Shuttle Returns Safely To Earth - InformationWeek

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Shuttle Returns Safely To Earth

Discovery touches down at Kennedy Space Center after 15 days in space.

Space shuttle Discovery glided to a perfect landing Tuesday, one day after rain and clouds thwarted its initial attempt to touch down at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

With commander Alan Poindexter and pilot James Dutton at the helm, Discovery's main gear kissed the tarmac at Kennedy at 9:08:35 a.m. EDT, followed by the nose gear 12 seconds later, according to NASA.

The shuttle arrived at Kennedy via a route that took it across the northwest, through middle America, and into the southeast coast. NASA officials called off Monday's scheduled landing due to heavy overcast skies and precipitation around Kennedy.

Discovery wrapped up a 15-day mission that saw its crew perform a range of maintenance tasks at the International Space Station. The astronauts last week successfully delivered a container holding eight tons of cargo to the ISS.

Mission specialists Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki used the ISS's robotic arm to attach the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony node.

The module contains science racks for use in the various labs throughout the station, new sleeping quarters and other supplies. The reusable module will become a permanent part of the space station following the next shuttle mission.

Discovery safely docked with the ISS despite the loss of a radar system designed to assist with the maneuver.

The shuttle's Integrated Radar and Communications System, or "Ku band" radar, experienced what NASA officials called an "anomaly" shortly after the spacecraft's liftoff from Kennedy on April 5.

The space agency, however, said shuttle crews are trained to dock with the ISS without the radar's help.

Only three more shuttle flights remain before the vehicles are retired at the end of this year and flights to the space station are turned over to private launch contractors.

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