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NASA's Landing BlogAtlantis touches down on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway
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NASA's Landing Blog - Mission STS-121


The Landing Blog was activated at 7:00 a.m. EDT

The Landing Blog was deactivated at 11:03 a.m. EDT

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NOTE: Refresh/Reload your browser every few minutes to view launch control center updates. All times are in EDT unless otherwise stated.

11:00 a.m. - The crew has now entered the Astrovan to head back to the Operations and Checkout building after their 13 day mission.

VIDEO: Lindsey Offers His Thanks
STS-121 Commander Steve Lindsey thanks his five crewmates and the Kennedy Space Center shuttle team for a job well done before departing the runway.
+ Watch Lindsey's Remarks

10:58 a.m. - The crew has gathered around a standing microphone. Commander Lindsey thanked the folks at Kennedy for the cleanest vehicle ever. He said that both major objectives of the mission were accomplished "and we are ready to go assemble the station and ready to go fly shuttles on a regular basis. The crew was nearly perfect... it was a privilege for me to serve with them."

Did you know?
The orbiter is about the size of a DC-9 airline, but unlike conventional aircraft, it doesn't have jet engines to power it during re-entry and landing. This means that its high-speed glide must be perfectly executed on the first try.

10:49 a.m. - The crew is speaking with Administrator Griffin and Associate Administrator Rex Geveden, and checking out the tiles on the belly of the orbiter.

VIDEO: Crew Makes Post-Landing Walkaround
The six STS-121 crew members, led by Commander Steve Lindsey, exit the Crew Transport Vehicle and are greeted by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and several senior managers.
+ Watch Crew Walkaround

10:43 a.m. - The STS-121 astronauts have left the Crew Transport Vehicle and are being greeted by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and a number of other senior managers. The crew is laughing and smiling widely as they proceed down the reception line.

10:40 a.m. - The Astrovan has arrived at the Shuttle Landing Facility to carry the astronauts back to their crew quarters.

10:38 a.m. - The Crew Transport Vehicle is backing away from the orbiter at this time. The vehicle will then lower to the pavement allowing the astronauts to exit and walk around the orbiter if they should chose to do so.

10:32 a.m. - At approximately 11:00 a.m. this morning there will be a post-landing press conference with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmeir and Launch Director Mike Leinbach.

10:25 a.m. - In the next few minutes we expect to see the commander and some of the other crew members perform a "walk around" of the orbiter for a post-flight inspection. After that they will go back into the Crew Transport Vehicle to await the arrival of the Astrovan to take them back to the crew quarters in the Operations and Checkout Building.

10:23 a.m. - All crew members are safely off Shuttle Discovery and on the Crew Transport Vehicle, a modified "people mover."

Did you know?
Once the shuttle lands it is towed by a diesel-powered tractor to the processing facilities via a two-mile tow-way from the Shuttle Landing Facility.

10:04 a.m. - Discovery has been on the ground at Kennedy Space Center for about 50 minutes. The mission elapsed time to main gear touchdown was 12 days, 18 hours, 36 minutes and 48 seconds, while nose gear touchdown was 12 days, 18 hours, 36 minutes and 58 seconds.

The crew has finished up a very successful five and a half million mile mission to the International Space Station, delivering a third expedition crew member for the first time since 2003.

9:59 a.m. - Shuttle Discovery's hatch is open and the STS-121 astronauts are preparing to depart the vehicle. The mission elapsed time was 12 days, 18 hours, 37 minutes, 54 seconds, with wheel-stop arriving at 9:15:49 a.m. EDT.

The Crew Transport Vehicle has pulled up to the hatch-side of the orbiter. There are beds and comfortable seats inside the transporter so that the astronauts can receive medical checks immediately after returning to Earth.

9:43 a.m. - Discovery's three APUs have been shut down. Mission control reports that the devices worked normally during today's entry and landing.

9:36 a.m. - The astronauts have been cleared to remove their orange flight and entry suits. Work to safely shutdown Discovery's systems is continuing.

