Spaceflight Now

The Mission

Orbiter: Discovery
Mission: STS-114
Launch: July 26 @ 10:39 a.m. EDT (1439 GMT)
Site: Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Landing: Aug. 9 @ 8:11 a.m. EDT (1211 GMT)
Site: Shuttle Landing Facility, KSC
Mission video

Pre-flight video

Master Flight Plan

Mission Status Center

NASA TV Schedule

Mission Quick-Look

Mission Keyboard Chart

Mission Preview Report

Launch Windows

Countdown Timeline

Launch Events Timeline

STS-114 Trajectory

Entry & Landing Timeline

Key Personnel List

STS-114 Story Index

The Crew

A seven-person crew, led by veteran shuttle commander Eileen Collins, will fly aboard Discovery for the shuttle return to flight mission.

Crew Quick-Look

CDR: Eileen Collins

PLT: James Kelly

MS 1: Soichi Noguchi

MS 2: Stephen Robinson

MS 3: Andrew Thomas

MS 4: Wendy Lawrence

MS 5: Charles Camarda

Spacewalk Statistics

Current Demographics

Projected Demographics

Astronaut Fatalities

The Vehicle

As America's third reusable space shuttle to fly, Discovery has successfully completed 30 missions since 1984.

STS-114 Hardware

Shuttle Flight History

Launch/Landing Chart

Human Space Missions

STS-107 Archive

Our comprehensive coverage of the Columbia disaster and its aftermath has been archived.

STS-107 Directory


Follow the return of America's space shuttle fleet to flight as we chronicle Discovery's mission to the international space station. A text only version of this page is available to reduce download times.

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Additional coverage for subscribers:


1435 GMT (10:35 a.m. EDT)

The 747 has been towed in front of the Mate-Demate Device, which is the large structure used for lifting Discovery off the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Once removed from the jet, the shuttle will be lowered to the ground and then towed to its processing hangar to begin preparations for flying mission STS-121 next March.

1418 GMT (10:18 a.m. EDT)

The tow vehicle is beginning to haul the carrier aircraft off the runway. The welcoming committee on the runway tarmac includes shuttle program manager Bill Parsons, launch director Mike Leinbach and Discovery astronaut Steve Robinson.

1400 GMT (10:00 a.m. EDT)

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft has rolled to a stop after safely ferrying Discovery from Edwards Air Force Base in California to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A tow vehicle will be used to bring the 747/shuttle duo into the Mate-Demate Device structure next to the runway for removal of Discovery from atop the aircraft.

1358 GMT (9:58 a.m. EDT)

Touchdown! Discovery is back home.

1356 GMT (9:56 a.m. EDT)

Now in the wide sweeping left-overhead turn to align with Runway 15. The landing gear is down.

1355 GMT (9:55 a.m. EDT)

The carrier aircraft is buzzing up the space center on a northward heading before making a U-turn to land on the northwest-to-southeast Runway 15 of the Shuttle Landing Facility.

1353 GMT (9:53 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is now in view of the media gathered at Kennedy Space Center's runway.

1350 GMT (9:50 a.m. EDT)

The amazing sight of the shuttle mounted atop a Boeing 747 jumbojet is visible over Cocoa Beach and the surrounding area now.

1347 GMT (9:47 a.m. EDT)

The shuttle has passed over Viera, en route for its low-altitude pass over the Space Coast beaches.

1340 GMT (9:40 a.m. EDT)

Everyone in Orlando should be outside looking up right now as Discovery flies from northwest to southeast. And those folks along the Brevard County beaches should be getting ready to run out momentarily.

38 GMT (9:38 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is flying over northwestern Orange County in sunny Central Florida, having passed over Tavares and Lake Dora.

1334 GMT (9:34 a.m. EDT)

Discovery astronaut Steve Robinson is landing at KSC aboard a T-38 jet. He has flown from Houston to welcome home his shuttle.

