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Space Shuttle Discovery lands in Florida

Space Shuttle Discovery touches down at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida after a 15-day mission.

world Updated: Nov 08, 2007 11:26 IST
DPA

The Space Shuttle Discovery touched down at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida after a 15-day mission that focused on construction of the International Space Station.

Discovery, with a seven-member crew led by Pamela Melroy, the second woman to command a shuttle, landed at 18:01 GMT on Wednesday.

"Well hello there, it's nice to be back in Florida," Melroy, who steered the craft to the runway, said over the radio after the safe landing.

NASA administrator Mike Griffin at a press conference after Discovery returned home called it a "spot-on landing on a perfect day" and praised the astronauts for their work and flexibility in fixing problems that arose during the mission.

There was very little obvious damage to the shuttle during re-entry or landing, leaving it in "one of the best" conditions of any returning shuttle since the programme resumed following the Columbia explosion in 2003, NASA officials said.

After arriving at the ISS on Oct 25, the Discovery crew conducted four spacewalks, installing a new Italian-made module and moving a solar panel.

The Harmony linking module is due to be used in December for docking the European space laboratory Columbus.

Discovery astronauts installed it in a temporary location because their shuttle was blocking what is to be its permanent home. The ISS crew will now move the Harmony module to its permanent position to make way for further expansion of the station.

Space Shuttle Atlantis was to be moved to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral on Saturday in preparation for its own 11-day mission to the ISS set to begin on December 6.

The Discovery shuttle's home journey came after a final and risky spacewalk by US astronauts Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock on Saturday to repair a damaged solar array which was vital for assuring sufficient electricity supplies for the ISS.

The solar panel -- the oldest on the ISS -- was ripped while astronauts were trying to move and deploy it earlier during the mission. The mishap prompted NASA ground control to change the remaining spacewalks, eliminating one and changing the purpose of another that was originally intended to repair a joint problem on another solar panel. After the repairs, the solar panel was working properly.

Crewmember Daniel Tani remained behind on the ISS as its newest resident, and Clayton Anderson, who has lived aboard the station since June, returned to earth with Discovery.