Atlantis landing postponed due to bad weather


Washington : Heavy clouds, rain and thunderstorms have forced the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to postpone the landing of the Atlantis space shuttle carrying Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams and six other crew members to later Thursday.

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The inclement weather forced the shuttle, scheduled initially to land at 1755 GMT (11.25 p.m. India time), to try to land at 1930 GMT (1 a.m. India time).

The thunderstorms in the vicinity of the Shuttle Landing Facility is the "culprit", the NASA said on its website.

Flight controllers and forecasters are continuing to monitor the weather at and around the facility at the Florida spaceport.

If flight controllers give the go-ahead to land on the second opportunity, Commander Rick Sturckow and Pilot Lee Archambault will fire Atlantis' thrusters at 2:25 p.m. (local time) to begin the descent to Florida.

If flight controllers wave off the second time, opportunities are available Friday in Florida and at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Atlantis was launched June 8 and arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) June 10.

Atlantis undocked from the ISS on Tuesday after conducting four space walks to install a new solar panel to the station and repair a damaged heat blanket on the shuttle.

During the Atlantis mission, a failure of the station's Russian navigation computers was blamed on the connection of the new electricity-generating solar panels. After several days of unease, astronauts repaired the computers, which are vital to controlling the pitch and altitude of the space station.