NASA calls shuttle Discovery mission 'very successful'

Space shuttle lands safely after 13-day mission to boost power at International Space Station

With the space shuttle Discovery safely on the ground after a 13-day space venture that had the crew taking three spacewalks and upping the power at the International Space Station, NASA is calling it a "very successful" mission.

Discovery and its seven-member crew landed at Kennedy Space Center at 3:14 p.m. EDT Saturday. The shuttle initially had been scheduled to land at 1:39 p.m. but was waved off 15 minutes before it was set to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere because of inclement weather and strong winds at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to Lynnette Madison, a NASA spokeswoman.

The crew took the shuttle on one more orbit around the Earth and then came in for the successful landing.

"It was very much a successful mission," said Madison. "We're ready for a six-person crew [on the space station] now. We have our solar arrays up. It was all very successful."

The space shuttle undocked from the space station last Wednesday after nearly eight days at the orbiter. On their mission, the Discovery and space station crews worked together to unload and install the final piece of the space station's backbone, a S6 truss. A 5,000-pound pair of solar arrays, that went into space attached to the truss, were also unfurled and connected to the station.

The solar arrays will produce enough energy to power 42 2,800-square-feet homes. That will double the amount of power that goes to science experiments onboard the station.

It also means that the space station now can support a crew of six to eight astronauts. There has been a permanent crew of three astronauts on the station but that is expected to be bumped up to six this May.

Now that the shuttle is on the ground, a member of NASA's astronaut support team has been onboard the vehicle shutting down its computers, while other team members handle the rest of the shuttle's systems, according to Madison.

Hours before the shuttle landed, a Russian spacecraft docked with the space station.

The Expedition 19 crew, which includes a space tourist, flew to the station aboard the Soyuz TMA-14 capsule after launching Friday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The space tourist is Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft executive who helped develop both Microsoft Word and Excel. Simonyi is on his second space flight.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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