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Army Astronaut Returns to Earth

Nov 07, 2007
BY Elizabeth M. Lorge

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 7, 2007) - Army astronaut Col. Doug Wheelock and the Discovery space shuttle crew safely landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a challenging 15-day mission shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today.

According to NASA, the crew completed all of the major objectives for this mission, including installing the Harmony module in a temporary location at the end of the Unity node, relocating the Port 6 truss, and installing a spare main bus switching unit on a storage platform. Discovery also delivered a new crew member to the space station, Flight Engineer Dan Tani.

Although he was far from the Army's usual field of operations, Col. Wheelock said, "it's just like a joint ops on the ground." He made the comment during a news teleconference Oct. 31 in which astronauts answered questions from reporters here at NASA headquarters, along with others in Florida, Texas, Paris and Moscow.

"Probably the most important thing I've learned up here is the importance of teamwork," Col. Wheelock said. "It was quite amazing yesterday when Scott and I were working outside and knew everyone was working real hard inside to get their tasks done, as well as dozens of people on the ground in Houston who were helping us come up with solutions to the problem."

While moving the Port 6 truss, the crew discovered a torn solar array, which was designed to help provide power to the space station.

Col. Wheelock and Mission Specialist Scott Parazynski repaired the torn array during Saturday's spacewalk, Col. Wheelock's third and the mission's fourth.

Dr. Parazynski cut a snagged wire from the array and installed homemade stabilizers designed to strengthen and stabilize the structure. Col. Wheelock helped from the truss by keeping an eye on the distance between Dr. Parazynski and the array. The process took about three and a half hours.

Derek Hassman, the lead space-station flight director, said the operation was "one of the most satisfying days that I've ever had in mission control."

Despite the challenges, which included finding a small hole in his gloves after returning from the Oct. 30 spacewalk, the mission has been exciting for Col. Wheelock. He said the views were breathtaking, although getting used to moving around in space was challenging because it was hard to relax enough to move freely.

"This is the ultimate high ground," Col. Wheelock said, "so I figure that this is the place for a Soldier to be."

(NASA status reports contributed to this article.)

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