Endeavour and its five astronauts returned home to the Kennedy Space Center Monday evening, wrapping up a mission that delivered first set of U.S.-provided solar arrays to the Expedition One crew aboard the International Space Station, increasing power to the complex five fold in setting the stage for future station assembly.
Commander Brent Jett guided Endeavour to a landing at 5:03 p.m. Central time, 36 minutes after sunset, wrapping up a 4,476,164 million mile (7,203,687 kilometers) mission that saw three space walks conducted to install, checkout and activate the first of four planned sets of solar arrays that will operate on the facility. Jett and his crewmates, Pilot Mike Bloomfield and Mission Specialists Marc Garneau, Joe Tanner and Carlos Noriega touched down on Runway 15 at the Florida spaceport to wrap up the fifth and final shuttle flight of the year, heralding their arrival with an early evening twin sonic boom as the shuttle went subsonic just minutes before reaching its landing strip.
It was the 16th night landing in shuttle program history.
Four minutes before landing, the International Space station flew almost directly over Kennedy Space Center, with the Expedition One crew of Bill Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev asleep, having completed their 41st day in space and their 39th day aboard the international outpost. They are due to be awakened just after midnight Central time to begin a day highlighted by the reconfiguration of systems to accept the new supply of power from the huge solar wings on the station.
The five crew members are scheduled to be reunited with their families within a few hours of landing and will spend the night near the Kennedy Space Center to relax. The crew is scheduled to return to Houston and a welcoming ceremony at Ellington Field about 4 p.m. Central time Tuesday.
With Endeavour's landing, the stage is set for the next shuttle flight of Atlantis in about five and a half weeks to deliver the U.S. Laboratory "Destiny" to the International Space Station, the cornerstone of scientific research on the growing complex.
The next status report, previewing activities aboard the International Space Station, will be issued on Thursday, or sooner, if events warrant. An Expedition One Mission Status Briefing with Lead Flight Director Jeff Hanley will be held at the Johnson Space Center on Friday, December 15 at 3 p.m. Central time and will broadcast on NASA Television with multicenter question and answer capability from other NASA centers.
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