By Irene K.

CAPE CANAVERAL | Fri Jul 2, 2010 9:03pm EDT

CAPE CANAVERAL Florida (Reuters) - NASA on Thursday postponed the final two missions of the space shuttle program until November and February due to delays preparing the last load of spare parts for the International Space Station.

Shuttle Discovery's launch on a cargo resupply mission will be postponed from September to November 1, under a plan approved by NASA managers.

Sister ship..., carrying the $1.5 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector, is now set to fly on February 26 on the program's 134th and final mission.

NASA initially planned to retire its three-ship fleet by the end of 2010. Congress is, however, expected to give the space agency a $600 million cushion to ease its deadline pressures.

NASA has also managed to trim the program's $200 million monthly costs to extend shuttle operations into March 2011.

The United States is retiring the shuttles primarily due to high operating costs. The Obama administration is pushing for Congress to approve a controversial plan to fly astronauts on commercial spacecraft, freeing NASA to focus on developing bigger rockets and new technologies needed for future missions to asteroids, Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

NASA also had to pick launch dates that did not conflict with Russian, European and Japanese missions to the station or previously scheduled rocket launches and other activities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which provides critical support services for shuttle flights.

"There's so much traffic around the station it ultimately made the most sense to pick November 1," said NASA spokesman Kyle Herring. Discovery's delay, in turn, bumped... flight from November to February.

A proposal for an additional station cargo run on shuttle Atlantis, which will be prepared as an emergency rescue vehicle for the... crew, is pending, with a decision expected in August, Herring said.

(Editing by Todd E.)

Experts had predicted when the crisis began that..., with its huge slice of the global drugs trade... would see more demand for loan-sharking.

But the report said mobsters had also been able to launder their earnings by buying up cheap assets and had found a cheap and willing workforce among the newly unemployed.

"In times of crisis the Mafia's money, even though it is dirty, makes people's mouth water," the report says.

... research arm... citing data from police, mob informants, magistrates, government agencies and its own network across the country, said the boom had been so strong that organized crime may target the... to launder its money.

"There is a risk the Mafia could take advantage of the difficulties of some large business groups who are undergoing a liquidity crisis to attempt to get into the stock market behind the scenes in a big way," said the report.

MOB "SHOPPING SPREE"

It estimated the mob's joint turnover last year at 135 billion..., topped by trafficking in drugs, people, weapons and contraband worth just under 68 billion... Second came "business" interests like public contracts, gambling, forgeries and supplying illegal labor at 25 billion..., then extortion and loan sharking at 25 billion...

Robbery and fraud represented just 1 billion... of the total business and prostitution brought in 600 million... The mob laid out 1.17 billion in wages and 2.75 billion on corrupting officials, invested 26 billion and laundered an estimated 19.5 billion, the researchers said.

Total "profits" ran to an estimated 78 billion... said there was a risk that with the prices of property, stocks and bonds and companies themselves brought down by the crisis, mobsters could use profits from recession-proof activities like drugs to "go on a financial shopping spree."

The group portrayed an increasingly sophisticated business environment, with mobsters diversifying away from traditional areas like public contracts, property and construction.

While the mob is still essentially clan-based... there was "a sort of criminal career" where a bodyguard could become a godfather, and in the slums...the child drug runners... grow up in gangs where "pushing is considered a real job giving them independent economic status."

(Writing by Stephen Brown; Editing by Ralph...)