Digital News Report- The space shuttle Discovery and its crew landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:14 p.m. EDT on Saturday. The shuttles journey covered more than 5.3 million miles and lasted 13 days. In total the crew completed three spacewalks, where astronauts installed the S6 truss segment to the International Space Station and prepared it for future upgrades that will be installed later this year.
They also replaced a failed unit for a system that converts urine to potable water. It is expected to take about a month for the samples from the station’s Water Recovery System to be analyzed and cleared for the Space Station crew to drink.
On March 24, the 10 shuttle and station crew members gathered in the station’s Harmony module and spoke to President Barack Obama, members of Congress and school children from the Washington, D.C. area. From the White House’s Roosevelt Room, the president and his guests congratulated the crew on the mission and asked about a range of topics including sleeping in weightlessness to the station’s traveling speed.
Lee Archambault commanded the flight and was joined by Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, John Phillips and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata. Wakata remained aboard the station, replacing Flight Engineer Sandra Magnus, who returned to Earth on Discovery after more than four months on the station.
Acaba and Arnold are former science teachers who are now fully trained NASA astronauts. They made their first journey into orbit and conducted critical spacewalking tasks on this flight. STS-119 was the 125th space shuttle mission; the 36th flight for Discovery and the 28th shuttle visit to the station.
With Discovery and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the launch of STS-125, targeted for May 12. Atlantis’ mission will return the space shuttle to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope for one last visit before the shuttle fleet retires in 2010. Over 11 days and five spacewalks, Atlantis’ crew will upgrade the telescope, preparing it for at least another five years of research.