CAPE CANVERAL, Fla. — Good weather has the space shuttle Discovery and its seven-astronaut crew poised to land at Kennedy Space Center tomorrow afternoon, NASA mission managers said today.
"The forecast has been great," said Bryan Lunney, STS-120 shuttle flight director for entry. Lunney predicted that conditions "should play out like meteorologists expect."
Mission managers also said that Discovery's thermally protective shield, which the spaceship uses to absorb the searing heat of reentry, was cleared for landing.
"I've got no worries about my thermal protection system," Lunney said. "The vehicle's in great shape."
Discovery undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday and is set to arrive here at 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT) on Wednesday, Nov. 7, but can make another attempt to land at 2:36 p.m. EST (1936 GMT). If the shuttle touches down on its first opportunity, it will have traveled 6,249,432 miles (10,057,486 kilometers).
Lunney said if gusts of wind exceed 29 mph (46 kph), the spaceship will try for a Thursday or Friday landing at KSC, California's Edwards Air Force Base or New Mexico's White Sands Space Harbor. But Lunney said he does not expect to have to do that.
"I'm real optimistic that tomorrow's landing opportunities will play out for us for weather," Lunney said.
Mission wrapping up
Discovery's astronauts have spent just over 14 days in space to date and said today that they are looking forward to coming home after preparing their spaceship for descent.
During their mission, Discovery's crew delivered a new room to the space station, brought a fresh member for the Expedition 16 crew and relocated a giant chunk of the orbital laboratory's backbone-like truss.
When a solar blanket snagged upon deployment from that section, called the Port 6 solar array truss, spacewalkers Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelockventured out to make a risky yet successful repair.
Shuttle commander Pamela Melroy will fly the 101-ton orbiter across the heartland of America with the assistance of pilot George Zamka. The descending northwest-to-southeast approach, as it is known, has not been attempted since the loss of Columbia and its crew.
Lunney said the spaceship has enough food, air and water to last the crew until Saturday, should any problems arise.
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Dave Mosher is currently a public relations executive at AST SpaceMobile, which aims to bring mobile broadband internet access to the half of humanity that currently lacks it. Before joining AST SpaceMobile, he was a senior correspondent at Insider and the online director at Popular Science. He has written for several news outlets in addition to Live Science and Space.com, including: Wired.com, National Geographic News, Scientific American, Simons Foundation and Discover Magazine.