The shuttle has landed
The space shuttle Atlantis has brought its seven astronauts home safely to Edwards Air Force Base in California.
"It's just great to be back on planet Earth," Atlantis commander Rick Sturckow said while standing on the tarmac. "There were a lot of challenges on this mission and they were all dramatic. All the solutions worked well."
After abandoning attempts to land at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida because of bad weather on Thursday and Friday, the shuttle touched down at 3:49 p.m. ET.
Atlantis's return from NASA's first manned flight of the year was marked by its trademark twin sonic booms that were heard from San Diego to Los Angeles. After deploying its parachute, the shuttle came to rest on the concrete runway under mostly sunny skies.
This is the 51st time the shuttle has landed at the California air base.
NASA would haveprefered a Kennedy landing. It is expected tocost $1.7 million and take up to 10 days to bring the shuttle back to Florida from California aboard a jumbo jet.
Mission extended to do repairs
During the crew's 14-day mission to the International Space Station, the astronauts installed a new truss segment, unfurled a new pair of power-generating solar arrays and activated a rotating joint that allows the new solar arrays to track the sun.
Originally scheduled for 11 days, the mission was extended by two days to give astronauts time to repair a thermal blanket that had peeled back during the June 8 launch. Astronaut Danny Olivas stapled it back into place during a spacewalk last week. An extra day in orbit was added after the weather in Florida prevented a landing Thursday.
Astronaut Sunita (Suni) Williams returned to Earth on Atlantis after spending more than six months at the space station. She set an endurance record for the longest single space flight by a woman at 195 days. During her stay, she also set the record for most time spacewalking by a woman.
She told reportersshe was looking forward to a slice of pizza and walking on the beach with her husband and dog Gorby. But she was going to miss the space station.
"When you've been somewhere for six months, it becomes your home and it's hard to leave," Williams said.
The shuttle's visit to the space station was complicated by the crash of Russian computers that control orientation and oxygen production.
Atlantis helped the station maintain its orientation until the computers were revived several days later when cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov used a cable to bypass a circuit board. Astronauts conserved the shuttle's power in case they needed to spend an extra day at the station.
The cosmonauts at the space station on Thursday attempted to power the Russian computers without using the cable bypass, but were unsuccessful.