The US space shuttle Endeavour has landed in Florida after a two-week mission to install a new module on the International Space Station. Four remaining US shuttle missions are planned to complete the 12-year effort to assemble the laboratory.
AFP - The US space shuttle Endeavour successfully landed in Florida late Sunday after a two-week mission to install a new module on the International Space Station.
The shuttle touched down on a coastal runway at the Kennedy Space Center here at 10:20 pm (0320 GMT Monday) after the cloudy weather in the area improved enough for Endeavour to be cleared for landing.
"Congratulations on a great mission," Mission Control radioed the six astronauts as the shuttle rolled to a stop.
"It's great to be home," said Endeavour commander George Zamka "It was a great adventure."
As Endeavour's mission ended, NASA was focused on the shuttle's looming retirement and trying to ensure long-running efforts to assemble the International Space Station reach the finish line.
Four remaining US shuttle missions are intended to bring the 12-year effort by the United States and its partners in Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada to assemble and outfit the sprawling orbital laboratory to a close by late September.
The Endeavour astronauts successfully delivered and installed Tranquility, the last of the habitable modules contributed by the United States to the space station.
Working with the five astronauts on the station, the shuttle crew outfitted the new module with critical life support systems, exercise equipment and a roomy observation deck.
They also revived the station's water recovery system, the hardware the recovers drinking water from urine and moisture in the breathing air.
The new observation dome surrounds a control post for the robot arm that will play a crucial role in docking the commercial cargo capsules NASA will rely on to deliver supplies after the shuttle's retirement.
It also offers those living aboard the station unprecedented views of the Earth below.
"Arguably, mankind has been after this view for centuries, this perspective, this view of the world," said Endeavour commander Zamka after his crew completed the installation of Tranquility with three textbook spacewalks.
"We finally have it, and we will take advantage and enjoy it."
President Barack Obama doted over the new Earthly panoramas as he spoke with Zamka and his crew, Terry Virts, Kay Hire, Steve Robinson, Bob Behnken and Nicholas Patrick last week.
The bus-sized new enclosure pushed the total mass of the space station to over one million pounds, or 90 percent of its final weight and 98 percent of the volume at full assembly.
Tranquility, which was named in honor of the lunar landing site explored by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, was built in Italy under the supervision of the European Space Agency.
The Europeans provided the module to NASA in exchange for the 2008 shuttle launch that delivered their Columbus research module to the station.
"It's an amazing facility, and it's very rewarding for all of us to be here at this stage, as we transition from assembly to full utilization," said NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, the station's current commander.
"We all look forward to reaping the benefit of the utilization over the next 10 years or so."
However, the station experienced a succession of command and control computer problems early Sunday, leaving Williams' crew unable to communicate with the Earth for an hour, a reminder of the station's remote status. Mission Control was investigating.
The remaining shuttle flights are intended to stock the station with research gear and spare parts to keep the outpost operating well after the final mission, which is set for late September.
Date created : 2010-02-22