Did you know?
The Shuttle Landing Facility is located approximately three miles from the Vehicle Assembly Building.
+ Read More

9:28 a.m. - Discovery's crew advises controllers that the landing gear has been safed. The go has been given for the commander and pilot to configure Discovery's computers for "Ops 9 Transition"- a post-landing software package. The convoy crew members are approaching the aft (back) end of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

9:22 a.m. - The space shuttle service vehicles convoy is approaching the orbiter carrying support crews and equipment to safe Discovery.

9:18 a.m. - The STS-121 crew of Discovery is safely home. The astronauts are now in process of shutting down the orbiter's systems.

9:16 a.m. - Discovery's wheels have come to a stop on Runway 15, completing a journey of more than 5 million miles.

VIDEO: Discovery Lands
Carrying a crew of six astronauts, Discovery comes in for a perfect landing at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility.
+ Watch Discovery's Landing

9:15 a.m. - Touchdown! Discovery has safely landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

9:14 a.m. - Discovery is on track at the 90 degree mark, altitude 15,000 feet, speed 420 miles per hour. Commander Lindsey reports that he has the landing field in site.

9:11 a.m. - Twin sonic booms were just heard at the Kennedy Space Center as the orbiter makes its final approach and is three minutes to touchdown.

9:10 a.m. - 5 minutes and 30 seconds to touchdown. Discovery's speed is now Mach 1.7 (1,275 mph), 12.5 miles in altitude.

9:06 a.m. - Discovery's current speed is now Mach 4.5 (3,375 mph), 21 miles high and rapidly descending.

9:05 a.m. - Discovery's current speed is Mach 6.2 (4,650 mph), 25 miles in altitude and 214 miles from the runway. Discovery is approaching Florida's southwestern coast. Nine minutes until touchdown.

8:58 a.m. - The Expedition 13 crew is watching the STS-121 crew's re-entry with a bird's-eye view from the International Space Station.

8:54 a.m. - Discovery's speed is now 15,000 mph, 2,000 miles to the runway and about 20 minutes from touchdown.

8:50 a.m. - Discovery has three good APUs and is heading toward the Yucatan Peninsula, on its way home to Florida. Speed is Mach 24.3. Mission control is considering a possible last minute redirect to Runway 15 due to some showers popping up around the Kennedy landing field.

8:48 a.m. - Discovery and the STS-121 crew are traveling at an altitude of 50 miles, 3,000 miles to the runway. Discovery is in a left roll now.

8:43 a.m. - As Discovery begins entry interface the orbiter is about 31 minutes from touchdown at Kennedy Space Center. At this time the orbiter's protective tiles are being exposed to extreme heat as Discovery enters the top fringes of the atmosphere. Discovery is now 4,600 miles to the runway, traveling at approximately mach 24.8.

8:38 a.m. - Discovery is currently at an altitude of 108 statute miles and 6,300 miles from the runway. Today will be the 62nd landing of the shuttle at Kennedy Space Center.

8:33 a.m. - Discovery is ten minutes from the start of entry interface. At that point, the ship and its crew will begin to experience increasing drag and friction as the shuttle races into the ever-thickening atmosphere.

8:31 a.m. - All three APUs are fired up and ready for landing, powering aerosurfaces like Discovery's tail rudder and wing flaps. Discovery is now over the South Pacific, just off the coast of New Zealand.

8:27 a.m. - Mission Control is giving Discovery an updated weather report. Right now Runway 33 is the target, but that could change if weather poses a problem. We are 46 minutes from touchdown.

8:22 a.m. - Shuttle Discovery is about 400,000 feet high and 52 minutes from touchdown at Kennedy Space Center. In about 20 minutes the ship will encounter the period of re-entry known as "entry interface." At this point, Discovery will be 80 miles in altitude and 5,000 miles from the runway.

8:20 a.m. - The landing track Discovery will follow into the Kennedy Space Center this morning should give residents along the Gulf Coast the chance to see the orbiter's entry.

8:16 a.m. - The orbiter is beginning to feel the effects of the atmosphere. The crew was just given the go to begin dumping the excess propellants from the shuttle's forward maneuvering thrusters.

8:10 a.m. - Deorbit burn has been completed. During the burn Discovery was flying upside down and backwards. The shuttle is now committed to landing today.

