The space shuttle Discovery is home. Discovery touched down at 14-June 11:15 a.m. EDT at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, having successfully completed its 14-day visit to the International Space Station (ISS).
Mission STS-124's primary objective was to deliver and install the second component of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAEA) Kibo laboratory (“Hope”). The US$1 billion, 15-tonne Pressurized Module (JPM) is the size of a bus and is the stations biggest room .Discovery also delivered a new pump for ISS’s toilet.
The re-entry and landing went as planed despite earlier scares when the crew spotted a 30-45cm (1-1.5 feet) long object floating away from the shuttle. Later, NASA identified the object as a non-critical clip used to hold down thermal blankets on back of the rudder and speed brake during launch.
The shuttle crew comprised Commander Mark Kelly; Pilot Ken Ham; Mission Specialists Karen Nyberg, Ron Garan, Mike Fossum, JAEA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and Canadian-born Greg Chamitoff who replaces astronaut Garrett Reisman for six-months stint on the ISS
Shortly after landing, Commander Kelly said, “It was a really exciting mission and we're glad to be back here in Florida.”
Later, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator of Space Operations said, “I can't think of a mission really that's been better than this one. We're starting to break that tie to planet Earth and get out and do what exploration is.”
Nine more shuttle missions are scheduled to the ISS before 2010 when the shuttle fleet will retire.