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Bad valve cancels launch of shuttle

CAPE CANAVERAL — Friends and family of Clearwater's hometown astronaut, Nicole Passonno Stott, will have to wait a little longer to see her blast into space.

Space shuttle Discovery had been scheduled to launch at 1:10 this morning, but NASA called it off Tuesday evening after learning a fuel valve in the engine compartment appeared to be malfunctioning. The space agency had previously hoped to launch in the early hours of Tuesday, but bad weather forced a cancellation then, too.

The seven astronauts had not yet boarded the shuttle for the flight to the International Space Station. The astronauts said another attempt would not be made until Friday at the earliest.

NASA is up against a tight end-of-month deadline for launching Discovery. Over the weekend, managers said if Discovery was not flying by Sunday or so, the delivery mission almost certainly would slide into October because of a pair of forthcoming launches to the space station from Japan and Russia.

Stott, 46, who grew up in Clearwater and graduated from Clearwater High, is making make her first space flight. Many friends and family members trekked over from the Tampa Bay area on Monday and attended a special reception for her.

The astronauts had adjusted their sleep schedules for the nighttime launch so that they wouldn't feel like they had pulled an all-nighter at launch time. They woke up midafternoon and had breakfast. Stott had oatmeal.

Discovery's 14-day mission is to include three space walks by Stott and a colleague. But Stott has signed up for extra duty. She is scheduled to remain on board the space station until November, when the shuttle Atlantis will bring her back to Earth.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Bad valve cancels launch of shuttle 08/25/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 10:16pm]
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