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Wed, Jul 19, 2006

NASA Basks In Success Of Discovery Mission

And Readies For Atlantis In August

It's happy-happy joy-joy time at NASA... as astronauts, scientists, and engineers bask in the glow of a successful second return to flight.

In fact, the Associated Press reports there's a poster floating around that says "We're BAAAACK!" at the Johnson Space Center in Houston... a sentiment that echoes through the halls of the space agency.

"This is as good a mission as we've ever flown," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

Griffin, as well as mission commander Steve Lindsey, say the hard-earned lessons of Columbia paid off in this second return to flight.

"We obviously have learned the technical lessons of Columbia," Lindsey said. "We're still learning them ... but more importantly we've learned the cultural, organizational lessons of Columbia and that's the one thing we don't ever want to ever forget."

Foam, for the most part, stayed where it belongs on the external fuel tank. And in-flight repair techniques -- should a shuttle be damaged during launch -- appear effective.

Next up on the launch pad: Atlantis, scheduled for another construction-related mission to the International Space Station. The window for that launch has been moved up a day, to August 27... meaning NASA has very little time to bask in its success before it gets ready to do it all over again.

On the runway at Kennedy Space Center Monday morning, however, Discovery's crew took a moment to appreciate the mission they'd flown. Astronaut Pier Sellers said the most satisfying moment of the mission... at least for him... was when the crew exchanged smiles at the end of the flight.

"We all stopped, frankly, and said 'We're done,'" Sellers said. "'We did it.'"

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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