After an additional day in space, Space Shuttle Discovery and the seven-member STS-92 crew are scheduled to return to Earth later today, weather conditions permitting. Landing opportunities exist at both the prime landing site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the alternate landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Weather conditions in Florida closely mimic those of yesterday when strong winds forced a landing wave-off. There is an additional threat of low clouds and showers in the vicinity of the Shuttle Landing Facility today with weather conditions expected to continue degrading over the next 24 hours. In California, the forecast for Edwards Air Force Base calls for a possibility of cloud cover and rain showers in the area, but generally improving conditions tomorrow.
Entry Flight Director LeRoy Cain and his team of flight controllers have a total of four opportunities to bring Discovery home today, two at each of the landing sites. The first opportunity is to KSC on orbit 185 with a de-orbit burn at 12:43 p.m. CDT with a landing at 1:51 p.m. The second Florida landing opportunity would see a de-orbit burn at 2:21 p.m. CDT and a landing at 3:28 p.m. The second KSC and first Edwards opportunities are on the same orbit, six minutes apart.
If the second KSC landing opportunity is used, Discovery will skirt along the Gulf Coast during its high-speed reentry and residents in the Houston area will have an opportunity to see Discovery's plasma trail and hear the sonic boom created by its passage as Discovery streaks overhead. The Houston pass would occur between 3:10-3:16 p.m.
Discovery's landing tracks for all of today's opportunities may be found at the Human Space Flight Web site at http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/groundtracs/index.html.
The first opportunity of the day to land at Edwards Air Force Base would see a de-orbit burn on orbit 186 at 2:15 p.m. and a landing at 3:32 p.m. CDT. The second Edwards opportunity has a de-orbit burn taking place at 3:51 p.m. and landing at 4:58 p.m. CDT.
With a landing today, Discovery's crew would return to Houston's Ellington Field for a welcome home ceremony at approximately 1 p.m. Tuesday.
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