The ferry flight has crossed Interstate 75 as it cruises south of Ocala and approaches Leesburg in Lake County. The shuttle will be nearing Orlando shortly.

1329 GMT (9:29 a.m. EDT)

The KC-135 pathfinder aircraft, which has flown weather reconnassiance ahead of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, has just touched down at Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle is about 100 miles behind, about to fly west of Ocala.

1325 GMT (9:25 a.m. EDT)

Now west of Williston.

1320 GMT (9:20 a.m. EDT)

The flight is going east of Cross City and Chiefland and well west of Gainesville.

1310 GMT (9:10 a.m. EDT)

The next city the shuttle will fly near is Perry, Florida, passing to the west.

1308 GMT (9:08 a.m. EDT)

Discovery has skirted just north and then east of the Florida state capital, still tracking southeasterly with a little more than 200 miles to go.

1300 GMT (9:00 a.m. EDT)

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft's flight path has taken Discovery just south of Lake Seminole and Chattahoochee along the Georgia-Florida border. The shuttle will be near Tallahassee a short time from now.

1250 GMT (8:50 a.m. EDT)

Now 90 minutes into this stage of the cross-country ferry flight, Discovery is flying just north of Chipley, Florida and Interstate 10, approaching the city of Marianna.

1240 GMT (8:40 a.m. EDT)

The flight is nearing the Florida state line in the panhandle as Discovery makes its way above extreme southern Alabama, just south of Andalusia.

1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is about 300 miles into this trip from Louisiana to Kennedy Space Center. The flight path is taking the shuttle across Interstate 65 and north of Atmore and Brewton, Alabama now.

1220 GMT (8:20 a.m. EDT)

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft has passed over the Mississippi-Alabama border.

1212 GMT (8:12 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is over southern Mississippi, passing between Collins and Laurel, on a southeasterly heading at an altitude of about 15,000 feet.

1200 GMT (8:00 a.m. EDT)

The eastbound ferry flight has crossed into Mississippi along a path that will take the shuttle south of Crystal Springs and well south of Jackson.

1143 GMT (7:43 a.m. EDT)

The carrier jet is passing south of Monroe as it climbs to a cruising altitude of 15,000 feet.

1127 GMT (7:27 a.m. EDT)

After an extended layover at Barksdale Air Force Base, Discovery's ferry flight has finally resumed. The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft took off from the Louisiana military base a few minutes ago to begin the nearly three-hour trip across the southeastern United States to Kennedy Space Center in east-central Florida.

1040 GMT (6:40 a.m. EDT)

Ferry flight managers met this morning and have decided weather conditions are good for the final leg of shuttle Discovery's journey home to the Kennedy Space Center. Discovery, riding atop the modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, will leave Barksdale Air Force Base in northwestern Louisiana at about 7:25 a.m. EDT and arrive at the space center's Shuttle Landing Facility at about 10:15 a.m.

The flight path is expected to take the vehicle over Tallahassee at about 9:20 a.m., then toward Gainesville, and across the state to the Kennedy Space Center. A fly-by of the Space Coast beaches is being considered.

A beach overpass, if weather permits, will see the shuttle/747 duo cross the Indian River over Patrick Air Force Base then turn north to fly over Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral, Port Canaveral, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and then into KSC airspace for an approach that will land the vehicle from north to south on the spaceport runway, NASA says.

1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT)

Bad weather enroute to the Kennedy Space Center has forced NASA to delay Discovery's homecoming until tomorrow. The shuttle will remain overnight at Barksdale Air Force Base in northwestern Louisiana. Ferry flight managers will meet again early Sunday to evaluate the weather conditions. The revised plan, weather permitting, calls for the 747/shuttle duo to depart Barksdale Sunday at about 7:25 a.m. EDT and arrive at its Florida home port at about 10 a.m. EDT.

