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Friends of Clearwater astronaut disappointed by delayed Discovery launch

CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA scrubbed the launch of the space shuttle Discovery early Tuesday, a disappointment to friends and family members of astronaut Nicole Passonno Stott, who grew up in Clearwater.

"Everyone's going 'gosh, we're so close, we're so close,' " said Stott's friend David Martin, who was at the Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch.

The problem was thunderstorms. NASA carefully monitors storms, because it's dangerous to launch amid lightning or high winds.

Many of Stott's friends and family members made the trek to Cape Canaveral on Monday and stayed up until the wee hours today, excited to see their friend about to launch into a three-month space adventure. Many brought along their kids, even though some are due for the first day of school today. The moms and dads said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience they didn't want their kids to miss.

Now NASA will try again in the wee hours of Wednesday. This time, the launch attempt will be at 1:10 a.m.

Katie Buffington, 17, a high school senior, was among those waiting to see the launch. She said her parents Dan and Jenny of Temple Terrace both know Stott from their school days at Clearwater High School, and they have told her, "how excited they are for her, and they're proud of her. It's a big deal."

Stott, 46, and six other astronauts are scheduled to the International Space Station to resupply it. On their 14-day mission, Stott will conduct three spacewalks with John "Danny" Olivas.

But Stott's work won't end there. When the rest of her space shuttle colleagues return to Earth after two weeks, Stott will remain in orbit aboard the space station. She will return on the shuttle Atlantis in November.

"It takes a special kind of person to do that," said Rick Moore, a friend who has known Stott since first grade, and who also was on hand hoping to see the launch.

Some friends planned to return to the Tampa Bay area Tuesday, and others plan to try to see the next attempt early Wednesday.

Earlier in the day friends and family members of Stott, including her mother and sisters, attended a VIP reception at the Kennedy Space Center with well over 200 people, friends said.

Friends of Clearwater astronaut disappointed by delayed Discovery launch 08/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 11:42am]
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