CAPE CANAVERAL — Thunderstorms prevented space shuttle Atlantis from returning to its home base Saturday for the second day in a row, and kept the astronauts circling Earth after a successful repair job at the Hubble Space Telescope.
The offshore storms, which later moved in, prompted NASA to skip both morning landing attempts at Kennedy Space Center. Despite an equally dismal forecast for today, Mission Control opted to wait out the bad weather rather than take a detour to California.
As Atlantis soared overhead, right around what would have been landing time, commander Scott Altman called down that he saw "a pretty solid mass of clouds."
"It looks to us like maybe it is starting to break up and move out, so we're hopeful to get home tomorrow," he said.
"We're sharing your optimism," Mission Control replied.
Altman and his crew are trying to wind up their Hubble repair mission, which began May 11.
The weather at the backup landing site, Edwards Air Force Base in California, is expected to be good all weekend, but it takes time and money — $2 million — to ferry a shuttle cross-country.
Atlantis has enough supplies to remain in orbit until Monday.
"We'll be fine going around another day," Altman said.