2235 GMT (6:35 p.m. EDT)

Space shuttle Discovery's piggyback ride across the United States atop a modified Boeing 747 jumbojet has reached Louisiana for an overnight layover and refueling. The unique duo will resume the ferry flight mid-morning Saturday and head for the shuttle home port at Kennedy Space Center. A low-altitude buzz along the Space Coast beaches is possible, weather and fuel permitting, before the carrier jet touches down on the three-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility runway in the early afternoon.

2223 GMT (6:23 p.m. EDT)

Discovery is crossing the Texas-Louisiana state line near Caddo Lake as it heads along the final southeasterly route into Barksdale, near Shreveport.

2205 GMT (6:05 p.m. EDT)

Distance left to Barksdale is about 100 miles.

2150 GMT (5:50 p.m. EDT)

The ferry flight continues to travel across northern Texas. The duo is over Lake Texoma now, about 60 miles due north of Dallas.

2135 GMT (5:35 p.m. EDT)

The shuttle/747 duo are flying along the Oklahoma-Texas border on the 300-mile eastward path to Barksdale.

2118 GMT (5:18 p.m. EDT)

Discovery departed Altus Air Force Base at about 5:15 p.m. EDT to begin the 80-minute flight from southwestern Oklahoma to Barksdale Air Force Base in northwestern Louisiana where the ferry flight will stop for refueling and an overnight stay.

1945 GMT (3:45 p.m. EDT)

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft being used today is known as NASA 905. It was purchased from American Airlines in 1974 and modified to carry the shuttle orbiters beginning in the program's early years. A second carrier -- NASA 911 -- was obtained from Japan Airlines in 1989 and came online in November 1990.

The aircraft have a wingspan of 195 ft. 8 in., a length of 231 ft. 10 in., a height to top of cockpit area of 32 ft. 1 in., and a max. gross taxi weight of 713,000 lbs. They are powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7J gas turbine engines, each producing 50,000 lbs of thrust. Minimum crew for a flight is two pilots and one flight engineer. Minimum for mated flight is two pilots and two flight engineers. The two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft are under the operational control of NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.

1900 GMT (3:00 p.m. EDT)

This stop at Altus will last roughly two hours before the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft returns to the sky for the trip to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

1845 GMT (2:45 p.m. EDT)

After a three-hour, 900-mile trek across the southwestern United States, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and Discovery have arrived at the Altus Air Force Base in southwestern Oklahoma to refuel the 747 before heading on to Louisiana. They should reach Barksdale before nightfall.

1815 GMT (2:15 p.m. EDT)

The trip across the Texas Panhandle continues. The aircraft is flying south of Amarillo now.

1805 GMT (2:05 p.m. EDT)

With about 30 minutes till arrival at Altus, Discovery has crossed the New Mexico/Texas border on its eastward heading.

1725 GMT (1:25 p.m. EDT)

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft is flying in the skies above the southwestern U.S. bound for a refueling pit stop in Oklahoma this afternoon. The modified Boeing 747 is 15,000 feet over central New Mexico now, just north of Socorro. Arrival at Altus Air Force Base is expected a little more than an hour from now.

1545 GMT (11:45 a.m. EDT)

The first leg of Discovery's ferry flight will last about three hours as the ship flies above Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and into southwestern Oklahoma for a refueling stop at Altus Air Force Base. The flight then continues to the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana for an overnight stay.

1532 GMT (11:32 a.m. EDT)

WHEELS UP! The 747-shuttle duo have departed from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California to begin the two-day, cross-country trek back to Discovery's home port at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

1530 GMT (11:30 a.m. EDT)

The 747 carrying Discovery is taxiing into position for take off.

1515 GMT (11:15 a.m. EDT)

The modified 747 carrying the space shuttle Discovery pushed back from its stand at 9:35 a.m. this morning. The craft are due to depart NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center no earlier than 11:30 a.m. EDT.

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and its precious cargo are due to make the first refueling stop at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The 747-Shuttle combo will then continue on to another military base for an overnight stop, probably Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The craft are then scheduled to continue their journey across the south to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on Saturday, with arrival tentatively set for mid-day.

