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Space Shot Delayed: Weather Prevents Shuttle Discovery Launch

Space Shot Delayed: Weather Prevents Shuttle Discovery Launch
The space shuttle Discovery stands poised to launch its STS-116 astronaut crew towards the International Space Station on Dec. 7, 2006. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

This story was updated at 10:23 p.m.EST.

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.- Seven astronauts aboard NASA's Discovery shuttle will have to wait at least twomore days to rocket towards the International SpaceStation (ISS) after poor weather foiled a Thursday night launchattempt.

"OkayRoman, we gave it the best shot," NASA launch director Michael Leinbach told STS-116 commander Mark Polansky. "We are going to have to declare a scrubat this time."

"Mike, weunderstand, thanks to the team for all the hard work," replied Polansky, whose callsign is Roman."Try not to be too disappointed and we will be ready to support the next timewe get a chance."

Launch timeis now set for Saturday at 8:47:34 p.m. EST (0147:34 Dec. 10 GMT).

Discovery'sSTS-116astronaut crew planned to launch at 9:35:48 p.m. EST (0235:48 Dec. 8 GMT),but thick clouds prompted a one-day delay in the ISS construction mission. Aheavy cloud layer, with clouds estimated at 500 feet thick, violated NASA'sflight rules today's space shot, launch officials said.

Launchcontrollers opted to forgo a Friday attempt to loft Discovery due to a dismal weatherforecast of low clouds, rain showers and high crosswinds that give anyattempted space shot only a 10 percent chance of lifting off.

"Theweather for Saturday is slightly better," NASA launch commentator BruceBuckingham said.

Weatherforecasts still predict clouds, showers and crosswinds for Saturday's launchattempt, but Discovery's odds of favorable launch conditions increase to 30percent, Buckingham added.

Discovery'sSTS-116 astronauts were already tucked inside the spacecraft's crew cabin whenlaunch controllers scrubbed today's planned space shot. Aboard with Polansky were pilot WilliamOefelein and mission specialists RobertCurbeam, NicholasPatrick, JoanHigginbotham, Sunita Williams and European Space Agency (ESA)astronaut Christer Fuglesang.

They are haulinga new piece of the space station's portsidetruss for installation during their planned 12-day spaceflight. They alsoplan to stage threespacewalks at the ISS to secure the new addition and rewirethe orbital laboratory's power grid into its final configuration.

One STS-116crewmember, mission specialist Sunita Williams, will relieve European Space Agencyastronaut, ThomasReiter, who has been aboard the orbital laboratory since July. Reiter willride back to Earth aboard Discovery in Williams' place.

Discovery'slaunch window currently runs from Dec. 7 to 17, and could be extended to Dec.26 if mission managers approve the shuttle for flight during the year-endswitch from 2006 to 2007.

Launch timeis pushed back about 23 minutes for every day of delay, so that the spacecraftcan reach the ISS, which is orbiting about 220 miles (352 kilometers) aboveEarth at a rate of about five miles per second. staff writer TariqMalik contributed to this story from New York City.

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Ker Than

Ker Than is a science writer and children's book author who joined as a Staff Writer from 2005 to 2007. Ker covered astronomy and human spaceflight while at, including space shuttle launches, and has authored three science books for kids about earthquakes, stars and black holes. Ker's work has also appeared in National Geographic, Nature News, New Scientist and Sky & Telescope, among others. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from UC Irvine and a master's degree in science journalism from New York University. Ker is currently the Director of Science Communications at Stanford University.