Shuttle Discovery is on its way to the International Space Station. The world's most traveled spaceship thundered into orbit for the 39th and final time yesterday afternoon. After this, only two shuttle missions remain, first by Atlantis and then Endeavour.
NASA had planned another important space mission for this week. A rocket carrying the Glory earth science satellite was supposed to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base – but it’s still on the ground.
Just before the Glory launch early Wednesday, NASA technicians detected a computer malfunction with the Taurus rocket. They moved the launch back 24 hours – and now they’ve delayed it indefinitely because they’re still not satisfied that the Taurus rocket is working correctly.
The launch might not happen until the middle of next month. The Glory mission is already a year behind schedule.
Sensors on the satellite are designed to search the Earth’s atmosphere for “dark aerosols” that absorb sunlight and perhaps contribute to climate change. Glory is part of a group of satellites studying atmospheric changes.
It’s a $424 million piece of gear – and that’s good reason to make sure the launch goes right. Two years ago, NASA stuck another earth science satellite on top of a Taurus rocket – and watched that quarter-billion dollar contraption fall into the ocean near Antarctica when its cover didn’t break away as planned.