Wrapping up its mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the Discovery space shuttle finally glided to a perfect landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 9:08 a. m. EDT on Tuesday; after rain and overcast skies caused a day’s delay in its Monday-scheduled landing.
Upon the pinpoint landing of the shuttle – which took off on April 5 on an ISS assembly mission -, Mission Control radioed Shuttle Commander Alan Poindexter: “Welcome home! Congratulations to you and your crew on an outstanding mission.”
The extended 15-day Discovery mission, STS-131 – covering 238 complete orbits and 6.2 million miles –, comprised the delivery of over 17,000 pounds of supplies, equipment, and science gear. The mission involved three spacewalks for the replacement of an ammonia coolant tank on the main power truss of the ISS.
The shuttle’s re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere over North America, 76 miles above the central Pacific Ocean, provided a spectacular sight for the sky-watchers – with the glowing meteor-like streak of Discovery’s plasma trail visible from the northwest coast of the Canada and the US, to the southeast for the Florida touch down.
Specifically, Discovery sailed high above Helena, Mont., just west of Casper, Wyo., and across Colorado’s northeastern corner; before finally marking its descent across Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, passing north of Little Rock, and continuing across Mississippi, Alabama Georgia, and Florida.