CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The refurbished shuttle Columbia's launching, planned for Wednesday, was delayed today until Thursday because of trouble finishing work in the ship's cramped engine compartment.
The delay sets the stage for a landing at the Kennedy Space Center on the morning of Christmas Eve, something NASA had wanted to avoid to give hard-pressed shuttle workers a few days off for the holidays.
Columbia, which had been scheduled to take off Wednesday at 4 a.m. PST on a five-day mission with a crew of seven, including Rep. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), aboard was rescheduled for launch Thursday at the same time. It will be the spaceship's first flight in two years.
"They're disappointed," NASA spokesman James Ball said of the shuttle launch workers. "But it has been two years since we've flown this bird and we're going to ensure everything is shipshape before we take off."
Ball said no single item slowed the work, rather a series of minor snags coupled with workers' using "extra caution."