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PERFECT LANDING CREW, CRAFT SAFE AT EAFB.



Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

EDWARDS AFB AFB
abbr.
acid-fast bacillus


AFB Acid-fast bacillus, also 1. Aflatoxin B 2. Aorto-femoral bypass
 - Back safely on Earth after returning America's shuttle fleet to space for the first time in 2 1/2 years, shuttle Discovery is getting ready for its flight home to Florida and an uncertain future.

America's oldest surviving space shuttle space shuttle, reusable U.S. space vehicle. Developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it consists of a winged orbiter, two solid-rocket boosters, and an external tank.  made a picture-perfect landing before dawn at Edwards Air Force Base Edwards Air Force Base, U.S. military installation, 301,000 acres (121,805 hectares), S Calif., NE of Lancaster; est. 1933. It is one of the largest air force bases in the United States and has the world's longest runway. , but the next shuttle launch remains uncertain because of continuing problems with fuel-tank insulation coming loose at launch - the problem that doomed Columbia in 2003.

``The shuttles will not last forever. We do see some signs of aging in all the work we do,'' Discovery's commander Eileen Collins Eileen Marie Collins (b. 19 November, 1956 in Elmira, New York) is an American astronaut and a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel. A former military instructor and test pilot, Collins was the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle.  told reporters after landing at Edwards. ``We fixed what needed to be fixed. We realize more needs to be done.''

In the first flight since shuttle Columbia came apart Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard, Discovery spent nearly 14 days in orbit.

Its international crew delivered nearly six tons of supplies to the International Space Station, installed an exterior platform and a replacement gyroscope gyroscope (jī`rəskōp'), symmetrical mass, usually a wheel, mounted so that it can spin about an axis in any direction. When spinning, the gyroscope has special properties. , and loaded up space station trash to take home.

But problems arose even while Discovery was in space.

In what NASA NASA: see National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA
 in full National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Independent U.S.
 calls an unprecedented event, astronaut Steve Robinson This article is about the Welsh former professional boxer. For the NASA astronaut, see Stephen Robinson.

For other persons of the same name, see Robinson.

Steve Robinson (born Cardiff) is a Welsh former professional boxer.
 climbed out of the spacecraft and maneuvered with the help of a robotic arm A robotic arm is a robot manipulator, usually programmable, with similar functions to a human arm. The links of such a manipulator are connected by joints allowing either rotational motion (such as in an articulated robot) or translational (linear) displacement.  around to its underbelly to pluck protruding pro·trude  
v. pro·trud·ed, pro·trud·ing, pro·trudes

v.tr.
To push or thrust outward.

v.intr.
To jut out; project. See Synonyms at bulge.
 gap fillers Gap fillers are an element of the Thermal Protection System on the Space Shuttle. The TPS is comprised, in part, by tiles that deflect the heat generated by re-entry away from the spacecraft.  from between heat-resistant tiles.

Even worse, a day after Discovery blasted off, NASA officials put a hold on future launches after video footage showed the external fuel tank dislodging a piece of foam insulation much larger than officials believed could come off.

NASA officials expect they can get the problem fixed before the launch window for shuttle Atlantis to rendezvous with the space station closes Sept. 24, but they aren't certain.

NASA and Lockheed Martin set teams of engineers to work studying why the chunk came loose despite all tests and changes in fabrication fabrication (fab´rikā´shn),
n the construction or making of a restoration.
 procedures since the Columbia disaster.

Insulation foam has come off the fuel tank since shuttle launches began more than 20 years ago, but NASA engineers never regarded it as anything other than a nuisance and a maintenance chore before the next flight.

The polyurethane-like foam deters ice from forming on the tank's exterior from the intense cold of the liquid hydrogen inside, and also protects the thin skin from the heat of speeding through the atmosphere after launch.

NASA officials never imagined that a chunk could damage the shuttle's thermal insulation seriously enough to do what happened to Columbia: let the blowtorch heat of re-entry RE-ENTRY, estates. The resuming or retaking possession of land which the party lately had.
     2. Ground rent deeds and leases frequently contain a clause authorizing the landlord to reenter on the non-payment of rent, or the breach of some covenant, when the
 melt the spacecraft's aluminum structure.

``This was the central mistake to the loss of (Columbia). It was not thought to be anything other than a maintenance and turnaround issue,'' NASA administrator Michael Griffin said at a media briefing Friday.

Griffin added: ``We are learning our way. The United States has conducted 145 exactly manned spaceflights in 44 years. A student pilot has taken an airplane off the ground and landed it more times than that by the time he gets his ticket. We are at the dawn of this enterprise, not its maturity.''

Discovery's mission was considered a test flight, NASA officials say. The astronauts used new equipment and techniques for checking for damage, and practiced making tile repairs.

Long-range missions to the moon or beyond will require in-flight repairs, the astronauts say.

``We made the first baby step of that, I think, on this mission,'' Robinson said. ``It may be a long road ahead but we're very encouraged by this first step.''

The return to space proved an eye-opener for hundreds of thousands of Southern Californians, jolted awake by the distinctive double sonic booms of the returning shuttle for the first time in more than three years.

Coming in over the Ventura County coast on its way to Edwards, the shuttle's booms were loud enough to set off car alarms across the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.

Calls from people startled star·tle  
v. star·tled, star·tling, star·tles

v.tr.
1. To cause to make a quick involuntary movement or start.

2. To alarm, frighten, or surprise suddenly. See Synonyms at frighten.
 out of their pre-dawn sleep lit up the switchboards at the Lancaster and Palmdale sheriff's stations. Some callers thought the noise was gunfire, or an intruder in their home.

``They didn't know what the 'boom' was,'' said Deputy Rick Nolte, who heard the shuttle pass overhead as he drove to work at the Lancaster sheriff's station.

Discovery's crew said they thought both before and after their flight about what happened to Columbia's crew. A photo of Columba's seven astronauts hung inside Columbia.

Pilot Jim Kelly said he watched his gauges more closely than usual during re-entry to look for any sign that what happened to Columbia was happening to Discovery, whether or not there was anything he could do about it.

``For me, there was a moment of trepidation right before Eileen hit the execute for the de-orbit burn, because once you do that, you're coming home,'' Kelly said.

Collins, who was on her fourth space flight, said the astronauts all were aware of the risks and accepted them.

``The Columbia crew believed in the mission. We are continuing the mission,'' Collins said. ``It's very important to us that that mission of space exploration goes on. This mission is very important: exploring space and making life on Earth better for all of us.''.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Space shuttle Discovery is towed off the runway at Edwards Air Force Base, where it landed smoothly a little after 5 a.m. Tuesday. Next week, it will leave California, riding piggyback piggyback

1. A broker trading in his or her personal account after trading in the same security for a customer. The broker may believe the customer has access to privileged information that will cause the transaction to be profitable.

2.
 atop a modified Boeing 747 back to Cape Canaveral.

(2 -- ran in AV edition only) Space shuttle Discovery makes a pre-dawn landing at Edwards Air Force Base after being in space for 13 days.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News

(3 -- color) Shuttle astronauts, from left, Eileen M. Collins, James M. Kelly For other persons named James Kelly, see James Kelly (disambiguation).
James McNeal "Vegas" Kelly (born May 14, 1964) is a NASA Astronaut and a former Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Air Force.
, Soichi Noguchi, Stephen K. Robinson and Charles J. Camarda talk about their successful mission.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 10, 2005
Words:976
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