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CNN Today

Strong Winds Could Cause Problems for Shuttle Endeavour Landing

Aired February 22, 2000 - 2:39 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Some potentially-dicey weather is testing the can-do spirit for which NASA is known. Today, NASA officials are poring over computer models to determine where and when the space shuttle Endeavour should land. This could be a tricky one.

Here's CNN's Miles O'Brien. He's watching it all from Kennedy Space Center -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, as long as you mentioned dice, NASA as been on a role of late. There had been 20 consecutive landings here at the Kennedy Space Center. The chances do not seem good that there will be a 21st in a row. Last time the shuttle had to divert to Edwards Air Force Base was March of 1996. NASA will try two attempts this afternoon and into the evening here at Kennedy Space Center, but if the swift winds which are blowing right now, which are cross winds and which make it impossible to land here, continue they will try for Edwards Air Force Base at 7:48 p.m. Eastern Time.

Wherever the shuttle ends up today, NASA and the six-member crew of the space shuttle Endeavour have a lot to be proud of. They had a very successful mission despite a few problems.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The crew of Endeavour lowered the boom on its radar mapping mission after nine days, six hours and 23 minutes of round-the-clock round-the-planet digital cartography.

MISSION CONTROL: Endeavour, Houston, we are evaluating the indication.

O'BRIEN: The only hitch came after the 200-foot mast was stowed inside its carrying canister bolted to the shuttle's payload bay, three latches designed to hold the lid on failed to engage.

JEFF BRANTLEY, SHUTTLE FLIGHT DIRECTOR: We can speculate as to the cause but there is an awful lot of cables and harnesses that have to get folded up, and they were probably fairly cold, and so one of the possibilities is that just compressing those was a little bit difficult.

O'BRIEN: The astronauts turned on some heaters and notched up the torque setting by 50 percent. The plan worked. Had it not, the crew would have had to jettison the $35 million mast, the longest rigid structure ever deployed in space.

The device will give scientists and the Pentagon by far the most accurate and comprehensive three-dimensional topographic map of the world. Here is an example, this dramatic view of the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Andreas Fault.

MICHAEL KUBRICK, NASA SCIENTIST: Now it is in, and hey, happy as a clam. Bring it on home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Bringing it on home is what NASA would like to do this afternoon. It looks as if that is going to be the case, but home in this case might be Edwards Air Force Base in California. NASA will go through the motions for two opportunities here at the Kennedy Space Center, 4:50 p.m. Eastern, 6:22 p.m. Eastern. The final chance, 7:48 p.m. at Edwards Air Force Base, appears to be the best likely chance for a shuttle return today.

Miles O'Brien, CNN, reporting live from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

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