Causes of delay in shuttle landing
Houston — Astronauts Jack Lousma and Gordon Fullerton are spending an extra day in orbit, thanks to gusty winds, poor visibility, and turbulence at White Sands, N.M.
At this writing, they are making the most of this unplanned opportunity by taking more time to observe some of the scientific and test flight instruments on board the space shuttle Columbia. They also are reviewing procedures for landing at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Christopher C. Kraft Jr., director of the Johnson Space Center here, said the probability was high that the space shuttle will land at Kennedy. This will be the eventual primary landing site for space shuttles. However, the first KSC landing was not due to take place until this, and probably the next, test flights were accomplished.
Since flight officials would prefer to have Columbia land at the Northrup airstrip at White Sands, they will monitor the weather closely. However, the forecast is that KSC will have the best weather of all the possible landing sites Tuesday.
Columbia is carrying ample reserves of food, water, oxygen, and fuel for the fuel cell power generators. Extending the mission an extra day has been an option available all along. Minor malfunctions with communications and some other equipment are not considered serious. Flight officials have said repeatedly that these malfunctions do not endanger the ship or the astronauts.