Endeavour Touches Down in Florida after Mission to Space Station
21 August 2007
Landing marks 30 years of space travel for NASA's Voyager spacecraft
Washington – Space shuttle Endeavour landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida August 21, completing a 12-day, nearly 8.5-million-kilometer mission (STS-118) that leaves the International Space Station about 60 percent complete.
Endeavour returned safely to Earth despite a gouge in one of the tiles on its underside that is part of the spacecraft’s heat shield.
The landing marked the 30th anniversary of the twin Voyager spacecraft that have been traveling in space since 1977, and brought to an end the first space flight for mission specialist Barbara Morgan, a teacher chosen by NASA to become a mission specialist astronaut.
“Congratulations, welcome home,” Mission Control said to Commander Scott Kelly and his six crew mates as Endeavour rolled down the runway at Kennedy Space Center. “You’ve given a new meaning to higher education.”
Showing pictures of the space station at a post-landing briefing, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said, “I personally find it hard to look at these pictures and think anything other than this is one of the great accomplishments of mankind.”
While at the station, the STS-118 crew continued on-orbit construction by adding another truss (backbone) to the growing structure, and conducting joint operations with the Expedition 15 crew on the space station.
The astronauts conducted four spacewalks that included installing the truss and replacing an attitude-control gyroscope. Together, the shuttle and station crews transferred several tons of cargo between the two spacecraft.
“I’m extremely proud of Canada’s contribution to this flight,” Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Laurier Boisvert said, welcoming home CSA astronaut Dave Williams, who spent nearly 18 hours on three spacewalks.
Canadian robotics are instrumental in the space station’s ongoing construction, he said, and in examining the shuttle’s heat-shield tiles.
STS-120, with shuttle Discovery, will be the next mission to the space station, scheduled for launch October 23.
U.S. Air Force Colonel Pamela Melroy will command the mission – the second woman to command a shuttle. Marine Corps Colonel George Zamka will serve as pilot, and the mission specialists will be Scott Parazynski, Army Colonel Douglas Wheelock, Stephanie Wilson and Paolo Nespoli, a European Space Agency astronaut from Italy.
Also aboard Discovery, Expedition 15/16 flight engineer Clayton Anderson will return to Earth from the space station, and that flight will carry his replacement, Daniel Tani, to the station.
With that flight, the U.S. Harmony Node 2 will arrive to increase station living and work space, provide a passageway between three science experiment facilities on the station, and provide connecting ports for logistics modules, the Japanese H II transfer vehicle and a pressurized mating adapter for vehicles docking with the space station.
Harmony also will be the connecting point for the European Columbus Laboratory in December and the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) in February 2008.
On the same flight will be the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, called Dextre, an essential tool for maintaining and servicing the space station. It has two arms for removing and replacing smaller components on the station’s exterior, where precise handling is needed. It will have lights, video equipment, a tool platform and four tool holders.
30 YEARS IN SPACE
NASA's two Voyager spacecraft are celebrating 30 years of flight as they head toward interstellar space. The mission was designed as a four-year mission to Jupiter and Saturn.
Voyager 2 launched August 20, 1977; Voyager 1 launched September 5, 1977. They continue to return information from distances more than three times farther away than Pluto, which is 4.47 billion kilometers from Earth.
Voyager 1 is the farthest human-made object, traveling at a distance from the sun of about 15.6 billion kilometers. Voyager 2 is 12.5 billion kilometers from the sun.
Each Voyager carries a golden record that is a time capsule with greetings, images and sounds from Earth. The records also have directions on how to find Earth if someone or something recovers either spacecraft.
"The Voyager mission is a legend in the annals of space exploration,” said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in an August 20 statement. “It opened our eyes to the scientific richness of the outer solar system, and it has pioneered the deepest exploration of the sun's domain ever conducted."
In 2004, Voyager 1 began crossing the solar system's final frontier. This turbulent area called the heliosheath, 14 billion kilometers from the sun, is where the solar wind slows as it crashes into the thin gas that fills the space between stars. Voyager 2 could reach this boundary later this year.
The Voyagers call home using NASA's Deep Space Network, a global system of antennas. The spacecraft are so distant that commands from Earth, traveling at light speed, take 14 hours to reach Voyager 1 and 12 hours to reach Voyager 2. Each logs about 1.6 million kilometers a day.
More information about STS-118 and other shuttle missions is available at the NASA Web site.
A complete listing of Voyager discoveries and mission information is available at the NASA Web site.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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