8 Dec :Space shuttle Endeavour and its seven astronauts safely returned to Earth, taking a detour to sunny California after storms hit the main landing strip in Florida.
Endeavour touched down at 4:25 pm EST on Sunday, wrapping up a 16-day trip that left the international space station freshly remodelled and capable of housing bigger crews.NASA ordered the detour after dangerously high wind and a stormy sky prevented a Florida landing.
With the weather at Kennedy Space Centre looking no better for Tuesday, Mission Control opted for its backup landing site.Welcome back. That was a great way to finish a fantastic flight," Mission Control radioed."And we’re happy to be here in California," shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson replied.
Congratulations also came down from the space station."Wow," said skipper Mike Fincke, who watched the landing broadcast live.Returning home from a six-month mission was former space station resident Gregory Chamitoff, who had rocketed away from the planet at the end of May.
The space shuttle’s journey, short by comparison, spanned 6.6 million miles (11 million kilometres) and 250 orbits of Earth.NASA always prefers to land the space shuttles at its home base in Florida. It takes about a week and costs USD 1.8 million to transport a shuttle from California to Florida, atop a modified jumbo jet.
The astronauts also had been rooting for a Florida touchdown; that’s where their families were waiting.