Watch Shuttle Landing Live: Space shuttle Endeavour – The space shuttle Endeavour landed safely at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) July 31 following a 16-day mission to service and continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).
“You are a steely-eyed hero,” radioed STS-127 Commander Mark Polansky as fellow astronaut Alan Poindexter radioed the go for a deorbit burn from Mission Control Center-Houston.
A few tropical showers within 30 nautical miles of the shuttle landing strip at KSC briefly threatened the first landing attempt, but moved away in time for the deorbit burn at 9:41 a.m. EDT. Polansky’s remark apparently was a reference to the repeated weather delays he and his crew endured before their July 15 liftoff.
Endeavour’s two Orbital Maneuvering System engines fired for two minutes, 51 seconds to slow the shuttle enough for it to drop out of orbit and back into the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean. The route back to Florida took the seven astronauts onboard north from the South Pacific, over Costa Rica, Cuba and South Florida to a broad left turn into Runway 15 at KSC. Touchdown came at 10:48 a.m.
“Congratulations on a superb mission from beginning to end,” Poindexter radioed as the wheels stopped. “Very well done.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” Polansky said. “We’re very happy to be home.”
The landing wrapped up one of the most complex orbital spaceflight missions to date, combining five spacewalks with a series of intricate maneuvers to install and outfit the exposed facility on Japan’s Kibo laboratory module, deliver three large station spare parts against the day when the shuttle will no longer be flying, and replace the oldest set of six batteries on the orbiting facility.
Endeavour also delivered NASA’s Tim Kopra to his long-duration post as a member of the station crew, and returned Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata to Earth after his four-month stay on the ISS.
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