Final Mission

NASA calls it a perfect mission. Space shuttle Discovery returned from 13 days in orbit carrying six crew members home from the International Space Station. The longest flying space shuttle will now be retired. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Here’s how STS 133 landed just before 11 am Houston time at NASA’s Florida Spaceport:

“Main gear touchdown. The nose of the shuttle being rotated down toward the flight deck. The parachute being deployed. And nose gear touchdown and the end of a historic journey. And to the ship that has led the way time and time again, we say farewell, Discovery.”

“They’re all part of the big Discovery team that pulled all this off and gave us just a phenomenal flight, a phenomenal way to see the end of the Discovery vehicle, but again, I think its legacy will be future.”

That future is still being written with two shuttle flights left, one each for Endeavor and Atlantis. Endeavor  will lift off in mid-April, commanded by Mark Kelly, the husband of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from her head wound here in Houston.  Gerstenmaier anticipates a media onslaught.

“Next flight’s a pretty special flight in itself. Also, if you know the Alpha Magnetic spectrometer is flying on that flight right, and it’s put together by I think, 16 countries and 60 different principal investigators. So, I think it’s our job on the NASA side is to be prepared for all these contingencies.”

He says the focus of the last two shuttle flights is to outfit the space station in the most effective manner. The final shuttle flight will be Atlantis at the end of June.