Sunday, February 21, 2010

Endeavour lands upon America's Space Coast

Endeavour returns home to the Kennedy Space Center (NASA)

Dropping out of a dark Florida sky and through scattered clouds, the space shuttle Endeavour landed this evening following a milestone mission which saw her crew install our window on space and the world.

NASA's Spaceflight Meteorology Group kept their eyes on the weather all through the day, as several cloud decks and nearby rain showers threatened to delay the shuttle's landing in both Florida and her alternate landing site in California.

Endeavour glided over the Florida peninsula and into the Kennedy Space Center where her main gear slammed upon runway 15 at 10:20:31 pm EST, concluding a 5.75 million mile flight to the International Space Station.

"Houston, it's great to be home. It was a great adventure," Endeavour's commander George Zamaka exclaimed after the orbiter stopped.

"The landing today went as smooth as you can hope for... by the numbers," Shuttle Launch Integration Manager Mike Moses stated tonight after the crew departed the orbiter.

One of the interesting aspects as Endeavour left orbit and began reentry into the earth's atmosphere at 9:51 pm, was station astronaut Soichi Noguchi's photograph (below) which he sent to the ground via Twitter.

Noguchi, 216 miles aboard the space station, commented after the landing about his photograph, "I watched the shuttle atmospheric reentry from Cupola window. The view was definitely out-of-the-world. (Here) Space Shuttle Endeavour making S-turn during atmospheric reentry. The first time it was photographed from Space."

This STS-130 flight was Endeavour's twenty-fourth space flight, and was her tenth to the space station. Total mission duration since booster ignition was 13 days, 18 hours, 6 minutes and 24 seconds thru wheels stop at 10:22:10 pm.

Zamaka's crew included pilot Terry Virts and Mission Specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken.

"It was an outstanding mission. I can't be happier with the success we had and look forward to repeating that on our next mission," Moses added later as he bridged over to the next space shuttle flight this April 5th by Discovery.

Endeavour only has one more space flight left this summer before she is retired. The space shuttle program as a whole has only four flights left with discussion of a possible extra flight under review.

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