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NASA Postpones Shuttle Landing Until Friday

Poor weather at the landing site in Florida forced U.S. mission controllers to scrub Thursday's scheduled landing of the space shuttle Alantis. The shuttle's seven astronauts will now attempt to touch down Friday. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

A thick cloud cover prompted officials of the U.S. space agency NASA to forgo the first landing opportunity for the Atlantis shuttle at Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Thursday afternoon. When the weather prevented landing in the second available time slot, mission controllers postponed the landing until Friday.

If the Florida weather does not improve by then, NASA will activate the back-up landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Shortly after learning of the decision to scrub the landing, NASA commentator Kylie Clem said shuttle commander Rick Sturckow began reversing preparations for landing. "To work on those de-orbit preparations again tomorrow for the opportunities to land at the Kennedy Space Center and Edwards Air Force Base," she said.

During the Atlantis docking at the international space station, the astronauts installed a new truss segment, unfurled a new pair of power-generating solar arrays and activated a rotating joint that allows the new solar arrays to track the sun. The crew also had to deal with some unexpected serious technical problems.

Last week, six vital computers aboard the Russian segment of the space station crashed, compromising life support as well as the orbiting laboratory's ability to navigate and maintain its position in space.

The computers were later brought back on line, but for a while it looked as if Atlantis would have to extend its stay to assist the space station crewmembers.

The Atlantis mission, which was delayed from March after the shuttle's external fuel tank was damaged in a hail storm in late February, is the first of four shuttle flights planned for this year.

The next mission is scheduled for August 9, when astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavor add another truss segment for solar panels to power the International Space Station.