Storm Forces Shuttle Home Early

Astronauts wrap up early to reach Houston before Hurricane Dean
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2007 5:48 PM CDT
In this image made available Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007 by NASA, a portion of the International Space Station frames this view of the lower portion of Italy and a portion of Sicily, photographed by a STS-118...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – NASA managers worried about the wrath of Hurricane Dean have ordered shuttle Endeavour home a day earlier than planned, the AP reports. Astronauts wrapped up a space walk today and prepared for a trip that would leave tomorrow and land in Houston on Tuesday. One astronaut clearly saw the hurricane’s eye from 214 miles over the Caribbean: "Hooo, man, yeah, can't miss that," he said.

Houston says it was a tough call because Dean, now a savage category 4 storm, is headed for Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico and may or may not hit Houston. Earlier this week they okay’d the shuttle's return trip without repairing a deep cut in its belly, saying the gash would not cause a Columbia-like breakup when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.