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'Discovery' Again Prepares For Landing

9 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Astronauts aboard the U.S. space shuttle "Discovery" are preparing to return to Earth today, in what would be the first return of a space shuttle since February 2003, when the "Columbia" disintegrated while re-entering the atmosphere (see Russian Space Industry Says Quick Action Needed On ISS. --> )

The "Discovery" had originally been scheduled to end its 13-day mission on 8 August, but the landing in Florida was cancelled due to bad weather.

Officials with the space agency NASA now hope the shuttle and its seven astronauts will land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:07 a.m. local time today. But there are plans for the landing to take place in the state of New Mexico or in California if the weather is again unfavorable in Florida.

This may be the last shuttle flight for some time because NASA has grounded the entire shuttle fleet after insulating foam broke off the shuttle's external fuel tank during liftoff.

The same problem led to broken heat tiles that destroyed the Columbia and killed its seven astronauts.