NASA will try again Tuesday to launch Endeavour after spacewalk repairs at space station

Thursday, November 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ NASA will try again Tuesday to launch space shuttle Endeavour on a flight to the international space station after two cosmonauts aboard the orbiting outpost go out on a spacewalk to clear away a piece of junk.

The long, cordlike piece of debris is preventing an unmanned Russian supply ship from latching securely to the space station, a problem that is keeping Endeavour waiting on the launch pad.

The spacewalk is set for Monday.

Endeavour is carrying up a replacement crew for the three men who have been aboard the space station since August.

The docking problem led NASA to call off Endeavour's launch Thursday. The space agency worried that the force of the arriving shuttle might cause the supply ship to wobble and damage the space station.

NASA normally prefers at least three or four days between flights to the space station. But because of Russia's repeated delays in launching this supply ship, managers waived their own rule and allowed for just one day between the docking of the craft and the liftoff of Endeavour.

``No one had anticipated this kind of a scenario, so it's just one that we'll add to our bag of tricks for the future,'' said Jim Van Laak, a space station manager.

Until the supply ship is locked into place, none of the fuel, food, clothes or other items inside can be unloaded.

Managers on both sides expect the spacewalk to be relatively easy, especially if the debris is a rubber seal from the previous supply ship that was docked there. If the cosmonauts fail to remove the debris, the supply ship could, in a worst-case scenario, be jettisoned.

Van Laak said discussions with the Russians about what to do had turned testy, but the Russians soon calmed down and accepted NASA's more cautious approach of waiting to launch the shuttle and trying to assess the risks of a spacewalk.