The U.S. space agency reportedly has a plan to guide the shuttle to earth if it is damaged and its crew is forced to stay on the International Space Station.
The New York Times reports the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has a last-ditch contingency plan for the $2 billion shuttle involving a 28-foot-long braided cable that will be attached to various control boxes. Flight controllers on the ground will then be able to activate the systems including power units, landing gear and drag chutes.
The Shuttle, under favorable weather conditions, is scheduled to be launched Saturday on a 12-day mission that will include repair work on the International Space Station.
The automatic landing system plan was outlined by John Shannon, the deputy manager of the space shuttle program. The cable system could also be tried if officials felt the crew faced a high risk even after the shuttle makes a successful re-entry.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
Explore further: Video gives astronaut's-eye view inside NASA's Orion spacecraft