Welcome to NASA's STS-124 Landing Blog
Space shuttle Discovery glided to a pinpoint touchdown at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 14, 2008, ending the two-week-long STS-124 mission to the International Space Station. Commander Mark Kelly guided the spacecraft toward a flawless landing on Kennedy's Runway 15 at 11:15 p.m. EDT.
Video highlights from the STS-124 landing are selected from televised coverage provided by NASA TV.
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All times are given in Eastern Time unless otherwise noted.
1:10 p.m. - Nearly two hours after Discovery's smooth touchdown at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the STS-124 crew members have left the runway in the same silver "Astrovan" that delivered them to the launch pad two weeks ago. This concludes our coverage of today's landing, which wrapped up a 5.7-million-mile mission to the International Space Station.
1:06 p.m. - "It's great to be here on the runway in sunny Florida, and to bring Discovery back in really good shape," said Commander Mark Kelly before the STS-124 crew departed the runway. "We installed a Japanese lab that will allow a lot more science on the station, we did three spacewalks, and we exchanged the crew of the space station. It was really an exciting mission, and we're glad to be back here in Florida."
1:00 p.m. - The astronauts are walking around and beneath Discovery now, taking a look at the orbiter that served them well in orbit and brought them safely home earlier today.
12:58 p.m. - Led by Commander Mark Kelly, the STS-124 crew members -- including Garrett Reisman, home from a three-month stay at the International Space Station -- have exited the crew transport vehicle and are shaking hands with several NASA managers who have gathered at the runway to greet and congratulate the returning astronauts.
12:40 p.m. - As the convoy crew members continue to prepare Discovery for the move to its processing facility, we await the exit of the astronauts from the crew transport vehicle. They will get a chance to take a look at the shuttle before heading to the crew quarters.
12:10 p.m. - The crew is undergoing preliminary medical checks before exiting the crew transport vehicle to take a look at Discovery on the runway. They enter the crew transport vehicle through an environmentally-controlled "white room" that connects to the side of the orbiter's crew module. Items from the crew module, including experiments and the astronauts' personal items, are removed from the orbiter through the white room as well.
11:55 a.m. - All seven crew members are off Discovery and are inside the crew transport vehicle.
11:46 a.m. - About 30 minutes after Discovery's flawless landing, the orbiter's hatch is open and the crew is leaving the vehicle.
11:35 a.m. - Inside Discovery's crew module, the astronauts are taking off their orange launch-and-entry suits and preparing to leave the orbiter.
11:19 a.m. - With Discovery safely back on the ground at Kennedy Space Center, the landing convoy is rolling slowly onto the runway.
Before the crew can exit Discovery, safety teams have to check vapor levels around the orbiter to ensure there are no buildups of explosive or toxic gases. The next step will be to pump cool, humidified air into the payload bay and other areas to remove any remaining fumes.
11:16 a.m. - Wheelstop. "Roger, wheelstop Discovery," CAPCOM Terry Virts responded to Commander Mark Kelly's call. "Beautiful landing, Mark, and congratulations on a great mission."
"It's great to be back, great for all of us to be part of a great team and to leave the station a little bit bigger and a little bit more capable," Kelly replied.
11:15 a.m. - Touchdown! Discovery is rolling out on Kennedy Space Center's runway 15, capping a successful two-week, 5.7-million-mile mission to add Japan's Pressurized Module for its Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station.
11:14 a.m. - Discovery's landing gear is down and locked and the orbiter is on target for touchdown in less than a minute. The orbiter will be traveling nearly 200 miles per hour at main gear touchdown.
11:12 a.m. - Two distinct sonic booms -- a returning shuttle's signature greeting -- just echoed across Kennedy Space Center, heralding Discovery's approach. Three minutes from touchdown.
11:11 a.m. - Commander Mark Kelly is now flying Discovery, guiding the orbiter through a 244-degree turn to the left to align with the centerline of runway 15.
11:10 a.m. - Five minutes to touchdown.
11:08 a.m. - Six minutes to touchdown, Discovery is 75 miles away from the runway, flying west of Florida's Lake Okeechobee.
11:05 a.m. - Ten minutes to go until touchdown, Discovery is 265 nautical miles from the landing site.
11:00 a.m. - Fifteen minutes until touchdown.
10:55 a.m. - Discovery is approaching the west coast of Central America, flying 21 times the speed of sound. The orbiter is continuing its series of banking maneuvers to dissipate its speed.
10:50 a.m. - Now only 25 minutes until touchdown, Discovery is flying about 48 miles above Earth's surface.
10:48 a.m. - Discovery is rolling left 80 degrees, the first in a pre-programmed series of four steep banks that help eliminate excess energy as the orbiter continues its descent toward Kennedy Space Center.
