Space Shuttle Discovery Returns to Earth After Successful Mission

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EDWARDS, Calif. -- Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven
astronauts ended a 14-day journey of more than 5.7 million miles with
an 5:53 p.m. PDT landing Friday at Edwards Air Force Base in

The mission, designated STS-128, delivered two refrigerator-sized
science racks to the International Space Station. One rack will be
used to conduct experiments on materials such as metals, glasses and
ceramics. The results from these experiments could lead to the
development of better materials on Earth. The other rack will be used
for fluid physics research. Understanding how fluids react in
microgravity could lead to improved designs for fuel tanks, water
systems and other fluid-based systems.

STS-128 Commander Rick Sturckow was joined on the mission by Pilot
Kevin Ford, Mission Specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny
Olivas and European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang. NASA
astronaut Nicole Stott flew to the complex aboard Discovery to begin
a nearly three-month mission as a station resident, replacing Tim
Kopra, who returned home on Discovery.

Weather concerns prevented the crew from returning to NASA's Kennedy
Space Center in Florida, the primary end-of-mission landing site. In
7-10 days, Discovery will be transported approximately 2,500 miles
from California to Florida on the back of a modified 747 jumbo jet.
Once at Kennedy, Discovery will be separated from the aircraft to
begin processing for its next flight, targeted for March 2010.

A welcome ceremony for the crew's return to Houston will be held at
Ellington Field's NASA Hangar 990 at 4 p.m. CDT on Saturday, Sept.
12. The public is invited to attend.

In addition to carrying a new station crew member, Discovery and the
crew also delivered a new sleeping compartment, an air purification
system and a treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert. The
mission included three spacewalks that replaced experiments outside
the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory and an empty ammonia
storage tank. Ammonia is needed to move excess heat from inside the
station to the radiators located outside.

Disney's toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear also returned from the space
station aboard Discovery. He flew to the station in May 2008 on
shuttle Discovery's STS-124 mission and served as the longest tenured
"crew member" in space. While on the station, Buzz supported NASA's
education outreach by creating a series of online educational
outreach programs.

The crew's return will be broadcast on NASA Television's video file.
For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming
video, visit:


With Discovery and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the
launch of shuttle Atlantis on its STS-129 mission. Atlantis' liftoff
currently is targeted for Nov.12, although shuttle and station teams
are assessing Nov. 9 as a potential launch date. The flight will
focus on storing important spare hardware on the station's exterior.
The 11-day flight will include three spacewalks and the installation
of two platforms to the station's truss, or backbone. Atlantis also
will bring Stott back to Earth.

Stott and STS-128 astronaut Hernandez are providing updates on
Twitter. To connect to their Twitter feeds and other NASA social
media, visit:


For more about the STS-128 mission and the upcoming STS-129 flight,


For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


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