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Shuttle Set to Return; Edwards Is Likely Landing Site

November 14, 1994| From Associated Press

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The space shuttle Atlantis' six astronauts wrapped up their work in orbit Sunday as scientists gloated over the amount of data collected during the 11-day mission to map ozone in Earth's atmosphere.

One ozone monitor aboard Atlantis gathered enough data to fill 120,000 computer floppy disks.

"We've got some science teams here that are quite well-fed," said NASA mission scientist Tim Miller.

The shuttle's scheduled landing this morning at the Kennedy Space Center was threatened by Tropical Storm Gordon. NASA sent the astronauts' families to California on Sunday to await a probable landing there. The astronaut corps' chief, Robert Cabana, also headed west to supervise the touchdown.

Two other space shuttles have been diverted to the desert runways at Edwards Air Force Base in the past two months because of storms. Atlantis' first landing opportunity was about 7:30 a.m. EST at the space center.

"In one word, the forecast . . . is lousy," said flight director Jeff Bantle. "There are going to be low clouds. There's going to be rain. There's going to be gale-force wind."

The outlook for Tuesday is just as bad. Good weather was forecast for Edwards; Bantle said the shuttle could land there later this morning if necessary.

In anticipation of a California landing, shuttle commander Donald McMonagle played a recording of the theme from the old TV show "Route 66" for Mission Control late Sunday. This is the 66th space shuttle mission.

"I have the '56 T-Bird convertible parked outside. When we get off watch, I'm going to try to make it (to California)," Mission Control's Mario Runco joked.

"If you can get it there, we'll drive it home," McMonagle replied.

Atlantis had enough power to stay in orbit until Tuesday--possibly Wednesday if extreme conservation measures were taken, said mission operations director Lee Briscoe.

It costs about $1 million to transport a shuttle back to the space center atop a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet. NASA also loses a week in getting the shuttle ready for its next flight.

Atlantis isn't scheduled to fly again until late May or early June, but that is to be 1995's biggest mission, the first shuttle docking with Russia's space station, Mir. NASA must install a docking mechanism on Atlantis as soon as it returns to the space center.

The storm that threatened to divert the shuttle to California toppled tents Sunday at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but did little damage.

No serious injuries were reported among the 23,000 Cuban and 6,000 Haitian refugees at Guantanamo.

Two military personnel received minor injuries when tents fell, a base spokesman said.

Gordon packed sustained winds of up to 45 m.p.h. and torrential rain.

Wind gusts up to 120 m.p.h. whipped Cuba a day after the storm soaked Jamaica.

Gale warnings were posted for the east coast of Florida from St. Augustine to the Dry Tortugas.

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