Update: Space Shuttle Endeavour left Edwards Air Force Base this morning at 7am, after a 10-day stop over in the Mojave Desert, 65 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Have a safe flight to Florida Endeavour, it was great to have you as a guest!
You’ve probably heard this announcement at the airport before: “Flight delayed due to bad weather.” Quickly followed by, “You can’t be serious!” from the red-faced guy behind you, slamming his briefcase to the floor, resulting in an angry hoard of commuters rushing to the ticket desk to blame the airline for the snow storm outside (because the natural phenomenon of snow is their fault).
However, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, another, more patient passenger awaits her flight back to Florida. But rather than the delay being a matter of minutes or hours, Space Shuttle Endeavour’s flight to Florida has been delayed by three days, and counting…
Endeavour had an astounding mission (STS-126) to the International Space Station last month. The shuttle carried a team of seven to perform one of the busiest 16-day orbital stop-overs yet. The crew completed several spacewalks to fix stiff solar alpha rotary joints, upgraded the station modules to accommodate six permanent station crew members and transported some cool educational experiments into space.
All in all, STS-126 was an outright success. Even the confused spiders in the biology experiment payload performed with excellence, dealing with microgravity and spinning a web just like they did on Earth. Everything appeared to go pretty much without incident (apart from the loss of a $100,000 toolbag), that was until Endeavour was told to land 2000 miles off target due to bad weather over Florida. Rather than returning to home soil, the shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert in California (buzzing the locals on November 30th).
So alternative arrangements had to be made to ferry the shuttle back to Kennedy Space Center, and this included a customized NASA Boeing 747 jumbo jet taxi ride (with a fare of $1.8 million). Endeavour will enjoy a piggyback ride atop the aircraft, hopefully taking off first thing in the morning (Wednesday).
NASA is keeping a close eye on the weather front causing the problems; Endeavour was tentatively scheduled to fly home on Sunday, but poor weather between California and Florida pushed the delay further into the week. NASA does not allow the flying duo to pass through cloud or any inclement weather, so they are allowed to be picky about when to fly.