Bright lights, Hale-Bopp and Hubble
Shuttle crew holds news conference ahead of nighttime landing
February 20, 1997
Web posted at: 9:30 a.m. EST
In this story:
(CNN) -- NASA's Hubble tuneup crew hung up their spacesuits
Thursday and prepared for a rare nighttime landing. The
seven astronauts from space shuttle Discovery are scheduled
to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Friday
morning after a 10-day mission to modernize the $2 billion
Forecasters predicted generally favorable weather for the
shuttle's planned touchdown at 1:50 a.m. (0650 GMT).
The only concern was for the chance of showers within 35
miles (56 km) of the runway. Conditions were forecast to
worsen on Saturday.
Flight controllers said gusty winds could be a problem at the
backup landing site, Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Better vision for nighttime landing
In preparation for the overnight homecoming, mission
commander Ken Bowersox and co-pilot Scott Horowitz test-fired
Discovery's maneuvering jets and powered up the hydraulic
Discovery's landing would be only the ninth in the history
of the shuttle program to take place in darkness.
Bowersox's landing will be aided by the recent installation
of 52 halogen lights down the center of the shuttle's nearly
three-mile (4,572-meter) runway.
Shuttle commanders requested the modification to help them
keep the gliding shuttle lined up for a perfect touchdown.
"It's a little bit tougher (at night) to judge our lineup
with the runway," said Bowersox, posed with his six fellow
space travelers during a Thursday morning air-to-ground news
conference. (638K/29 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
NASA officials said they expected nighttime and low-light
dawn landings to become more commonplace.
Asked about comet Hale-Bopp, due to pass Earth in late March
at a distance of 123 million miles, astronaut Steven Hawley
said the Discovery crew "downlinked some video (Thursday)
But "the TV cameras don't do it justice," when compared with
viewing the comet directly from the shuttle itself, he said. (689K/31 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Hale-Bopp appears to have two tails, one of them three times
longer than the other, Hawley said.
High hopes for repaired Hubble
Discovery blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center before
dawn on February 11, catching up with Hubble two days later.
Night after night, four astronauts spacewalked to install two
$100-million-plus science instruments and new electronics
and data recorders.
A fifth spacewalk was added so the astronauts could hang
homemade patches over tears and cracks they discovered in
Hubble's insulation, caused by the sun and extreme
temperature changes during seven years in orbit.
The first images from the upgraded telescope are to be
released in May. "My expectation is that ... we'll be very
pleased with the results," Hawley said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Special sections: CNN Interactive's extended coverage
- Discovery crew releases new, improved Hubble - February 19, 1997
- NASA considers, rejects record sixth shuttle spacewalk - February 18, 1997
- Astronauts perform coverup - February 17, 1997
- Astronauts complete fourth spacewalk - February 17, 1997
- Three down, two to go - February 16, 1997
- Astronauts dodge space junk for third spacewalk - February 16, 1997
- Astronaut savors first walk in space - February 15, 1997
- Spacewalkers get to work on Hubble tuneup - February 14, 1997
- 'It's a beautiful sight' - February 13, 1997
- Shuttle Discovery blasts off on Hubble service mission - February 11, 1997
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