Video: Piggy-back ride to Florida staff and news service reports
updated 7/2/2007 9:42:33 PM ET 2007-07-03T01:42:33

A jumbo jet carrying the space shuttle Atlantis landed Monday in Kentucky to refuel for its trip back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, military officials said.

A modified Boeing 747 with the shuttle mounted on its back touched down at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line around 9:30 a.m. CT (10:30 a.m. ET) after leaving Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

The refueling stop at Fort Campbell will last until the weather clears in Florida, but the jet’s itinerary remains confidential for security reasons until it’s in the air. The jet stops at several undisclosed locations for refueling.

The shuttle stayed in Kentucky overnight and is due to make the trip to Kennedy Space Center early Tuesday if weather permits.

However, Fort Campbell officials said the shuttle could be grounded through the Fourth of July if the weather is unacceptable for flight. A shuttle stopped in Fort Campbell once before, when it stayed about four days in September 1998 waiting for weather to clear in Florida, authorities said.

The jet stopped Sunday for refueling in Amarillo, Texas, making an unusual stop on a commercial runway. Amarillo is about 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of Offutt.

Atlantis, carrying seven astronauts, landed June 22 after a 14-day construction mission at the international space station.

Bad weather at the Florida launch site forced NASA to divert to the shuttle’s alternate landing site in California. NASA prefers to land shuttles in Florida to avoid the nearly $1.5 million price tag to transport them back.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and

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