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NARRATOR: Space shuttle Discovery blasted off into a brilliant blue sky from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 31, 2008, on the STS-124 mission.
The crew sat securely in their seats aboard the shuttle as the boosters and external fuel tank fell away.
Commanded by Mark Kelly, the crew also included Pilot Ken Ham, Mission Specialists Karen Nyberg, Mike Fossum, Greg Chamitoff, Ron Garan and from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Aki Hoshide, also a mission specialist.
Quickly reaching orbit, the crew members removed their orange pressure suits and began their first day in space by inspecting Discovery's thermal protection system with the shuttle robotic arm.
With the International Space Station in sight, Kelly and Ham took Discovery through its rendezvous pitch maneuver, or backflip, enabling the station crew to photograph the heat shield tiles on the orbiter's underside.
After two days in space and the careful docking of the shuttle with the station completed, the hatches between the two spacecraft opened.
The station's Expedition 17 flight crew along with NASA Flight Engineer Garrett Reisman enthusiastically greeted the Discovery crew.
Before the crew could perform the first of the three scheduled spacewalks, Fossum and Garan "camped-out" in the Quest Airlock for several hours.
They floated out of the hatch to oversee the unberthing of Kibo's laboratory from the shuttle's payload bay to its permanent location on the Harmony module.
Inside the station, Hoshide proudly hung a welcoming flag in front of the newly installed module. Crew members added work stations and science racks to the module that were previously stored in the Japanese Logistics Module, or JLM.
From inside the station Chamitoff and Nyberg used the station's robotic arm to delicately maneuver the JLM, from its temporary position on Harmony into place on top of the new Japanese laboratory.
On their second spacewalk Fossum and Garan installed television cameras, removed thermal covers and insulation. After the logistics module was in position they tightly bolted it to the enormous science lab.
As astronauts outfitted the laboratory inside the station, Fossum and Garan ventured out into space for the third time.
Secured by a foothold on the Canadarm 2, Fossum replaced a nitrogen tank on the station's starboard truss with a new one. With Garan's help, they accomplished all of the planned objectives in addition to several extra tasks.
After nearly nine days of non-stop activities, the Expedition 17 and Discovery crew members bid each other farewell before the hatches between the two were closed once more.
Discovery was gingerly undocked from the station as the two spacecraft passed over Australia.
While the orbiter moved farther away, Discovery's crew had a birds-eye view of the station with Kibo's laboratory attached.
After a final check of the orbiter's thermal protection system was performed, Discovery was cleared for landing.
Ideal weather over Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility heralded the homecoming of Discovery and crew on the first landing opportunity.
Mission Control gave the "go" for deorbit burn and Discovery glided to a graceful touchdown at NASA Kennedy Space Center's shuttle runway at 11:15 a.m. eastern on June 14, 2008.
MISSION CONTROL: "Beautiful landing Mark and congratulation on a great mission. We will meet you on page 5 dash 3 for post-landing."
NARRATOR: After traveling 5.7 million miles and spending almost 14 days in space, the STS-124 astronauts were given an enthusiastic reception by NASA managers, employees and family members.
The ambitious and successful STS-124 mission drew to a close and brought the International Space Station a step closer to completion.
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