After 16 days in space and 250 orbits of the Earth, space shuttle Endeavour touched down at Wednesday evening at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, bringing the STS-123 mission to a flawless end. The mission launched in darkness on March 11, and returned home with a rare night landing â€“ and both were spectacular sights. For those of you keeping score at home, Endeavour’s main gear touchdown took place at 8:39:08 p.m. EDT at a mission elapsed time of 15 days, 18 hours, 10 minutes and 55 seconds.
Mission managers said the crew was in good health and spirits. “I got to talk to the crew, and the crew was just having a fantastic time reflecting on their mission and looking up at their vehicle that just landed,” said Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach. “They were glad to be home, very proud of the work they did, and we’re very proud of the work they did, too.”
On board Endeavour were Mission Specialists Takao Doi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Robert L. Behnken, and Rick Linnehan; Pilot Gregory H. Johnson; Commander Dominic Gorie; and Mission Specialist Mike Foreman, as well as European Space Agency astronaut LÃ©opold Eyharts, who returned to Earth aboard Endeavour after almost 50 days in space on the International Space Station. The 16 day mission was one of the longest space shuttle missions, with 5 spacewalks for station construction that included attaching a Japanese Pressurized Module and putting together Dextre, a robotic handyman that will be available to assist in station construction and maintenence tasks.
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If you missed seeing the landing last night, here’s a link to video from NASA