Shuttle aims Thursday landing

CAPE CANAVERAL( Florida) - Shuttle Discovery's astronauts aimed for a Thursday evening landing to wrap up their successful space station delivery mission, but late summer storms threatened to keep them up an extra day or two.Mission Control said on Wednesday that 'the weather will pose a challenge' for bringing Discovery home. The forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms. Conditions were expected to worsen Friday and remain poor Saturday.

'The weather in Florida this time of year is always a little iffy,' Discovery's commander, Rick Sturckow, said from orbit. 'If things aren't good, the worst that can come out of it is that we have another day in space, which is a great deal.'

In orbit since Aug 29, Discovery has enough supplies to last until Sunday. If the shuttle cannot return to Florida on Thursday, Nasa will consider landing it in California, but not until Friday at the earliest.

Astronaut Timothy Kopra is headed home after nearly two months at the international space station. He said the flight wasn't too long by any stretch. He should have spent an extra month at the outpost, but his ride up ended up being delayed because of shuttle problems.

Buzz Lightyear, by comparison, spent 15 months aboard the space station.

The 12-inch (30 1/2-centimetre) action figure rocketed into 'infinity and beyond' aboard Discovery in May 2008. Once Walt Disney World gets the toy back, it will be feted at a tickertape parade early next month with Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.

Kopra assured a TV interviewer that Buzz is doing well after so long in space.

'He's very secure. He's in his spacesuit, and I'm quite confident that he'll have a very safe ride home. But we obviously cannot disclose his location upon the space shuttle,' Mr Kopra joked.

He kept a serious face, but his crewmates chuckled. -- AP


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