The space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:32 p.m. NASA had considered alternate landing locations, such as the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert in California, because of weather. Edwards Air Force Base was taken off the list of possibilities because of crosswinds.
If Discovery didn’t land by tomorrow it ran the risk of running out of fuelto power the electrical system. Astronauts spent an extra day at the International Space Station this week, giving NASA a shorter window for landing the shuttle. The shuttle was given the OK for landing on Thursday. Ever since the shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003, shuttles now are checked during flight for damage from debris.
A shuttle hasn’t landed at White Sands Missile Range since Columbia in 1982. The orbiter was contaminated from sand on the runway, and the brakes were damaged during the landing. The crosswinds at Edwards Air Force Base and the threat of rain in Florida made the New Mexico location a high possibility for today’s landing.