After a surprising turnaround in the Florida weather, Discovery’s astronauts -- and the first International Space Station residents -- returned home to Kennedy Space Center at 1:31 a.m. CST Wednesday.
STS-102 Commander Jim Wetherbee fired Space Shuttle Discovery's engines at 12:26 a.m. CST to begin the shuttle’s descent. With assistance from Pilot Jim Kelly, he made a smooth landing on Runway 15, the 17th night landing in the shuttle program and the 12th night landing at Kennedy. The shuttle had traveled a total of 5,357,762 statute miles.
Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev, riding home in reclining seats to lessen the stress, felt the tug of gravity for the first time in 141 days following their Oct. 31, 2000, launch to the station aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. The Expedition One crew will be reunited with their families in Florida this morning, and then begin a medical and rehabilitation period of about 45 days.
Wetherbee, Kelly and Mission Specialists Paul Richards and Andy Thomas had spent a total of 12 days, 19 hours, 49 minutes on orbit. They had conducted a successful rendezvous and docking with the space station complex, supported two space walks to facilitate the first use of the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module and installed a station robot arm anchor point. They also witnessed the first station crew changeout, unloaded 5 tons of equipment and experiments, and packed up a ton of unneeded station equipment and trash for return to Earth on Discovery.
All seven spacefarers are expected to return home to Houston on Thursday afternoon.
Entry Flight Director Wayne Hale made the a decision to land in Florida just before midnight after cloudy skies and gusty winds had cleared due to a low-pressure system that raced through the Shuttle Landing Facility area faster than expected Tuesday night.
On board the International Space Station, Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev and Flight Engineers Susan Helms and Jim Voss were expected to hear word of their compatriots’ landing later this morning. The trio spent a relatively quiet day in space getting acclimated to their news surroundings and preparing themselves for what will soon be a busy schedule of activiities continuing the outfitting of the space station and beginning scientific research in its Destiny laboratory.
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