Discovery lands at Kennedy Space Center

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Discovery touches down at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

Space shuttle Discovery landed at Cape Canaveral at 9:14 a.m. (1314 UTC) yesterday. It returned after a thirteen day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The mission was used to provide thousands of pounds of supplies to the ISS and brought thousands of pounds of trash and discarded equipment back to Earth.

The shuttle, which was orbiting the Earth with the engine facing forward, fired the engines briefly to slow down and begin the descent, flipping its nose forward to prepare for the landing.

As Discovery descended into the atmosphere, parts of the shuttle's outer surfaces were heated to temperatures of about 3000°F (1650°C). The shuttle executed a series of computer controlled S curves to slow down to the landing speed.

The shuttle neared the landing strip at an angle 7 times steeper and a speed 20 times faster than a commercial aircraft.

The space shuttle was welcomed by hoots and whistles from the few hundred astronauts' relatives and space center workers as it landed on the 3 mile (4.8 kilometre) long runway

"It was a fun entry — it was beautiful," radioed mission commander Colonel Lindsey as he prepared to leave the shuttle.

"Just because we’re going to be back to flight doesn't mean we're going to change the way we're operating," he said. "We're going to be very careful, very cautious, look at everything — and we'll leave no stone unturned as we continue with this program."

This is the second space shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster.

A further 16 shuttle missions are scheduled for completing the space station before the fleet is retired in 2010.

“This shows that with appropriate care and vigilance, the odds of operating the shuttle with acceptable risk are good,” said John M. Logsdon, the director of the space policy institute at George Washington University.

“It doesn’t mean the shuttle is safe,” he added. “The shuttle will remain a very risky vehicle, to be operated with extreme care.”

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