Record-Setting Shuttle Draws Big Crowd To Greet Its Return Endeavour Spent 16 Days Aloft On Stargazing Mission
Endeavour and seven astronauts touched down in California’s Mojave Desert on Saturday, ending a 16 1/2-day stargazing mission, the longest flight in shuttle history.
Commander Stephen Oswald guided Endeavour through clear skies to an Edwards Air Force Base landing at 4:47 p.m. EST, 16 days, 15 hours after the crew blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The astronauts traveled 6.9 million miles and circled Earth 262 times during NASA’s 68th shuttle flight, Endeavour’s eighth. The longest previous shuttle flight was 14 days, 18 hours by Columbia last summer.
“Welcome home Endeavour after a fantastic recordsetting mission. It will be a tough one to beat,” Mission Control’s Curtis Brown told the crew after Endeavour rolled to a stop on the runway.
“It sure is nice to have you all home.”
“It’s nice to be here,” Oswald replied.
More than 1,000 spectators filled a viewing stand and another 100 VIPs, including crew members’ families, watched the afternoon landing. NASA officials made lastminute arrangements for Administrator Daniel Goldin, accompanied by two daughters and a grandson, to witness the landing.
Goldin earlier in the week had been at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.
Goldin greeted Oswald and two other astronauts - Wendy B. Lawrence and William G. Gregory - in the bright sunshine while they still were in their orange flight suits and getting their land legs.
The astronauts were scheduled to fly to Houston today after extended medical evaluations, said NASA spokesman Don Haley.
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