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Space shuttle Endeavour returns to Earth


Space shuttle Endeavour lands at the Edwards Air Force Base, California after completing its mission to ISS. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Landis

WASHINGTON (BNS): US space agency NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour has returned home safely after completing a 16-day journey covering over 6.6 million miles to carry out repair work in the International Space Station (ISS).

The shuttle successfully landed at the Edwards Air Force Base in California at 1:25 pm PST on Sunday. It was earlier scheduled to land in Florida but bad weather condition prevented it from doing so, NASA said.

For the STS-126 mission, Chris Ferguson commanded the flight and was joined by Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Donald Pettit, Steve Bowen, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Shane Kimbrough and Sandra Magnus. Magnus remained aboard space station, replacing Expedition 18 Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff, who returned to Earth on Endeavour after spending more than five months in space.

During their mission, the Endeavour crew carried out important repair work and prepared the ISS to house six crew members on long-duration missions beginning next year.

The new station equipment includes a water recovery system, additional sleeping quarters, a second toilet and an exercise device. During four spacewalks, the crew serviced the station's two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which allow its solar arrays to track the Sun, and installed new hardware that will support future assembly missions.

The shuttle will be transported approximately 2,500 miles from California to Florida within seven to 10 days for its next mission in May next year. It will be carried on the back of a modified 747 jumbo jet.

The STS-126 is the 124th space shuttle mission, the 22nd flight for Endeavour and the 27th shuttle visit to the ISS.

With the return of the crew, NASA is planning to launch the STS-119 mission scheduled for February 12, 2009. "Discovery will deliver the final pair of US solar arrays which will be installed on the starboard end of the station's truss, which serves as the backbone support for external equipment and spare components," the agency said.

The 14-day STS-119 flight will be commanded by Lee Archambault that will include four planned spacewalks. Others included in the mission are Pilot Tony Antonelli, Mission Specialists John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Joseph Acaba and Richard Arnold, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata. Wakata will replace Magnus on the station as a flight engineer.

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