Touchdown!

By: Jennifer Donelan
By: Jennifer Donelan

Commander Eileen Collins brought the shuttle through the early morning darkness and piloted Discovery to a picture perfect touchdown at Edwards Air Force Base.

Even though bad weather had scrapped earlier plans to land in Florida, NASA officials were elated by Discovery's mission.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said, "Everywhere you look was nothing but outstanding success."

Commander Collins didn't waste much time.

“The successful landing was an upbeat ending to a mission that had more than its share of nervous moments."

During their flight, the crew had to remove protruding gap filler from the shuttle's belly. NASA worried this material could cause dangerous overheating.

More disturbing were the chunks of foam that fell off the shuttle's external fuel tank during launch. Similar debris had damaged Colombia's wing in 2003.

After the Colombia disaster, NASA spent more than two years and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to fix the problem. They failed, and the entire fleet is grounded.

But Discovery does have one more journey; it will be transported back to Florida where its adventure began, with NASA hoping to ride to new heights on the wings of this successful mission.


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