Discovery glided to a dawn landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday, ending a 12-day mission of environmental research.
The shuttle touched down at 7:07 a.m. EDT, with mission commander Curt Brown and pilot Kent Rominger at the controls.
“We’re very, very happy with our mission,” Brown said of the near seamless flight that featured two-dozen internationally sponsored projects. Discovery’s return was delayed a day by worries that ground fog would obscure the shuttle’s runway.
While aloft, the shuttle astronauts deployed and retrieved a German-built satellite that scanned the Earth’s atmosphere for ozone damage, tested a new mechanical arm developed by the Japanese for use aboard the new U.S.-led international space station, observed the dimming Hale-Bopp comet and conducted biotechnology experiments.
Following reunions with family members, routine medical exams and a brief rest in Florida, Brown, Rominger, Robert Curbeam, Jan Davis, Steve Robinson and Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason returned to Houston.
It was the sixth of eight planned shuttle missions this year.
Discovery’s smooth performance should pave the way for the launching of a seventh flight on Sept. 25, said Tommy Holloway, NASA’s shuttle program manager.