The seven astronauts aboard Space Shuttle Discovery glided to a smooth landing at the Kennedy Space Center, wrapping up their eight-day mission to refurbish and repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
After waving off the first landing opportunity of the day because of a concern with cross winds at the landing site, the crew was given a "go" to perform the deorbit burn which came at 4:48 p.m. CST and caused Discovery to fall out of its 380 statute mile high orbit to start the journey home to the Kennedy Space Center.
With Commander Curt Brown at the controls, Discovery touched down at 6:01 p.m CST on Runway 33 at the three mile long Shuttle Landing Facility runway at KSC to complete a mission spanning almost 3.3 million miles. Pilot Scott Kelly, Flight Engineer Jean-Francois Clervoy and Mission Specialist Michael Foale joined Brown on the flight deck for entry and landing. Mission Specialists Steve Smith, John Grunsfeld and Claude Nicollier were seated down in the middeck. The end of the STS-103 mission marked the 20th consecutive landing at the Florida spaceport and the 13th night landing in the history of the Shuttle program.
Left behind in orbit, the Hubble Space Telescope now features six new gyroscopes, six new voltage/temperature improvement kits, a new onboard computer, a new solid state recorder and new data transmitter, a new fine guidance sensor along with new insulation on parts of the orbiting telescope.
The STS-103 crew will spend the evening in Florida before returning to Houston on Tuesday. The crew is expected to leave Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, FL at approximately 1:30 p.m. CST. The crew should land at Ellington Field at about 5 p.m. where the seven astronauts will be greeted by JSC management and center employees. The crew return ceremony will occur at Hangar 990 and is open to the general public.
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