Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas
HOUSTON - After boosting the International Space Station to full power, the seven member crew of Discovery returned to Earth today, threading the weather needle for a landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Mission managers waved off the first landing opportunity due to gusty winds and clouds at the Shuttle Landing Facility, but took advantage of improved conditions to land on the second opportunity at 2:14 p.m. CDT Saturday.
Discovery's main landing gear touched down at 2:13:17 p.m., followed by the nose gear at 2:13:40 p.m. The shuttle's wheels stopped at 2:14:45 p.m., bringing the mission's elapsed time to 12 days, 19 hours, 29 minutes, 33 seconds. Discovery traveled 5,304,140 miles during its journey.
Discovery Commander Lee Archambault, Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Joe Acaba, Richard Arnold, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, and Sandra Magnus spent the morning preparing for today's deorbit burn and landing. Magnus is returning after serving aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer for the past four months. Magnus spent 134 days in space, 129 of them on the station. Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency Astronaut Koichi Wakata launched aboard Discovery, and remains on the station as a member of the Expedition 18 and 19 crews.
Discovery's mission delivered and installed the final set of solar arrays to the space station, which is working well as it continues through its checkout period. In addition, the shuttle crew delivered and helped install a replacement Distillation Assembly centrifuge for the station's water recycling system, which so far is functioning well. Discovery is carrying several liters of samples processed from urine by the Water Recovery System for purity analysis on the ground. Both the solar arrays and the recycling system are key elements that will support the doubling of the station's crew size to six this summer.
Over the course of three spacewalks, Discovery's astronauts also activated a Global Positioning System antenna that will allow Japan's HII Transfer Vehicle to rendezvous with the station later this year, and set the stage for future assembly tasks by station and shuttle crews.
Discovey's crew is scheduled to return home to its Houston base on Sunday, arriving at Ellington Field's Hangar 990 about 4 p.m. CDT. The public is invited to the ceremony.