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Shuttle launch today

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Richard Luscombe

Cape Canaveral (Florida): The space shuttle Discovery is set to make an Independence Day launch on Tuesday after thunderstorms in Florida on Sunday night caused the lift-off to be scrubbed for a second consecutive day.

NASA launch director Mike Leinbach called off the attempt with two hours 11 minutes left when it became obvious the heavy black clouds hanging over the Kennedy Space Centre all weekend were not going to clear.

Discovery's commander Steven Lindsey, who was strapped into his seat on the flight deck, agreed with the decision. ``It doesn't look good today and we think that's a great plan,'' he said.

Mission managers decided to give the astronauts and launch-pad crews a rest day on Monday instead of returning for a third try in three days. NASA's weather officers expect conditions to be slightly better for a 2.38 p.m. (7.38pm BST) launch on America's national holiday on Tuesday, but warn that there is still a 60 per cent chance of a third delay. Discovery's crew of seven, including Piers Sellers, 51, who was born in Crowborough, East Sussex, England, returned to crew quarters after spending almost an hour seated in the cockpit. Engineers will now have to drain 2.3m litres of liquid hydrogen and oxygen from the fuel tanks before refuelling on Tuesday for the 13-day mission.


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