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Shuttle Endeavour Begins Landing Approach

The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour has begun its descent in preparation for landing at a backup location because of bad weather at the main landing site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. VOA's Brian Wagner reports.

NASA officials at Mission Control say they are watching weather patterns in Florida to see when the shuttle Endeavour can safely return to Earth.

"The first opportunity for landing at Kennedy Space Center was waved off earlier due to forecasts that showed cross winds out of limits for Endeavour's return, in addition to thunderstorms and rain within the area."

Officials say weather may continue to pose a problem for a second opportunity in Florida. If not, weather conditions are good at the back-up landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The Endeavour crew was on a 16-day mission to space, which included delivering new supplies and equipment to expand the facilities on board the International Space Station.

The additions of a new bathroom, kitchen and sleeping quarters will enable officials to double the size of the space station crew from three to six by next year. The station also received a new recycling device that converts urine and sweat into pure water for astronauts to drink while living at the station.

Astronauts conducted four space walks during the mission, to install new equipment to the station and repair a joint on a solar panel.

Astronaut Gregory Chamitoff will be returning to Earth aboard Endeavor, after living in space for six months. He is replaced at the station by Sandra Magnus.

Saturday, astronauts flew around the station to allow officials to inspect the shuttle for possible damage to the ship's heat shield. The maneuver has become standard procedure since the shuttle Columbia broke apart during reentry in 2003 because of damage to its heat shield.

The next shuttle mission is set for February, when Discovery is to deliver additional equipment to the space station.