After 14 days in space, Space Shuttle Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California at 5:11 am PDT. This was the first manned space flight since the Columbia disaster. On board was Commander Eileen Collins (New York), and astronauts Steve Robinson (California), James Kelly (Iowa), Andy Thomas (Australia), Wendy Lawrence (California), Charlie Camarda (New York), and Soichi Noguchi (Japan).
This flight was not without it’s drama. A one pound chunk of foam fell off the fuel tank during lift off. It was a grim reminded that the flaw that doomed Columbia had not been resolved.
Problem arose during the flight. Filler material began protruding from tiles. A spacewalk was ordered to remove the material. This was done by Steve Robinson and Soichi Noguchi. They removed the material and safely returned to the shuttle. In all the two astronauts made three space walks on this journey. It was the first time this type of spacewalk had been attempted by any astronaut. If you’d like to learn more about space walks, visit these links: Going Out for a Space Walk and Against the Elements
After the filler material problem was fixed, a torn thermal blanket under the cockpit window began to create problems. After assessment by NASA, it was deemed the blanket posed no threat.
The two week adventure included a stop at the International Space Station where supplies were delivered. They also performed some maintenance to the space station.
Discovery was original set to return home on Monday, but bad weather in Florida prevented re-entry. With the weather unchanged, NASA redirected the space shuttle to Edwards Air Force Base. A collective sigh of relief was heard from NASA and throughout the world when the space shuttle touched down and all crew members were safe and sound.
[Photo courtesy of the NASA website: www.nasa.gov]