Sunday, August 21, 2005


Discovery gets a piggyback trip to Florida

BEIJING, Aug.20 (Xinhuanet)-- SPACE shuttle Discovery gets a piggy-back on a specially modified Boeing 747 on Friday for its journey home to Florida.

The modified Boeing 747 carrying the shuttle lifted off at 8:31 a.m. PDT for Cape Canaveral. It will make several stops to refuel during the 3,600-kilometre trip, which was expected to cost NASA at least $1 million.

Discovery landed in the Mojave Desert on Aug. 9 after a 14-day mission to service the International Space Station. NASA diverted the landing to California after low clouds and lightning prevented the shuttle from returning to Florida on four earlier attempts. It was the first shuttle flight after the Columbia tragedy two and a half years ago.

Discovery's homecoming has been clouded by uncertainty about the shuttle's future. The same foam issue that doomed Columbia 21/2 years ago showed up during Discovery's liftoff, prompting NASA to ground all shuttle flights until 2006 so engineers could solve the problem.

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