Lisa Stark is at the Kennedy Space Center; I’m doing a World News piece for tonight about Pearl Harbor. So here’s a post from Lisa on the iffy outlook for STS-116 tonight:
The Florida sun is hiding behind a thick layer of clouds and that could mean trouble for a launch tonight of the space shuttle Discovery. NASA is ready, and eager to try its first night launch in four years – but right now the weather forecast , as NASA puts it, is 60% no-go.
The launch is set for 9:35 tonight Eastern Standard Time, and the launch countdown is proceeding, as NASA keeps an eye on the sky. The concern is rain – and low cloud cover..
Weather is also marginal at the three emergency landing sites in Spain and France. At least one of those sites has to be available in case the astronauts have to abort the mission after take-off. As one NASA contactor half-heartedly joked — there is rain in Spain that could fall on our plane.
If NASA has to scrub today, the thinking is the space agency will hold off tomorrow and try again on Saturday. Tomorrow’s forecast is even worse than today — 90% no go for weather. Saturday isn’t much better — 70% no go.
This will be Discovery’s 33rd mission — the most of any shuttle. The astronauts will deliver and install a 2-ton truss section for the space station, and they will rewire the station — hooking up the power and thermal control to its permanent electrical supply. It is considered one of the most complex missions ever.
They will also deliver an astronaut to the space station – Sunita (Suni) Williams will stay on the station for 6 months. And Discovery will bring home German astronaut Thomas Reiter.
This mission also includes 5 rookies – eager for their first flight into space.