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Politics Last Updated: Mar 11th, 2011 - 15:30:48

Space Shuttle Discovery Lands Successfully; Retirement Begins
David Hope
Mar 9, 2011, 09:30

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Space Shuttle Discovery touched down minutes before noon to mark a successful landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. The landing comes as the conclusion to its last mission before retirement, NASA said.

The shuttle touched down on the space center's 3-mile runway 15 at 11:57 a.m. EST Wednesday, completing its 12-day supply mission to the International Space Station, the space agency reported.

Winds at the time of landing were reported gusting to 17 knots, well below the 25 knots limit for landing.

Discovery mission commander Steve Lindsey was at the controls for the shuttle's 225 mph touchdown.

Discovery's final mission in a flight career spanning 27 years included delivering a 21,817-pound Permanent Multipurpose Module, nicknamed "Leonardo," to the $100 billion International Space Station being assembled 220 miles above Earth. The module, now permanently docked to one of the station's ports, came loaded with supplies and equipment and will be used for storage of spares, supplies and waste, NASA said.

The crew also brought tons of equipment, experiment samples and a humanoid robot dubbed "Robonaut," as well as 853 pounds of water, 112 pounds of nitrogen and 182 pounds of oxygen.

Drew and Bowen carried out two successful spacewalks to complete critical maintenance chores outside the lab complex.

The mission completed the U.S. portion of the station. A final Russian laboratory is due to arrive late this year or early next.

After Discovery returns to Earth, it will take up residence at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington -- but only after NASA mechanics turn the world's most complex flying machine into an unflyable museum artifact.

NASA has two more shuttle launches set after Discovery. Endeavour -- whose crew includes Kelly's twin brother, astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot Jan. 8 -- is scheduled for liftoff April 19 and Atlantis is scheduled for a June 28 launch.

Source: UPI

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