Shuttle Landing Delayed By Mysterious Floating Object - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/19/06

Shuttle Landing Delayed By Mysterious Floating Object

NASA has been forced to hold off Wednesday's landing of the Shuttle Atlantis because of an object - possibly debris - floating nearby, shortly after sensors in the craft's wings indicated the shuttle had been hit by something.

NASA officials want to make sure it's not a piece of the spacecraft, something that might in some way endanger the crew and ship on re-entry.

No one knows what it is. The mysterious, gray round object is orbiting near Atlantis at an altitude of 187 nautical miles.

Flight controllers first noticed the object early this morning at 2:45. They were so concerned that they had the shuttle crew delay stowing the KU TV antenna so the crew could downlink more video of the mysterious object.

Mission controllers are manipulating the camera on the shuttle's robotic arm and looking inside the payload bay to see whether anything is missing that might account for the object.

The object was first noticed about 15 minutes after the shuttle crew performed a test firing of the forward and reaction control systems.

STS 115 is the 116th shuttle mission and the first flight after two return to flight "test" flights, following the Columbia accident in February 2003.

This mission resumed construction of the half-built International Space Station with three ambitious spacewalks to install a 17-ton truss with a $395 million solar array on a rotating joint.

This crew of six was originally scheduled to fly 12 weeks after the Columbia accident in May 2003.

On this flight, the crew includes veteran Cmdr. Brett Jett, pilot Chris Ferguson, and four spacewalkers because of the intensive construction schedule.

The spacewalkers are Joe Tanner, Dan Burbank, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve MacLean.

Atlantis will carry extra food and water in case the crew is forced to seek "safe haven" on the space station.

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