The shuttle Discovery, delayed a day by cloudy Florida weather, blazed across the heartland of America Tuesday, gliding to a pinpoint landing at the Kennedy Space Center to close out an extended space station assembly mission.
Approaching the spaceport from the northwest, commander Alan Poindexter took over manual control at an altitude of 50,000 feet, guiding the shuttle through a 200-degree left turn to line up on runway 33. After giving pilot James Dutton a few moments of stick time, Poindexter flew the shuttle to a picture-perfect touchdown at 9:08:35 a.m. EDT.
The 131st shuttle mission covered 238 complete orbits and 6.2 million miles since blastoff April 5 for a mission duration of 15 days two hours 47 minutes and 10 seconds, Spaceflight Now reports.
Returning with Cmdr Poindexter were pilot James Dutton, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, and mission specialists Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson.
During the 15-day mission, Discovery and her crew re-supplied the ISS with new sleeping quarters, a fresh ammonia tank, and a selection of equipment racks.Only three more shuttle missions remain on NASA’s flight schedule before the fleet is officially retired at the end of 2010, The Tech Herald informs.