1507 GMT (11:07 a.m. EDT)

The shuttle Discovery's crew, braving the hellish fire of re-entry for the first time since Columbia's ill-fated descent two-and-a-half years ago, flew safely back to Earth Tuesday, gliding to a predawn California touchdown to close out an action-packed mission. Read our landing story.

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1507 GMT (11:07 a.m. EDT)

The actual weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center this morning at the two landing times were "no go" due to violations of the rain and other weather rules, entry flight director LeRoy Cain says.

1414 GMT (10:14 a.m. EDT)

The astronauts have emerged from the Crew Transport Vehicle for the walkaround inspection of Discovery on the runway.

1342 GMT (9:42 a.m. EDT)

Leinbach says it will take about 7 days to ready Discovery for the cross-country ferry flight atop a modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft. The trip from Edwards Air Force Base to Kennedy Space Center is expected to take two days, he said.

1331 GMT (9:31 a.m. EDT)

"Today we honored the Columbia crew -- we brought Discovery home safely," says shuttle program manager Bill Parsons.

"Discovery is home, the crew is safe, we've come full circle now," says shuttle launch and landing director Mike Leinbach.

1325 GMT (9:25 a.m. EDT)

A post-flight news conference with senior NASA officials, including Administrator Mike Griffin, is coming up in about five minutes from Kennedy Space Center.

1306 GMT (9:06 a.m. EDT)

Commander Eileen Collins has finished all of her post-landing chores in the cockpit, allowing her to turn the controls to astronaut support personnel who have boarded the shuttle. Collins will be exiting the vehicle to join her crewmates in the Crew Transport Vehicle.

Some or all of the astronauts are expected to take the traditional walkaround of Discovery to inspect their ship on the runway before being driven to crew quarters.

The crew will fly home to Houston tomorrow, with arrival expected around 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT).

1255 GMT (8:55 a.m. EDT)

CAPCOM Ken Ham in Mission Control has passed along to commander Collins the congratulations and well wishes from the two space station residents -- Sergei Krikalev and John Phillips.

1246 GMT (8:46 a.m. EDT)

The crew module hatch has been opened.

1245 GMT (8:45 a.m. EDT)

The Crew Transport Vehicle -- a modified airport "People Mover" -- has pulled up to the Discovery's crew hatch for the astronauts to enter. The CTV features beds and comfortable seats for the astronauts to receive medical checks after returning to Earth's gravity from the weightless environment of space.

1239 GMT (8:39 a.m. EDT)

Here are the preliminary landing times in Eastern Daylight Time and Mission Elapsed Time:

Main Gear Touchdown
8:11:22 a.m. EDT
MET: 13 days, 21 hours, 32 minutes, 22 seconds

Nose Gear Touchdown
8:11:41 a.m. EDT
MET: 13 days, 21 hours, 32 minutes, 41 seconds

Wheels Stop
8:12:36 a.m. EDT
MET: 13 days, 21 hours, 33 minutes, 36 seconds

1233 GMT (8:33 a.m. EDT)

The astronauts have been given the OK to take off their entry suits. The crew is expected to climb from the shuttle about 45 minutes after touchdown.

1232 GMT (8:32 a.m. EDT)

The vent doors are being set to the purge setting.

1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT)

The orbiter's hydraulics are now off.

1228 GMT (8:28 a.m. EDT)

Discovery's three auxiliary power units are being shut down.

1225 GMT (8:25 a.m. EDT)

The main engine nozzles are being repositioned, or gimbaled, to the "rain drain" orientation.

1223 GMT (8:23 a.m. EDT)

On the runway, workers have arrived with instruments to "sniff" the shuttle's exterior to check for any hazardous vapors.

1222 GMT (8:22 a.m. EDT)

The landing gear is reported safed.

