There’s nothing prettier than watching the space shuttle land. Sure, it drops like a rock, a piano, a safe; but when the vehicle makes the final turn and lines up with the runway, and then the commander sticks the landing like Rick Sturckow did tonight, it’s a work of art. If you missed the landing in real time, here’s a great video of Discovery’s landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, at 5:53 PDT on Friday, ending the 14-day mission to the International Space Station.
Weather concerns prevented the crew from landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After the Discovery space shuttle is processed in California, in seven to 10 days the vehicle will be transported approximately 2,500 miles from California to Florida on the back of a modified 747 jumbo jet. Workers at KSC will then begin getting it ready for its next flight, targeted for March 2010.
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.
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.
The next shuttle mission, STS-129, is scheduled for launch no earlier than November 12, 2009. Space shuttle Atlantis will deliver components to the ISS, including two spare gyroscopes, two nitrogen tank assemblies, two pump modules, an ammonia tank assembly and a spare latching end effector for Canadarm2, the station’s robotic arm.