Florida wanted the landing, but the dry lake bed of the California desert had the better weather. After 14 days in space, Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the primary backup site to the Kennedy Space Center.
Bill Parsons said, "Today we honor the Columbia crew. It’s a great day. If you want to know how I feel, I feel fantastic."
But despite Discovery's successes, NASA will now focus less on what went right on this mission and more on what went wrong. Two minutes after liftoff, pieces of foam broke from the shuttle's external fuel tank.
Mike Griffin said, "I think there are five places where foam came off the tank. I don't like that, but I think that is the only thing that went wrong in this mission."
In 2003, it was a broken piece of foam on liftoff that struck space shuttle Columbia, which later disintegrated during re-entry. In other ways Discovery delivered, hauling in 15 tons of supplies for the International Space Station.
On spacewalks, the crew replaced and fixed the station's gyroscopes. Astronaut Steve Robinson went under the shuttle's belly.
It looks like the big patient is cured. Pulling out two protruding gap fillers. NASA engineers worried without a spacewalk; the gap fillers could cause overheating during Discovery's return.
And now that the shuttle is safely back on Earth's surface it'll take nine days to get Discovery back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, then the arduous task of fixing problems so the next launch can take place.
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