Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Discovery lands safely at KSC to end 15-day mission


CAPE CANAVERAL - Space shuttle Discovery glided in for a landing at 9:08 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center, wrapping up its resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The crew returned to Earth on a track that carried the shuttle over much of America's heartland for only the second time since the 2003 Columbia disaster.

"Wheels stop, Discovery," Rick Sturckow in Mission Control radioed from Houston to Discovery commander Alan Poindexter.

"Welcome home, Dex. Congratulations to you and the crew on an outstanding mission."

"It was a great mission," Poindexter replied. "We're glad that the International Space Station is stocked up again."

Discovery also brought home two tons of used equipment and science supplies in the Leonardo supply module.

Loud cloud cover blocked Discovery's planned return Monday and forced a wave-off of its first landing attempt today. But the clouds broke and Discovery was given the go-ahead early Tuesday to begin the hour-long plunge that broke its speed from 17,500 mph to 225 mph at touchdown on KSC's runway 33.

This mornings landing took the shuttle over Vancouver, northeast Washington, across Kansas to northeast of Tulsa, Oklahoma and, finally, over Florida east of Gainesville and west of Jacksonville.

The crew included pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Clay Anderson, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki.

There are only three shuttle flights remaining before the fleet's planned retirement later this year. Kennedy Space Center workers are planning to roll space shuttle Atlantis out to the launchpad later today ahead of its planned May 14 mission.

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