Space Shuttle

Lands Safely

* Welcome home, Discovery!

The space shuttle and its crew of seven astronauts returned to Earth yesterday safe and sound. During their 14-day mission, the astronauts:

* flew 5.8 million miles;

* saw the sun set 219 times; and

* performed the first shuttle repair in space.

Discovery was supposed to land Monday but bad weather at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida delayed it. The weather was still not good enough there yesterday, so Discovery glided back to Earth in the early morning darkness, landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California instead.

Commander Eileen Collins took the controls of the shuttle, flying it upside down and backward during part of its descent. When she brought it to a stop in California, she said, "We're happy to be back."

The next time a shuttle will fly remains in doubt, however. NASA grounded the shuttle fleet after insulating foam broke off Discovery's big, orange fuel tank during liftoff.

A piece of foam that broke off during the launch of the last shuttle, Columbia, caused the damage that led to its destruction as it tried to return to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003. NASA scientists thought they had fixed the problem, but they are back working on it.

Commander Eileen Collins, left, and astronaut Andy Thomas.