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Shuttle Discovery lands safely in Florida

THE US space shuttle Discovery touched down yesterday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ending its 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

Discovery, with seven astronauts aboard, landed at 3:14pm EDT (1914 GMT) at Kennedy, the space shuttle's home port, NASA TV showed.

"Welcome home, Discovery, after a great mission," Mission Control radioed.

"It's good to be back home," Discovery's commander Lee Archambault replied.

The space ship scrapped its first touchdown opportunity, scheduled for 1:39pm EDT (1739 GMT) yesterday, due to cloudy and windy weather.

Discovery blasted off to the space on March 15. During its eight-day stay at the space station, astronauts performed three spacewalks to install the S6 truss segment to the starboard, or right side of the station, and deploy its fourth and final set of solar array wings.

Altogether, the station's arrays can generate as much as 120 kilowatts of usable electricity -- enough to provide about 422,800-square-foot (260 square meters) homes with power. The arrays will provide the electricity to fully power science experiments and support the station's expanded crew of six in May.

The truss is a high-tech girder structure made up of 11 segments. It provides the backbone for the station, supporting the US solar arrays, radiators and other equipment. After S6 installation, the truss was 335 feet (102 meters) long.

The shuttle also delivered Koichi Wakata, the first Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's resident station crew member, to the space station. He replaced NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus as part of the station's Expedition 18 crew.

Discovery brought back five months' worth of experiments from the space station. mostly blood, urine and saliva collected by its crew members.

It also returned four to five liters of recycled water made from the astronauts' urine and sweat. NASA wants to make sure the water is safe before space station astronauts start drinking it there.


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