponed until Saturday

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December 6, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 a.m. EST

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- NASA on Friday ordered space shuttle Columbia to stay aloft yet another day as bad weather prevented a landing for the second consecutive day. The good news, NASA said, is that the 24-hour extension means Columbia will set a shuttle endurance record -- with 18 days in space.

The shuttle had been scheduled to touch down at Kennedy Space Center Thursday morning, and had been rescheduled for Friday, but fog and low clouds blanketed the landing strip both days -- forcing the cancellation.

"The fog is not burning off as we like it," ground controller Curt Brown radioed to the shuttle crew shortly before 8:30 a.m. EST Friday.

Flight controllers said they would make another landing attempt Saturday, when weather was predicted to improve. The five astronauts have enough fuel and supplies to remain in orbit until Wednesday, NASA spokesman Ed Campion said.

NASA officials had contemplated moving the Friday landing to Edwards Air Force Base in California. But weather conditions there were also poor as low clouds and high winds were reported.

The landing delays came toward the end of a flight marked by two successful experiments, a jammed hatch that caused cancellation of spacewalks and other mechanical glitches. A Saturday landing would mean the astronauts had been in orbit for 18 days, a space shuttle endurance record. Columbia holds the record for the longest shuttle flight to date set earlier this year, 16 days and 22 hours.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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