Shuttle launch delayed 24 hours by high winds

April 09, 1994|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,Sun Staff Writer

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. -- An improved weather outlook increased the likelihood that Maryland Astronaut Tom Jones would blast off into space aboard the shuttle Endeavour this morning.

Lift-off is scheduled for 7:05 a.m. today. Yesterday's flight was scrubbed because of stiff winds at a landing site designated for use by the shuttle in the event of emergency.

NASA officials postponed the launch after waiting more than two hours for the cloudy gray skies to clear. Weather forecasters predicted that neither clouds nor winds should be a problem today. "It looks much better," Air Force Capt. Tyree Wilde said. "Eighty percent probability it'll go."

As the 2 1/2 -hour launch window narrowed shut yesterday morning, flight controllers asked the six crew members if they were willing to wait for the weather to improve. The crew can remain on their backs and strapped in the shuttle for only so long.

"The crew is ready to lie on our backs a little longer to try and get this vehicle up," replied Air Force Col. Sidney M. Gutierrez, the shuttle commander.

But nature wouldn't cooperate. This will be the first space flight for Dr. Jones, a planetary scientist who was born and raised in Essex. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, the 39-year-old father of two was accepted into the astronaut corps in 1990.

His interest in space, however, dates back to his days at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Elementary School, where he watched the Gemini launches on a classroom television.

A contingent of Maryland family and friends is here in Florida to watch as Dr. Jones realizes his childhood dream.

The primary objective of this 9-day mission is to test a new radar device that will map 5 percent of the earth's surface.

Scientists on the ground will direct the radar over more than 100 sites around the globe, from Death Valley in California to the Galapagos Islands.

Working in shifts round the clock, the astronauts will simultaneously photograph the locales, snapping as many as 14,000 pictures, one shot for every 20 seconds the shuttle is over land in daylight.

Before dawn yesterday, as Dr. Jones was getting into his space suit, the boyish 39-year-old astronaut turned toward NASA's closed circuit television and held up a handwritten greeting to his children:

"Hi, Annie. Hi, Bryce. Lots of Love. Dad."

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