NASA's Erstwhile Orbiter Returns Home
ANN REALTIME REPORTING 06.14.08 1120 EDT: She's
home. Minutes ago, the space shuttle Discovery landed on Runway 15
at the Shuttle Landing Facility near Kennedy Space Center, FL.
The orbiter re-entered Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean.
Tracking northeast over Cancun, and just west of Cuba (the latter
move requiring a deviation from a straight course, in order to
avoid an overflight through that country's airspace) the shuttle
became visible from ground level as it crossed into the United
States just over Naples, FL.
STS-124 pilot Ken Hamm flew a looping course over the SLF,
aligning the orbiter on a GPS approach to 15. Commander Mark Kelly
then took over again for the actual landing.
"Discovery goes subsonic on a sun-kissed Saturday morning,
announcing her arrival over the landing facility," NASA TV's
announcer waxed poetic as two sonic booms echoed over central
The STS-124 crew arrived at the station June 2, delivering the
Japanese Pressurized Module, the second pressurized component of
the Kibo laboratory, to the station. The Kibo lab is the largest
part of the space station, and joins modules from the US, Russia
and the European Space Agency.
The shuttle also brought a new crew member to the ISS. Greg
Chamitoff joined Expedition 17, replacing fellow American Garrett
Reisman. Chamitoff will return on shuttle Endeavour's STS-126
mission, targeted for launch November 10.
STS-124 was the 123rd space shuttle flight, the 35th flight for
shuttle Discovery and the 26th flight of a shuttle to the
With Discovery and its crew safely home, the stage is set for
the launch of STS-125 on October 8. Atlantis' mission will return
the space shuttle to the Hubble Space Telescope for one last visit
before the shuttle fleet retires in 2010.