1220 GMT (8:20 a.m. EDT)

The drag chute pyrotechnics have been safed.

1220 GMT (8:20 a.m. EDT)

The body flap is being set by pilot Jim Kelly.

1218 GMT (8:18 a.m. EDT)

The external tank umbilical doors on the shuttle's belly are being opened. The side hatch pyrotechnics are safed.

1216 GMT (8:16 a.m. EDT)

The official touchdown time was 8:11:22 a.m. EDT.

1216 GMT (8:16 a.m. EDT)

Post-landing safing of Discovery is underway by the astronauts following touchdown today.

1215 GMT (8:15 a.m. EDT)

The ground convoy is headed to the runway in preparation for securing of the shuttle.

1212 GMT (8:12 a.m. EDT)

Discovery has concluded its 5.8 million mile, two-week mission, successfully landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

1212 GMT (8:12 a.m. EDT)


1211 GMT (8:11 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is rolling out on Runway 22 in the predawn darkness of the Mojave Desert.

1211 GMT (8:11 a.m. EDT)

TOUCHDOWN! Main gear touchdown. Drag chute deployed. Nose gear touchdown.

1211 GMT (8:11 a.m. EDT)

Landing gear down and locked. Standing by for touchdown on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

1210 GMT (8:10 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is aligned with Runway 22.

1210 GMT (8:10 a.m. EDT)

Altitude 7,000 feet. Wings are level.

1210 GMT (8:10 a.m. EDT)

Field in sight. Commander Collins can see the runway as she pilots Discovery to landing. The shuttle descending at a rate seven times steeper than that of a commercial airliner.

1209 GMT (8:09 a.m. EDT)

Collins has Discovery is bring the shuttle around the Heading Alignment Cylinder on the mark.

1209 GMT (8:09 a.m. EDT)

Discovery descending through 22,000 feet.

1208 GMT (8:08 a.m. EDT)

Commander Eileen Collins is now flying Discovery. The shuttle is in the Heading Alignment Cylinder, an imaginary circle to align with Runway 22. The crew is piloting the shuttle through a 196-degree right-overhead turn. Altitude under 40,000 feet.

1208 GMT (8:08 a.m. EDT)

The sonic booms have been heard in the Edwards area, announcing the shuttle's arrival.

1207 GMT (8:07 a.m. EDT)

Pilot Jim Kelly has taken manual control of Discovery.

1207 GMT (8:07 a.m. EDT)

Alitude 46,000 feet.

1207 GMT (8:07 a.m. EDT)

Wings are leveling following the earlier banking maneuvers.

1206 GMT (8:06 a.m. EDT)

Discovery, just a glider during its return to Earth, remains on course with the proper energy level. Altitude 65,000 feet at Mach 1.5.

1205 GMT (8:05 a.m. EDT)

Speed is 2,000 mph at an altitude of 87,000 feet some 81 miles from the landing site.

1204 GMT (8:04 a.m. EDT)

Seven minutes to touchdown. Air data probes have been deployed from the shuttle's nose to feed air speed, altitude and angle of attack information to the computers for navigation.

1203 GMT (8:03 a.m. EDT)

An infrared tracking camera at Edwards has spotted Discovery. The shuttle is 155 miles away at an altitude of 21 miles.

1202 GMT (8:02 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is now flying at Mach 6.

1201 GMT (8:01 a.m. EDT)

The TACAN navigation units aboard Discovery are now receiving data from beacons located at the landing site.

1201 GMT (8:01 a.m. EDT)

Speed is now 5,100 some 287 miles from the runway.

1200 GMT (8:00 a.m. EDT)

All appears to be going smoothly in Discovery's descent.

1159 GMT (7:59 a.m. EDT)

Discovery remains on the proper track for landing in 12 minutes at Edwards Air Force Base. Mission Control computes Discovery will land 2,700 feet down the runway at 205 knots.

