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Poor weather forces NASA to call off space shuttle landing

BAD weather in Florida forced the cancellation of the landing of the space shuttle Atlantis yesterday, and NASA said it would try to bring it back to Earth today.

"The weather at the Kennedy Space Center has not cooperated ... we are waiving for the day," a NASA official said.

Clouds and rain showers over Florida caused NASA flight directors on Friday to keep the shuttle and its seven-member crew in orbit an extra day after its Hubble Space Telescope repair mission.

Too much rain or too many clouds violates criteria for a safe landing.

NASA has four scheduled opportunities today for Atlantis to land either at Kennedy Space Center in Florida or at the alternative touchdown site at the Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Atlantis has enough supplies to stay in orbit until tomorrow after its 12-day mission that repaired and upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope.

Landing in California costs NASA more than US$1 million and it takes a week or two to prepare and transport the shuttle on top of a jet carrier aircraft back to Florida.

As NASA focused on the Atlantis landing, the White House announced United States President Barack Obama would nominate Charles Bolden, a 62-year-old, four-time space shuttle astronaut and retired Marine major general, to serve as NASA's new administrator.

The space agency is trying to finish up eight flights on the shuttle's manifest before the fleet is retired by the end of 2010. NASA is targeting its next launch in three weeks.

Shuttle Endeavour, which was on standby as a rescue vehicle for the Atlantis crew, is scheduled to deliver an outdoor porch for the Japanese laboratory on the International Space Station.


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