Sunday, March 06, 2011

Discovery Forecast: Landing In A Breeze

An early weather forecast for the planned lunchtime landing Wednesday of shuttle Discovery calls for windy conditions at Kennedy Space Center that nonetheless are within limits.

Discovery and its six astronauts are scheduled to make the orbiter's final landing at 11:58 a.m. Wednesday -- 12 days, 19 hours and five minutes after their Feb. 24 launch.

In that case, the shuttle's final flight time tally after 39 missions would be just short of a year -- 364 days, 23 hours and five minutes. A weather wave-off would be required to top the year-in-flight mark. There will be a second opportunity to land at KSC on Wednesday at 1:34 p.m.

An early forecast from the Spaceflight Meteorology Group at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston calls for sustained winds of 15 knots from the southeast (120 degrees) with gusts to 21 knots -- breezy conditions. Crosswinds at the runway would range up to 10 knots -- well within the 15 knot limit for daytime landings.

Cloud coverage is not expected to be a problem.

The weather forecast for a landing on Thursday calls for a chance that anvil clouds, which form in the upper part of thunderstorms, might be present in the area. That could be a flight rule violation.

Discovery's astronauts and the crew of the International Space Station will gather around 3:30 p.m. today for a final farewell and hatch closure between the linked spacecraft. The shuttle is due to undock at 7 a.m. and then fly a lap around the outpost before heading out on a two-day trip back to Discovery's shuttle homeport.

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