With Commander Mark Kelly at the stick, Discovery touched down on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility, completing a 5.7-million-mile journey that included delivery of the major element of Japan’s science laboratory “Kibo.” Astronaut Garrett Reisman returned home after 95 days in space – 90 of which were aboard the station.
Weather was not a concern today as the Spaceflight Meteorology Group evaluated conditions around the landing site with real-time observations by Chief Astronaut Steve Lindsey flying a Gulfstream business jet that mimics the shuttle’s landing characteristics.
Discovery’s 35th mission began at 4:02 p.m. on May 31 with liftoff from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A just three miles east of the landing strip. The shuttle will head back to its hangar where it will be readied for the STS-119 mission in early 2009 to deliver the final pair of solar arrays to the space station.
The 26th shuttle mission dedicated to assembly and maintenance of the station included delivery of the 32,558-pound Kibo and three spacewalks, totaling 20 hours, 32 minutes bringing the total for 112 spacewalks devoted to assembly to more than 706 hours.
Left behind on the station is the Expedition 17 crew, Commander Sergei Volkov, Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko and Reisman’s replacement, Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff, who will spend the next five months on the station until his return home aboard Endeavour on the next station mission scheduled for November (STS-126).
The well-choreographed mission of Discovery was carried out by Kelly and his crew, Pilot Ken Ham and Mission Specialists Mike Fossum, Ron Garan, Karen Nyberg and Japan’s Aki Hoshide who led the activities of bringing his country’s laboratory to life after installation at its permanent base 220 miles above the Earth.
Discovery’s main landing gear touched down at 10:15:19 a.m., followed by the nose gear at 10:15:30. Wheels stopped at 10:16:19 a.m., bringing the mission’s elapsed time to 13 days, 18 hours, 13 minutes, 7 seconds.
The crew is scheduled to return to Houston’s Ellington Field on Sunday with a welcome home ceremony planned for about 4 p.m. at Hangar 990 at the north end of the field.