8:07 a.m. - Discovery's deorbit burn has begun. The ship is currently over the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Sumatra. This burn will last for three minutes and slow the shuttle down by approximately 205 mph to begin its descent home to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

8:03 a.m. - Auxiliary power unit (APU) 1 is up and running and looking good. APUs propel pumps used to power Discovery's hydraulic systems.

7:58 a.m. - The crew members are now strapping themselves into their seats and getting ready for the ride home.

VIDEO: Discovery is Go for Deorbit Burn and Cleared for Landing
In Mission Control - Houston, CAPCOM Steve Frick informs STS-121 Commander Steve Lindsey that Discovery is "go" for the deorbit burn.
+ Watch Discovery's Cleared to Land

7:56 a.m. - Mission Control has given Discovery the go for deorbit burn! The thunderstorms have cleared and weather is forecasted to be good for the landing, scheduled for 9:14 a.m. We are 10 minutes away from the start of the deorbit burn. The deorbit burn will slow Discovery by 200 mph, causing it to fall out of orbit and begin the descent for landing.

7:44 a.m. - Commander Steven Lindsey has been instructed to maneuver to the deorbit burn attitude in preparation for the deorbit burn and landing. Once again, we are still waiting on the final permission to be given for deorbit burn due to the anvil cloud in the area of Kennedy Space Center.

7:41 a.m. - We are now within the final 30 minutes before deorbit burn. Mission Control is continuing to monitor weather. A poll for go/no-go was just completed throughout the control center and all are "go" as long as the weather continues to cooperate.

7:33 a.m. - There are potential showers and anvil clouds to the north of the landing facility. Winds are picking up slightly over the runway, but are still very light. It will be a minute-by-minute call as to whether Discovery will be able to land on the first opportunity today.

Did you know?
Discovery has two different runway options: Runway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility is used when the orbiter comes in from the southeast, and Runway 15 is used when it comes in from the northwest. The runway determination is largely based on wind direction and speed.

7:26 a.m. - During re-entry and landing, the orbiter is not powered by engines and flies like a high-tech glider, relying first on its steering jets and then its aerosurfaces to control the airflow around it.

7:18 a.m. - The Shuttle Training Aircraft is still airborne, keeping track of the weather conditions around the Shuttle Landing Facility.

7:11 a.m. - While the rest of the crew continued preparations for landing, Commander Steve Lindsey was told by Steve Fricke, CAPCOM in Mission Control-Houston, that the decision to go for deorbit burn would be a last minute one as the weather conditions are still being watched closely. Kathy Winters is the weather officer for today's landing.

7:06 a.m. - About 6:40 a.m. the crew began dressing in their pumpkin-orange launch and entry suits, with seat ingress beginning shortly afterward. + View seating assignments

7:02 a.m. - The crew has been told to begin fluid loading, which means that they drink large amounts of fluids to aid them in their re-acclimation into Earth's gravity. Each crew member will drink approximately 40 ounces of water -- about eight ounces every fifteen minutes -- and take salt pills to help them increase their fluid volume. Crew members will drink chicken consume, orange-aid or water.

7:00 a.m. - Good morning and welcome to our live landing blog coverage of Discovery's return to Kennedy Space Center. The Sun rose a short time ago into a partly cloudy sky along Florida's Space Coast.

We are expecting to hear a go/no-go decision for deorbit burn within in the next half hour. The burn is planned for 8:04 a.m., but NASA is carefully monitoring the weather forecast due to broken clouds at the 11,000 and 25,000 foot level and a concern for the potential of rain showers developing to the north of Kennedy Space Center. + View Weather Landing Criteria

The Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-121 is expected to touch down at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility at 9:14 a.m. There are two landing opportunities at Kennedy this morning. + View a shuttle landing

Astronauts Kent Rominger and Mike Bloomfield are in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) flying weather reconnaissance at the landing site and relaying weather information in real time to mission control in Houston.

A "go" was given at 5:30 a.m. for Discovery's 60-foot-long payload bay doors to be closed. Mission control then instructed the commander to go for "Ops 3," the portion of the orbiter's flight control software that manages entry and landing.

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