Related News

Home » World

Space shuttle Atlantis lands safely after Hubble mission

SPACE shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven returned to Earth yesterday, ending their successful Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in California after stormy weather prevented a return to NASA's Florida home base.

Mission Control waited as long as possible for the weather to improve before giving up and directing commander Scott Altman to Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert.

Atlantis ended up circling Earth 197 times and logged 8.53 million kilometers during its journey.

"Welcome home, Atlantis," Mission Control radioed once the shuttle came to a safe stop. "Congratulations on a very successful mission giving Hubble a new set of eyes."

"It was a thrill from start to finish," Altman replied. "We've had a great ride."

After 13 days in orbit, many of them tending to Hubble, Altman and his crew were anxious to be back on the ground. They were supposed to land last Friday in Florida, but NASA kept the astronauts circling the world in case thunderstorms from a lingering low-pressure system eased up.

The weather did not improve, and Mission Control passed up landing opportunities for a third straight day at Kennedy Space Center.

Altman was grateful for the conditions at Edwards, NASA's backup landing site. "A beautiful day in the desert," he said before heading back.

NASA loses at least a week of work and close to US$2 million in ferry costs by landing in California. And the astronauts will have to wait another day to be reunited with their families, who were in Florida.

The astronauts left behind a refurbished Hubble that scientists say is better than ever and should keep churning out pictures of the universe for another five to 10 years.

They carried out five spacewalks to give the 19-year-old observatory new science instruments, pointing devices and batteries, and fix a pair of broken instruments, something never before attempted. Stuck bolts and other difficulties made much of the work harder than expected.

The US$1 billion overhaul was the last for Hubble and, thanks to the crew's valiant effort, won praise from United States President Barack Obama and members of Congress.

But with space shuttles retiring next year, no more astronauts will visit the telescope, and NASA expects to steer it into the Pacific sometime in the early 2020s.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend