CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Columbia, which had trouble leaving Earth, had more trouble today when its return was called off because of a frequent Kennedy Space Center jinx--clouds and rain.
"We will wave off for 24 hours . . . you're no-go for the deorbit burn," Mission Control communicator Fred Gregory told the astronauts.
"Understand, Fred," commander Robert Gibson responded.
If Columbia can't return here by Saturday, the ship will be diverted to land at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. NASA said that would mean cancellation of the ship's next mission in March because of a tight timetable.
The seven crew members, including a congressman, received the bad news just 19 minutes before they were to have fired braking rockets to start the descent for the first shuttle landing at this spaceport since Discovery blew a tire and damaged its brakes on the concrete runway nine months ago.
On Wednesday, the shuttle had been directed to come home a day early.
"Looks like you're going to get your five days," Gregory said today.
Columbia lifted off Sunday after six launch date postponements, and during the flight several experiments failed.
There was only one landing opportunity here today. NASA said the weather outlook is better for Friday. Touchdown was set for 4:12 a.m. PST.
This was the third time in six attempts that a shuttle has been waved off a landing in Florida because of bad weather. One went to California; the other touched down here an orbit later.