HOUSTON -- The crew of Space Shuttle Discovery made it home in time for Christmas, gliding to a perfect landing as the sun set over NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Discovery touched down on Runway 15 of the Shuttle Landing Facility at 4:32 p.m. CST. The crew had spent 12 days, 20 hours and 44 minutes in flight. Discovery's nose gear touched down at 4:32 p.m. exactly, and the shuttle's wheels came to a stop 52 seconds later.
After an afternoon in limbo, weather conditions along Florida's Space Coast took a dramatic turn for the better, giving flight controllers confidence that a band of approaching showers would dissipate before the orbiter's arrival. The first opportunity for landing at Kennedy was waved off because of stormy weather, and first chance at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., passed due to gusty winds.
The landing was the 63rd to touch down in Florida, but did not qualify as a night landing.
Discovery crew members, Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein, and mission specialists Bob Curbeam, Nicholas Patrick, Christer Fuglesang, Joan Higginbotham and Thomas Reiter, who is returning home after about six months on the station, will return to Houston on Saturday. A welcoming ceremony for the crew's return to Houston is planned at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at NASA Hangar 276 at Ellington Field.
During Discovery's mission to the International Space Station, the crew continued construction of the outpost adding the P5 spacer truss segment during the first of four spacewalks. The next two spacewalks rewired the station's power system, preparing it to support the station's final configuration and the arrival of additional science modules. A fourth spacewalk was added to allow the crew to retract solar arrays that had folded improperly.
Discovery also delivered a new crew member and more than two tons of equipment and supplies to the station, most of which were located in the SPACEHAB cargo module. Almost two tons of items no longer needed on the station returned to Earth with STS-116.
The next shuttle mission, targeted for March, will deliver a second starboard truss segment and a third set of solar arrays and batteries during the Space Shuttle Program's 21st mission to the station.
This is the final STS-116 mission status report.