Discovery Makes Safe Return
Sunday, March 29, 2009
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 28 -- The space shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven returned to Earth on Saturday, successfully wrapping up a construction mission at the international space station.
Discovery's 13-day flight -- which ended just as a new Russian-launched crew was settling into the space station -- was highlighted by the installation and unfurling of the station's last pair of solar wings. The $300 million addition brought the orbiting outpost up to full power, a vital part of NASA's plan to double the space station population and boost the amount of science research in a few months.
NASA conducted a heat shield test during Discovery's reentry. A new type of tile with a slight bump was attached beneath the shuttle's left wing to disrupt the hypersonic airflow. Engineers measured the extra heat generated on downstream tiles, and the area looked to be fairly clean afterward, officials said.
Discovery brought back four to five liters of recycled water that had been the astronauts' urine and sweat. The water was produced after Discovery delivered a new processor that fixed the recycling machine.
NASA hopes to have the water samples tested within a month. If the toxicology results are good, the three space station residents will start drinking the recycled water.