Space shuttle Discovery and its seven astronauts took a cross-country detour and landed safely in California on Saturday after stormy weather prevented them from returning home to Florida for the second day in a row.
Discovery swooped through the sky, breaking through clouds and touched down at Edwards Air Force Base north of Los Angeles an hour before sunset, ending its delivery trip to the international space station.
“Welcome home, Discovery,” Mission Control radioed. . “Congratulations on an extremely successful mission.”
Stormy weather made it too risky to bring Discovery back to its home port in Florida Thursday, and conditions were even worse Friday. So flight director Richard Jones opted for the clear flying conditions of the Mojave Desert.
Discovery’s homecoming took it over the Southern California coastline where it headed inland. Twin sonic booms were heard in Los Angeles and neighbouring cities.
A throng of military families and their children who gathered at a viewing spot at Edwards clapped and cheered after Discovery’s wheels touched the concrete runway.
NASA prefers Florida landings because the cross-country ferry trip, which involves transporting the shuttle atop a modified jumbo jet, costs about USD 1.7 million and takes more than a week.
Thunderstorms also delayed the beginning of Discovery’s mission. The shuttle blasted off Aug 28 and logged 9.2 million kilometres.