Roundup: Space shuttle to land at California base

UPDATED: 13:57, June 23, 2007

Because of bad weather at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was diverted to California on Friday to land at the Edwards Air Force Base north of Los Angeles, NASA officials said.

The shuttle was scheduled to touch down at 12:49 p.m. local time.

Weather conditions turned out to be favorable in the landing area in California despite earlier concerns about the possibility of excessively strong winds in the Mojave Desert.

NASA officials had announced three possible landing windows at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards -- 12:49, 2:17 or 3: 53 p.m. But NASA spokesman Frederick Johnsen said touch-down was expected at 12:49 p.m.

"The weather concerns for Florida just didn't look good. There are issues with rain and thundershowers too close to Kennedy Space Center, and since there's about a 90-minute window from the time you commit with the de-orbit burn until you land, in that 90 minutes the weather could have deteriorated to the point where a landing in Florida would not be advisable," Johnsen told ABC7. "We 've got good weather out here as you can see, so we get it today."

When the shuttle lands, it announces its presence by creating a sonic boom as it cruises toward the base. NASA officials said the shuttle would pass over the California coast near the Los Angeles area at about 75,000 feet.

The sonic boom would come about 10 minutes prior to landing. Johnsen said the time of the boom -- whether one will even be heard in Los Angeles -- depends on the shuttle's actual flight path.

The shuttle was originally scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center Thursday, but bad weather prompted NASA to scrub the landing.

Johnsen said it costs about 1 million dollars extra to land the shuttle at Edwards, because the shuttle must then be mounted on top of a specialized 747 airplane and flown back to Florida.

"There is a cost involved, but the safety of the crew and the shuttle is far more important," he said.

Atlantis has been in orbit since June 8, with crew members helping to install new equipment on the International Space Station.

Source: Xinhua

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