Thursday, 21 June 2007

Atlantis prepares for return to Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA managers kept close tabs on the weather Thursday as thunderstorms and low clouds threatened to prevent space shuttle Atlantis and its seven astronauts from landing after a trip to the international space station.

The shuttle's first landing opportunity was at 1:55 p.m. EDT Thursday, when predictions called for thunderstorms within 34 miles and clouds within 8,000 feet of the landing strip at Kennedy Space Center. Attempting to land so close to rain or clouds would violate flight rules.

The next chance would be at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

"Tomorrow is the first day of summer, and we know what summer brings to Florida, and that is afternoon thunderstorms," John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team, said Thursday.