CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Engineers should know Sunday whether Endeavour's six-man crew and their families — including wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — need to stick around for a Monday launch attempt or come back sometime around Mother's Day.
Technicians spent Saturday draining fuel from the shuttle and then getting into the crowded guts of the left rear compartment. Their job is to figure out just what went wrong in a heating system for a power system that controls crucial hydraulics. The problem was severe enough to make NASA postpone Friday's launch, which had become a spectacle.
Kennedy Space Center appeared mostly empty Saturday, foreshadowing what might happen after the shuttle program ends this summer. Gone were the crowds hoping to see the second-to-last shuttle launch and throngs of media for the saga of Giffords, shot in the head by a would-be assassin in January, and her husband, Endeavour commander Mark Kelly.
Astronauts are likely to spend much of the weekend relaxing with their families — presumably including Giffords — at the limited access beach house, said Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who met with Giffords Friday, said her friend looked good, but declined to go into further details, according to Wasserman-Schultz spokesman Jonathan Beeton.
"Today is a kind of rest and try to recoup day except for the technicians working to isolate and fix this problem," NASA spokesman Mike Curie said Saturday afternoon.
There are two likely scenarios for NASA's technical glitch. It could be just a thermostat. That's what NASA is hoping for because that is something that can be quickly replaced and put Endeavour on track for a Monday 2:34 p.m. EDT launch attempt. Meteorologists give an 80 percent chance for acceptable weather Monday afternoon with slight worries about winds at the emergency landing site, low clouds and visibility, Curie said.
The other option includes a fault in another part of the electrical system that isn't quite so quickly fixed. It could be a box of switches that would then require at least two days of testing. If that's the case, launch is not likely before May 8.
NASA managers have to make a decision by early Sunday afternoon, if they want to be on track for a Monday launch.
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