The Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Stiff wind prevented space shuttle Discovery and its seven astronauts from landing yesterday, keeping them in orbit an extra day.
By the way the forecasts look, they may end up staying even longer.
Mission Control told commander Brian Duffy that the crosswind was strong and steady and not expected to change, and that he should aim instead for a touchdown this afternoon.
"The winds are not complying with us," Mission Control said.
"I understand," Duffy replied.
Gusts of up to 22 mph were whipping across the 3-mile-long landing strip when flight director Leroy Cain called off efforts to bring Discovery home following its space station construction mission. NASA's limit for a safe shuttle touchdown is 17 mph.
Even stronger wind is expected today. Rain and clouds, meanwhile, are forecast for the backup landing site in California; conditions there should improve by tomorrow.
"The forecasts are both marginal at this point, but we'll come in ... and see how the weather looks," Cain said.
Discovery has enough fuel and power to stay up until Wednesday. It's flight - the 100th in space shuttle history - began back on Oct. 11.
After a week of exhausting work at the international space station, the astronauts are eager to come home.
Duffy and his crew installed a new docking port and an aluminum framework on the 240-mile-high complex, a job that required four spacewalks on four consecutive days.
Their successful work paved the way for the arrival of the space station's first permanent crew, in just 1 1/2 weeks.
American astronaut Bill Shepherd and two Russian cosmonauts are scheduled to rocket away from Kazakstan on Oct. 31. They will spend four months aboard the space station, activating all its systems and working on a couple bad batteries.
NASA is especially desirous to land Discovery at Kennedy, rather than at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The shuttle is supposed to return to the space station in February, and a detour to California could delay that mission.
It takes nearly one week and costs $750,000 to ferry a space shuttle from California to Florida.
The last time a space shuttle landed at Edwards was in March 1996.