Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas
HOUSTON - The seven member crew of Endeavour returned to Earth today, landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Mission managers waived landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning, the shuttle's primary landing site. Thunderstorms and strong winds prevented Endeavour from attempting either of the two opportunities for Kennedy, and the shuttle was diverted to Edwards.
Endeavour's main landing gear touched down at 3:25:06 p.m., followed by the nose gear at 3:25:21 p.m. The shuttle's wheels stopped at 3:26:03 p.m., bringing the mission's elapsed time to 15 days, 20 hours, 30 minutes, 34 seconds. Endeavour traveled 6,615,109 miles during its journey.
Endeavour Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Don Pettit, Steve Bowen, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Shane Kimbrough and Greg Chamitoff spent the morning preparing for today's deorbit burn and landing. Chamitoff is returning after serving aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer for the past six months. Chamitoff spent 183 days in space, 179 aboard the station.
Endeavour's mission delivered and installed equipment critical to allow the station's crew to double in size to six persons next year. The new gear includes a water recovery system, which will allow urine and other condensate to be purified and converted into water for the crew's use. Endeavour returned with samples of the processed water for experts in Houston to analyze before it is approved for use by the crew.
Endeavour's astronauts also repaired and serviced crucial rotating joints for the station's giant solar arrays. During four spacewalks, the astronauts lubricated and cleaned the joints that allow the arrays to automatically track the sun.
Endeavour will be mated to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft this week and be flown back to the Kennedy Space Center to be prepared for its next launch.