After 6.25 million miles and 15 days, space shuttle Discovery landed safely in Florida completing its 34th mission and circling the Earth 238 times.
Under command of astronaut Pam Melroy, the shuttle touched down on runway 33 at 12:01 p.m., after the 23rd mission to the International Space Station.
Discovery’s crew – Melroy, Pilot George Zamka and mission specialists Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Doug Wheelock, Paolo Nespoli and Clay Anderson – will return to Houston Thursday. A welcoming ceremony for the crew is planned for 4 p.m. at NASA’s Hangar 276 on the south end of Ellington Field.
During the record stay at the station, Discovery delivered the Harmony Node with its 2,600 cubic feet of pressurized volume. Left in a temporary location while the shuttle occupied its permanent home on the Destiny laboratory, Harmony will be prepared for relocation by the Expedition 16 crew over the next three weeks before the next shuttle mission arrives.
“We could not have done this mission without Discovery being as clean and wonderful as it was. The whole agency had to pull together for this mission,” Melroy said on the runway flanked by Discovery.
Station commander Peggy Whitson along with Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Dan Tani will oversee the work to configure station systems for the arrival of a new science laboratory supplied by the European Space Agency next month. Tani exchanged places with Anderson, who spent 152 days in space – 148 of which were onboard the station.
The STS-120 Discovery crew also moved the port 6 truss – or P6 –segment and its accompanying solar arrays to its permanent home at the end of the stations truss, and repaired damage done to the solar array as it was being redeployed.
Next up is Atlantis, which is scheduled to roll to the launch pad Saturday. It will carry ESA’s Columbus laboratory to the station in early December on the STS-122 mission. Discovery will be towed by to its processing hangar this afternoon to begin preparations for its STS-124 mission in April 2008.