10:43 a.m. - Now traveling at an altitude of about 400,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, Discovery is passing the point of "entry interface," meaning the vehicle and crew are just beginning to encounter the effects of Earth's atmosphere. The orbiter is traveling 25 times the speed of sound as it continues on its landing path. On Discovery's middeck, astronaut Garrett Reisman is beginning to feel the first tug of gravity after being in space for 95 days.
10:31 a.m. - Discovery's remaining two auxiliary power units have been activated and are in good shape to support today's reentry and landing.
10:25 a.m. - With the deorbit burn complete, the Kennedy-based landing convoy is slowly making its way to the Shuttle Landing Facility in a long, single-file line of about 40 specialized vehicles. The convoy's vehicles and personnel will approach the returning orbiter and crew shortly after landing and begin the preparing it for towing to the nearby orbiter processing facility.
10:14 a.m. - Discovery must rotate once more, maneuvering into a nose-first orientation for reentry.
10:13 a.m. - And Mission Control confirms a good deorbit burn with no adjustments required. Space shuttle Discovery is on its way home.
10:10 a.m. - Discovery's two orbital maneuvering system engines are firing. The deorbit burn will last about two-and-a-half minutes, enough to slow the vehicle by 289 feet per second and begin its unpowered glide back to Earth.
10:05 a.m. - Auxiliary power unit number two has been activated. The other two units will be activated following the deorbit burn. During landing, the orbiter's three auxiliary power units provide hydraulic pressure to several key systems, including the vehicle's aerosurfaces, landing gear, main landing gear brakes and nose wheel steering.
10:00 a.m. - Some statistics regarding today's landing: This will be the 69th shuttle landing at the Kennedy Space Center, and the fifth Kennedy landing in a row.
All systems on Discovery are looking good and the deorbit burn is coming up in ten minutes. Discovery is due home in exactly one hour and fifteen minutes.
9:50 a.m. - Commander Mark Kelly is maneuvering Discovery into the deorbit burn attitude. Using Discovery's reaction control thrusters, Kelly is manually rotating the orbiter into a backward-facing position so that the two orbital maneuvering system engines will fire into the direction of travel.
9:48 a.m. - "Go" for the deorbit burn! Virts just radioed Discovery with the good news, prompting an audible cheer from the crew. The deorbit burn is 22 minutes from now.
9:40 a.m. - Thirty minutes remain until the deorbit burn. At his Mission Control console at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Flight Director Richard Jones is preparing to make the "go-no go" decision for the deorbit burn, which is coming up at 10:10 a.m. Astronaut Terry Virts, today's capsule communicator or "CAPCOM," will inform the flight crew of the decision.
The astronauts have taken their seats aboard Discovery. Commander Mark Kelly and Pilot Ken Ham will take the front two seats on the orbiter's flight deck, with Mission Specialists Ron Garan and Karen Nyberg seated behind them. Mission Specialist Mike Fossum is joined on Discovery's middeck by Akihiko Hoshide, representing the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Garrett Reisman, who is returning to Earth after serving as Expedition 17 Flight Engineer for three months aboard the International Space Station. Reisman is seated in a special recumbent seat that will help him cope with the readjustment to gravity.
9:25 a.m. - Landing preparations have been under way both in orbit and on the ground since early this morning. Discovery's payload bay doors were closed for reentry just before 6:30 a.m., and Mission Control then gave the "go" to transition the orbiter's onboard computers to "OPS 3," the deorbit and entry flight software package.
Discovery's seven crew members are now dressed in their orange launch-and-entry suits, the same suits they wore when they rode into orbit two weeks ago today. They've also started "fluid loading," which involves drinking liquids to help counteract the effects of reentry on the astronauts' vestibular systems.
9:15 a.m. - Good morning. It's a clear, warm day here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where space shuttle Discovery is expected to land in two hours, returning seven astronauts to Earth and wrapping up the two-week STS-124 mission to the International Space Station.
There are two landing opportunities today at Kennedy, the space shuttle's home port. Right now, mission managers are aiming for a touchdown on Runway 15 at 11:15 a.m. on Discovery's 217th orbit. A second opportunity is available on the following orbit with a touchdown time of 12:50 p.m.
Weather at the landing site is excellent, with very light winds, good visibility, no precipitation and scattered clouds to the south. Chief Astronaut Steve Lindsey is monitoring the weather as he flies landing approaches to Runway 15 in the shuttle training aircraft. The modified Gulf Stream II jet simulates an orbiter's cockpit, motion and visual cues, and handling qualities.
The "go-no go" decision to fire Discovery's three main engines for the return to Earth is expected in about half an hour, so stay with NASA's Landing Blog for the latest.
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