<!--:es-->Gas leak postpones space shuttle Discovery launch<!--:-->

Gas leak postpones space shuttle Discovery launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA postponed the launch of space shuttle Discovery just hours before it was to head to the international space station Wednesday because of a hydrogen gas leak that could have been catastrophic at liftoff. The leak was in a different part of the system that already has caused a vexing one-month delay.

Shuttle managers put off the launch until Monday but left open the possibility that the repair work might allow for an attempt Sunday. The latest delay means Discovery’s two-week flight must be shortened and some spacewalks cut out of the mission. That’s because Discovery needs to be gone from the space station before a Russian Soyuz rocket blasts off March 26 with a fresh station crew.

If Discovery isn’t flying by Monday — possibly Tuesday, stretching it — then it will have to wait until April.

Mission Control radioed the news to the three space station residents Tuesday evening. Commander Mike Fincke took it in stride, saying he’d rather see the shuttle this month than next.