1159 GMT (7:59 a.m. EDT)

The shuttle is beginning to bank back to the left at a speed of 7,500 mph. Altitude is 167,000 feet.

1158 GMT (7:58 a.m. EDT)

Speed is 8,700 mph, altitude is 33 miles, 630 miles from touchdown.

1157 GMT (7:57 a.m. EDT)

Discovery's speed is 10,000 mph at an altitude of 34 miles.

1156 GMT (7:56 a.m. EDT)

The shuttle is flying at Mach 17, now 1,000 miles from Edwards.

1155 GMT (7:55 a.m. EDT)

The shuttle is 16 minutes to touchdown, descending through 200,000 feet.

1153 GMT (7:53 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is 217,000 feet in altitude, 1,450 miles from the runway.

1152 GMT (7:52 a.m. EDT)

The shuttle's speed is 14,500 mph as Discovery begins reversing its bank to the right to further reduce speed.

1151 GMT (7:51 a.m. EDT)

All of Discovery's systems are operating normally, flight controllers report, as Discovery passes an altitude of 41 miles, some 2,000 miles from Edwards Air Force Base.

1150 GMT (7:50 a.m. EDT)

Speed is now 15,400 mph at an altitude of 230,000 feet.

1149 GMT (7:49 a.m. EDT)

Distance left to travel to the runway now 2,500 miles.

1148 GMT (7:48 a.m. EDT)

Altitude is now 45 miles, traveling at 16,100 mph.

1147 GMT (7:47 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is crossing the equator in the central Pacific.

1146 GMT (7:46 a.m. EDT)

Time to touchdown now 25 minutes.

1145 GMT (7:45 a.m. EDT)

Speed is beginning to decrease, now 16,800 mph.

1145 GMT (7:45 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is beginning the first of four banks to scrub off speed as it plunges into the atmosphere. These turns basically remove the energy Discovery built up during launch. This first bank is to the left with the wings angled 74 degrees.

1144 GMT (7:44 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is about 4,000 miles from the runway, descending through 51 miles.

1143 GMT (7:43 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is traveling 17,000 mph at an altitude of 56 miles.

1141 GMT (7:41 a.m. EDT)

Altitude is now 65 miles.

1140 GMT (7:40 a.m. EDT)

ENTRY INTERFACE. The protective tiles on the belly of Discovery are now feeling heat beginning to build as the orbiter enters the top fringes of the atmosphere -- a period known as entry interface.

The shuttle is flying with its nose elevated 40 degrees, wings level, at an altitude of 400,000 feet, passing over the southern Pacific Ocean, at a velocity of Mach 25, descending at a rate of over 600 feet per second.

Touchdown is set for 8:11 a.m. EDT at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

1139 GMT (7:39 a.m. EDT)

With less than a minute before entry interface, altitude is now 81 miles.

1136 GMT (7:36 a.m. EDT)

The shuttle is 100 miles above the South Pacific as it nears the upper fringe of Earth's atmosphere and just under 6,000 miles from the runway.

1134 GMT (7:34 a.m. EDT)

Altitude is now 120 miles.

1129 GMT (7:29 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is descending through 155 miles.

1128 GMT (7:28 a.m. EDT)

All three auxiliary power units are now running to supply pressure to the shuttle's hydraulic systems, which in turn move Discovery's aerosurfaces and deploy the landing gear. One unit was started prior to the deorbit burn; the others just a few moments ago. The units are only activated during the launch and landing phases of the shuttle mission.

1123 GMT (7:23 a.m. EDT)

Altitude is 190 miles.

1122 GMT (7:22 a.m. EDT)

The propellant no longer needed for the shuttle's forward steering jets is being dumped overboard now.

1121 GMT (7:21 a.m. EDT)

Time to touchdown is 50 minutes. Discovery is flying over the extreme southern Indian Ocean and about to pass south of Australia.

1120 GMT (7:20 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is 205 miles above Earth, continuing its free-fall to the atmosphere. The ship will hit the upper edge of the atmosphere at altitude of about 75 miles in 20 minutes.

