SpaceX launches 5,800 pounds of supplies to the space station — but misses the landing

ORLANDO, Fla. — As 5,800 pounds of supplies successfully headed to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral Wednesday, SpaceX’s rocket booster zoomed back to Earth, making an unexpected splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.

The mission, from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, took off at 12:16 p.m. CT Wednesday after a last-minute rodent-related delay this week. On Tuesday, mold was found on food bars for an experiment on the ISS involving about 40 mice that was set to analyze how space and aging relate.

Teams were able to replace the bars before the launch.

Shortly after takeoff Wednesday, the booster that powered SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which was carrying the supplies in its Dragon spacecraft, separated and started to chart a return. It was projected to land back at Landing Zone 1 in the Cape.

But one of the booster’s grid fins malfunctioned, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday, causing the booster to spin erratically. It was able to stabilize before landing in the Atlantic Ocean about two miles offshore.

“Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea,” Musk tweeted. “Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship dispatched.”

The booster may still be reusable, Musk said, indicating on Twitter that the company may use it for an “internal” SpaceX launch.

To prevent the problem in the future, the mogul said the company may add a backup pump to the fins to ensure they work properly.

In a post-launch briefing, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, Hans Koenigsmann, said the booster’s safety mechanism worked as planned.

The failed landing was a first for a return-to-launch-site landing. The company has had 11 successful land landings — with Wednesday’s being the first unsuccessful one. SpaceX also lands boosters on its drone ships in the ocean.

— Orlando Sentinel

As Catholic Supply murder suspect appears in court, West County store reopens

ST. LOUIS — As an accused murderer made a brief court appearance Wednesday in Clayton, Mo., a Catholic Supply store that was the scene of the brutal attack 16 days ago reopened for business.

The doors to the store, in a strip mall on Manchester Road, were opened at 9 a.m. Wednesday, as a bevy of TV reporters looked on. Four or five customers came in the first 10 minutes to show their support. Store officials asked the media to stay outside.

On a sidewalk just outside the store sat a makeshift memorial of roses, some days old and wilting, and a figurine of a snowman playing the piano. One woman paused for a moment near the flowers and made the sign of the cross.

The reopening came one day after Archbishop Robert Carlson blessed the store and prayed with police and relatives of victims.

A police chaplain who attended Tuesday’s blessing of the store, Byron Watson, said the private gathering had a common theme: “Evil will not win.”

Thomas Bruce, 53, of rural Jefferson County, has been charged with first-degree murder and multiple counts of sodomy, armed criminal action, kidnapping, burglary and tampering with evidence in the crime at the Catholic Supply store. He is being held without bail.

Bruce entered the store pretending to be a customer on Nov. 19, officials say. He left, then re-entered with a gun, prosecutors say. He ordered the three women in the store to the back of the store and made them take their clothes off at gunpoint. He forced two victims to perform sex acts at gunpoint, and tried to do the same with Jamie Schmidt, a customer from House Springs, killing her when she refused, authorities say.

Schmidt, 53, may have been there to buy supplies for a project to crochet rosaries for fellow parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in High Ridge, where she was in the choir, a friend said.

On Wednesday, Bruce appeared in court for a routine hearing.

Brice Donnelly, a public defender, represented Bruce in the brief appearance. A preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 23.

Bruce will plead not guilty, Donnelly said.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Granger’s son retracts comments on mom’s appropriations post

WASHINGTON — Rep. Kay Granger’s son is walking back comments he made earlier this week in which he expressed optimism that his mom’s new post on the Appropriations Committee would help him secure federal funding to finish a controversial city flood-protection project in Fort Worth, Texas.

J.D. Granger, the executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority, also backtracked on his suggestion that his mother, an 11th-term Texas Republican, would retire upon the project’s completion.

“Regretfully, I misspoke in a recent interview referring to Congresswoman Granger retiring after the federal funding has been secured for the Central City Project,” J.D. Granger said in a statement to Roll Call.

“The Congresswoman is looking forward to providing her constituents with the same strong leadership she has been known for since being elected to Congress over twenty years ago. While the Congresswoman’s recent appointment in the House Appropriations Committee is great news for Fort Worth, it does not guarantee the remaining federal funds needed to complete the project. We will continue to work with Congress to secure federal money for this important flood control project.”

On Monday, Granger was selected by GOP leadership to be the next ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee that is responsible for passing the 12 government spending bills each year. Part of that spending package includes approving projects for federal assistance through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

J.D. Granger, the congresswoman’s son, has led Fort Worth’s “Panther Island” flood prevention project.

As part of the plan, architects will dig and fortify an extra channel to bypass a dogleg in the Trinity River just north of downtown. When connected with the river’s natural dogleg, the channel will create a new island, “Panther Island,” where officials have planned to install flood protection gates and prime nearly 2,400 acres of land for economic development opportunities.

The project has taken more than 15 years and blown past the original projected budget of $360 million. Local officials have estimated that they will need an additional $400 million in federal aid to complete the project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers excluded the Panther Island project from its list of projects to fund in 2019. The House and Senate appropriations committees have ultimate authority to decide what projects the Corps funds.

“Today is a great day. … This is the day we have been looking for right now,” J.D. Granger said in an interview with NBC Dallas-Fort Worth on Monday. “Our goal, our commitment to this community, was to get this project on autopilot. When this thing is on autopilot we both get to retire. I’m out of here,” he said, suggesting his mother could retire once the project is completed.

But in a follow-up statement to Roll Call, the congresswoman’s spokeswoman said Granger’s appointment to lead Republicans on the Appropriations Committee does nothing to change her view of the project. She also said its completion would have no bearing on her future in Congress.

— CQ-Roll Call