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Space Shuttle Touches Down at Edwards

NASA: Waved off from Florida by poor weather, Endeavour lands at backup site.

June 20, 2002|MANUEL GAMIZ JR. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Facing possible bad weather in Florida, the space shuttle Endeavour instead touched down safely Wednesday at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert.

"This is not the place we intended to land, but this is a great day here, and we brought back a good vehicle," Endeavour Cmdr. Ken Cockrell said about landing at Edwards, the primary alternate landing spot for space shuttles. "Everything is going well and we'll now go through the effort of getting Endeavour back to Florida."

The California landing means NASA will have to spend about $900,000 to strap the shuttle to the back of a modified Boeing 747 jet and fly it to Florida for its next launch, officials said.

Endeavour, making its 18th flight, was scheduled to land Monday at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, but light rain and the possibility of thunderstorms delayed the attempt, said Doug Peterson, a spokesman for Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Mission managers in Houston scrubbed two opportunities to land at Kennedy early Wednesday, deciding it would be safer to land at Edwards.

"They didn't want to take the chance because flying through rain in the space shuttle is like flying through rocks," said Alan Brown, spokesman for NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards.

The shuttle touched down at 10:58 a.m. Its return was heralded by twin sonic booms that rattled Greater Los Angeles.

The landing was the 49th at Edwards since 1981. Space shuttles primarily land at Kennedy Space Center.

The shuttle departed June 5 from Florida to replace three crew members on the International Space Station. Astronauts conducted three spacewalks, one of them to replace the "wrist" on the 58-foot robot arm being used to construct the space station.

Two returning astronauts, Carl Walz and Daniel Burschv, set a single-mission U.S. record with their 196th day in orbit Wednesday, and another astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, tied an American record by making his seventh flight into space.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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