Stiff Wind Delays Atlantis' Return

Sunday, February 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Stiff wind prevented space shuttle Atlantis from returning to Earth on Sunday, keeping the ship and its crew in orbit a 12th day.

Mission Control ordered the astronauts, on their way back from the international space station, to remain in orbit until Monday afternoon.

``Just does not look like an optimum day to come home,'' Mission Control told commander Kenneth Cockrell. ``We appreciate your patience.''

The wind was blowing too hard across the landing strip for a safe touchdown. NASA's crosswind limit for a shuttle landing is 17 mph; gusts were reaching 24 mph.

Although the crosswind was expected to ease on Monday, forecasters said clouds could build up. Poor weather was expected at the backup landing site in Southern California.

Atlantis has enough fuel and supplies to remain in orbit until Wednesday, said flight director Leroy Cain.

During their voyage, which began Feb. 7, the five astronauts delivered and installed the most expensive piece of the international space station, the $1.4 billion Destiny laboratory.

The astronauts went out on three spacewalks to make all the necessary laboratory connections and to equip the space station with a spare radio antenna, a window shutter and other gear.

The three men living aboard space station Alpha were in charge of setting up all the equipment inside the lab module. They will spend the next three weeks organizing the laboratory and getting ready for their own trip home next month.