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Hurricane postpones shuttle's Florida launch

Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC with permission of the Houston Chronicle

Hurricane postpones shuttle's Florida launch
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

 Number of Crew Members: 6
 Mission launch:
Oct 2, 2002, between 1 and 5 p.m. CDT
 Mission duration: 10 days, 19 hours
 Mission goals: To deliver the S1 (S-One) Truss to the International
Space Station. 

On-board camera
 Animated camera's-eye view of a launch
 Kennedy Space Center Direct television report
 Press release

NASA links
 Shuttle missions' schedules
 Schedule for NASA-TV 

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's first shuttle launch in four months was
postponed today because of Hurricane Lili. 

The space agency did not want to take a chance of launching Atlantis
Wednesday, only to have the hurricane bear down on Houston, home to
Mission Control. So NASA halted the countdown and aimed for a liftoff no
earlier than Thursday. 

The mission to deliver another girder to the international space station
is already six weeks late because of repairs to cracked pipes. 

"I think we're going to have to face a few issues with Mother Nature,"
Ron Dittemore, shuttle program manager, said Monday. 

It is the first space shuttle launch ever delayed by bad weather 900
miles away in Houston. 

"It's a little discouraging to get yourself this far and get ready for
launch and have good weather, basically, in Florida and then find out you
have this threat in the Gulf Coast," said Dittemore. "But there's no

The Gulf Coast is bracing for the storm, over Cuba, to make landfall as
early as Thursday evening. In Galveston, the mayor is considering calling
for an evacuation as early as tonight if the storm track becomes more

Once the space shuttle's motors are ignited, all control mechanisms and
communications are run from Johnson Space Center. 

A launch delay will allow about 30 NASA personnel from the Johnson Space
Center who are working the launch in Florida to return to Houston to make
sure their homes and families are safe. 

NASA has liftoff opportunities until Oct. 19. 

The Hurricane Center predicts that areas from Port Arthur east to the
Mississippi River mouth are most vulnerable to damage from Lili's rain
and winds of nearly 100 mph. Houston remains in the possible track area. 

Galveston Mayor Roger Quiroga said authorities there could decide tonight
to recommend an evacuation of the island if the hurricane's journey
shifts closer to the island. 

"Forecasters are gradually moving the target west, which puts Galveston
directly in its path," Quiroga said. "We are very concerned. This could
be a real hit on Galveston." 

The last time Mission Control was shut down was in 1983 when Hurricane
Alicia hit the Houston area. Back then, it took about 36 hours before
Mission Control was up and running. 

If the shuttle were to launch as scheduled and Mission Control went out
of commission, a small team from JSC would have traveled to the Kennedy
Space Center to regain control of the launch processing system. 

Activities aboard the international space station would be monitored by
the Houston Support Group station in Moscow, said Mike Suffredini,
international space station operations and integration manager. 

Without Mission Control in full force, the space shuttle would be able to
dock with the space station, but astronauts would not be able to make the
three planned spacewalks. 

The spacewalks are part of a $390 million expansion of the station's
structural foundation, as well as its electrical power generation,
cooling and communications systems. 

Atlantis had been poised to launch Wednesday between 1 and 5 p.m. As part
of increased security measures, the space agency does not announce the
precise time of departure until 24 hours before the scheduled liftoff. 

Commanding Atlantis will be Jeff Ashby with pilot Pamela A. Melroy.
Mission specialists are David A. Wolf, Piers J. Sellers, Sandra H. Magnus
and Russian Cosmonaut Fyodor N. Yurchikhin. 

The mission is NASA's first since the agency suspended flights June 24,
after an inspector spotted clusters of tiny fuel line cracks aboard the
shuttles Atlantis and Discovery. 

Inspections of Endeavour and Columbia revealed similar cracks. 

Chronicle reporters Kevin Moran in Galveston and Lucas Wall in Houston,
and The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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