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Discovery returns from final mission
Wed, 09 Mar 2011 18:14:15 GMT
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The space shuttle Discovery lands at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 9, 2011.
The shuttle Discovery, NASA's most-traveled spaceship, has returned home after its successful 13-day final mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Discovery landed in Florida on Wednesday 1657 GMT with commander Steven Lindsey at the controls, Reuters reported.

The space shuttle delivered a combination storage room-research module to the station, along with an outdoor platform to house large spare parts, equipment, supplies and science experiments.

The gear includes a humanoid robot, known as Robonaut 2, which will be set up in the US laboratory for a trial run. Built in collaboration with General Motors Corp, Robonaut 2 was created to test how large robots can work safely in close proximity with people.

The US shuttle's 39th and last flight was delayed for months due to a leak in a hydrogen vent line in November 2010 and a later unrelated problem with support beams inside the fuel tank.

A five-man, one-woman crew, including commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, spacewalkers Bowen and Alvin Drew, along with Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott, accompanied Discovery in its last space trip.

Discovery will be the first of the three NASA shuttles to be phased out this year as President Barack Obama and Congress have determined that the country's shuttle fleet should be retired.

Discovery is the oldest of the three surviving orbiters, with Endeavour and Atlantis awaiting their next flights in April and June 2011 respectively.

They will deliver the USD 2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector and a year's worth of supplies to the station, a USD 100-billion project of 16 nations that has been under construction 220 miles above Earth since 1998.

After the fleet is retired, US astronauts will fly to the ISS on Russian Soyuz rockets until perhaps the middle of the decade.

Cargo runs will also be handled by Russia, Europe and Japan, as well as two US companies, Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital Sciences Corp.

First launched in 1984, Discovery has completed 38 missions, travelling some 230 million kilometers (142.9 million miles) during its 26 years of service.

Discovery spent 365 days in orbit during its 39 missions and will be prepared to be displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

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