Cape Canaveral, Florida (AFP) Feb 21, 2010
The US space shuttle Endeavour successfully landed in Florida late Sunday after a two-week mission to install a new module on the International Space Station.
The shuttle touched down on a coastal runway at the Kennedy Space Center here at 10:20 pm (0320 GMT Monday) after the cloudy weather in the area improved enough for Endeavour to be cleared for landing.
“Congratulations on a great mission,” Mission Control radioed the six astronauts as the shuttle rolled to a stop.
“It’s great to be home,” said Endeavour commander George Zamka “It was a great adventure.”
As Endeavour’s mission ended, NASA was focused on the shuttle’s looming retirement and trying to ensure long-running efforts to assemble the International Space Station reach the finish line.
Four remaining US shuttle missions are intended to bring the 12-year effort by the United States and its partners in Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada to assemble and outfit the sprawling orbital laboratory to a close by late September.
The Endeavour astronauts successfully delivered and installed Tranquility, the last of the habitable modules contributed by the United States to the space station.
Working with the five astronauts on the station, the shuttle crew outfitted the new module with critical life support systems, exercise equipment and a roomy observation deck.
They also revived the station’s water recovery system, the hardware the recovers drinking water from urine and moisture in the breathing air.
The new observation dome surrounds a control post for the robot arm that will play a crucial role in docking the commercial cargo capsules NASA will rely on to deliver supplies after the shuttle’s retirement.
It also offers those living aboard the station unprecedented views of the Earth below.
“Arguably, mankind has been after this view for centuries, this perspective, this view of the world,” said Endeavour commander Zamka after his crew completed the installation of Tranquility with three textbook spacewalks.
“We finally have it, and we will take advantage and enjoy it.”
President Barack Obama doted over the new Earthly panoramas as he spoke with Zamka and his crew, Terry Virts, Kay Hire, Steve Robinson, Bob Behnken and Nicholas Patrick last week.
The bus-sized new enclosure pushed the total mass of the space station to over one million pounds, or 90 percent of its final weight and 98 percent of the volume at full assembly.
Tranquility, which was named in honor of the lunar landing site explored by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, was built in Italy under the supervision of the European Space Agency.
The Europeans provided the module to NASA in exchange for the 2008 shuttle launch that delivered their Columbus research module to the station.
“It’s an amazing facility, and it’s very rewarding for all of us to be here at this stage, as we transition from assembly to full utilization,” said NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, the station’s current commander.
“We all look forward to reaping the benefit of the utilization over the next 10 years or so.”
However, the station experienced a succession of command and control computer problems early Sunday, leaving Williams’ crew unable to communicate with the Earth for an hour, a reminder of the station’s remote status. Mission Control was investigating.
The remaining shuttle flights are intended to stock the station with research gear and spare parts to keep the outpost operating well after the final mission, which is set for late September.
earlier related report
Endeavour Crew Preparing For Landing
The crew of space shuttle Endeavour awoke at 2:14 p.m. EST to “The Marines’ Hymn,” played for Commander George Zamka (Col., USMC).
Weather permitting, Endeavour is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center’s shuttle landing facility at 10:20 p.m. EST. The STS-130 entry team led by Flight Director Norm Knight will be on console in Mission Control at 3:30 p.m. to prepare for deorbit and landing.
The latest Kennedy forecast calls for a chance of showers within 30 nautical miles of the shuttle landing facility and a cloud ceiling at 6,000 feet, both violations of landing rules. The forecast for Edwards Air Force Base in California also contains violations for showers within 30 nautical miles of the runway and cloud ceilings at 3,000 and 6,000 feet.
The National Weather Service Spaceflight Meteorology Group at Johnson Space Center will provide Knight and his team with continuous updated forecasts and real-time observations to aid in a “go-no go” decision for the deorbit burn.
STS-130 Crew Prepares for Landing
The crew of space shuttle Endeavour completed checkouts of its re-entry and landing systems Saturday and prepared for a scheduled Sunday evening landing.
With weather forecasts dynamic for both the Florida and California landing sites, flight controllers decided to forego a planned orbital adjustment burn to broaden landing opportunity options over the next few days.
Landing support teams will be ready at both Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The first opportunity involves a deorbit burn at 9:14 p.m. EST and a landing at 10:20 p.m. The second calls for a deorbit burn at 10:50 p.m. and landing at 11:55 p.m.
The first California opportunity would begin with a deorbit burn at 12:20 a.m. and result in landing at 1:25 a.m. Monday. The final opportunity begins with a deorbit burn at 1:56 a.m. and ends with a 3 a.m. Monday landing in California.
Forecasters predict a chance of showers within 30 miles of Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility and a possible low cloud ceiling. The forecast for Edwards also includes possible showers and low clouds.
Saturday evening, the six Endeavour astronauts talked about their mission during interviews with CNN, CNN Espanol, and Univision. Two of the interviews were conducted in Spanish, focusing on Commander George Zamka who is of Columbian ancestry.
Endeavour’s astronauts also completed the standard day-before-entry checkout of the shuttle’s flight control systems and reaction control jets. Imagery specialists will finish their analysis of late inspection scans of the shuttle’s nose cap and wing leading edges early Sunday.