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Discovery returns safely to Earth

Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of six returned to Earth through overcast skies on Monday, ending a successful mission that put NASA back in the space station construction business.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2006 13:11 IST
AP

Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of six returned to Earth through overcast skies on Monday, ending a successful mission that put NASA back in the space station construction business. 

Discovery landed at Kennedy Space Center at 9:14 am (1314 GMT) in only the second shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia disaster. "Welcome back Discovery and congratulations on a great mission," Mission Control told shuttle commander Steven Lindsey after Discovery rolled to a stop.

 SMART BOX

Space odyssey

• First shuttle landing at Kennedy Air Force Base in nearly four years

• The shuttle carried up seven astronauts, but left the space station on Saturday with six

• German astronaut Thomas Reiter was left behind at ISS for a half-year stay, joining two other men there

• The Discovery crew conducted three spacewalks. A crane was used to check the shuttle's entire thermal armour for any damage from launch or orbital debris



"It was a great mission, a really great mission, and enjoyed the entry and the landing," Lindsey replied.

The shuttle came in from the south, swooping over the Pacific, Yucatan Peninsula, Gulf of Mexico and across Florida to cap a 8.53-million-km journey that began on July 4.

A last-minute build-up of clouds prompted NASA to switch the shuttle's direction for landing.

By the time Discovery approached, it was so cloudy, Lindsey could not spot the runway until about a minute before landing. 

At touchdown, hoots and whistles came from the few hundred astronauts' relatives and space centre workers who had gathered at the runway.