The crew of shuttle Discovery, forced by payload problems to postpone their "space ballet" with a missile research satellite, beamed back more spectacular pictures Tuesday of light dancing above Earth's north and south poles.
The astronauts had been scheduled to launch the satellite in space and start a 36-hour series of aerobatic maneuvers with it Tuesday morning.Instead, they were trying to make full use of a crucial telescope on a separate payload before it lost its coolant and became incapacitated.
NASA revamped the flight plan for the eight-day mission and put off the tricky "Star Wars" test for a day after ground controllers realized Monday that the telescope, which measures light emanating from the atmosphere, was using coolant faster than expected.
Shuttle commander Michael Coats marveled at the view from 161 miles above Earth as Discovery passed through a curtain of light in the southern hemisphere.
"It's pretty much light green," said Coats, describing the aurora for ground controllers who could see only black-and-white television views of the ghostly phenomenon.
"We're light green with envy down here," radioed Mission Control's Brian Duffy.
"You've got to appreciate the aesthetic things in life," Coats said.
NASA said it was undaunted by a series of payload problems that threatened to limit the amount of information the seven astronauts would be able to gather for scientists working on the Strategic Defense Initiative, nicknamed "Star Wars."
Troubleshooting continued on two data tape recorders that failed on a payload known as Air Force Project 675 soon after Discovery was launched from the Kennedy Space Center Sunday.