1117 GMT (7:17 a.m. EDT)

Excess propellant reserves in the shuttle's forward maneuvering thrusters will be dumped overboard via four jets. The dump time will be 44 seconds, the astronauts were just told.

1115 GMT (7:15 a.m. EDT)

Onboard guidance is maneuvering Discovery from its heads-down, tail-forward position needed for the deorbit burn to the reentry configuration of heads-up and nose-forward. The nose also will be pitched upward 40 degrees. In this new position, the black tiles on the shuttle's belly will shield the spacecraft during the fiery plunge through the Earth's atmosphere with temperatures reaching 3,000 degrees F. Discovery will begin interacting with the upper fringes of the atmosphere above the South Pacific at 7:40 a.m. EDT.

1109 GMT (7:09 a.m. EDT)

Touchdown is 60 minutes away.

1109 GMT (7:09 a.m. EDT)

DEORBIT BURN COMPLETE. Discovery has successfully completed the deorbit burn, committing the shuttle for its journey back to Earth. Landing is scheduled for 8:11 a.m. EDT (1211 GMT) at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

1107 GMT (7:07 a.m. EDT)

The deorbit burn is progressing normally, flight controllers report.

1106 GMT (7:06 a.m. EDT)

DEORBIT BURN IGNITION. Flying upside down and backwards 220 miles above the western Indian Ocean, Discovery has begun the deorbit burn. The firing of the twin orbital maneuvering system engines on the tail of the shuttle will last two minutes and 42 seconds, slowing the craft to slip from orbit. The retro-burn will send Discovery to Edwards Air Force Base in California for a touchdown at 8:11 a.m. EDT.

1101 GMT (7:01 a.m. EDT)

Pilot Jim Kelly is activating one of three Auxiliary Power Units -- APU No. 2 -- in advance of the deorbit burn, now five minutes away. The other two APUs will be started later in the descent to provide pressure needed to power shuttle's hydraulic systems that move the wing flaps, rudder/speed brake, drop the landing gear and steer the nose wheel. NASA ensures that at least one APU is working before committing to the deorbit burn since the shuttle only needs a single unit to make a safe landing.

1052 GMT (6:52 a.m. EDT)

Discovery has maneuvered to the deorbit burn attitude. The shuttle is flying upside-down and backwards with its tail pointed in the direction of travel.

1043 GMT (6:43 a.m. EDT)

GO FOR THE DEORBIT BURN! The return to flight mission of NASA's space shuttle is headed to conclusion in the Mojave Desert of California this morning. Discovery's astronauts are "go" to perform the deorbit burn at 7:06:18 a.m. EDT to commit the shuttle for the trip back to Earth.

The upcoming two-minute, 42-second retrograde burn using the twin orbital maneuvering system engines on the tail of Discovery will slow the shuttle's velocity by 186 miles per hour, just enough to slip the craft out of orbit and begin the plunge into the atmosphere.

Discovery is headed to a landing at 8:11 a.m. EDT on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base to end the two-week voyage. Touchdown will occur about 54 minutes before sunrise.

1031 GMT (6:31 a.m. EDT)

Weather conditions are reported to be ideal at Edwards, according to Mission Control. Astronaut Mike Bloomfield is flying the Shuttle Training Aircraft around the desert military base to monitor conditions aloft and the path Discovery will follow on final approach to Runway 22.

1021 GMT (6:21 a.m. EDT)

Now 45 minutes till the deorbit burn. Today's landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, at 8:11 a.m. EDT (1211 GMT) will conclude Discovery's flight at 13 days, 21 hours and 32 minutes, spanning 5,796,419 miles.

1015 GMT (6:15 a.m. EDT)

Discovery is crossing the equator over the Pacific Ocean to begin the 219th orbit of Earth on this mission.

0948 GMT (5:48 a.m. EDT)

The deorbit burn will begin at 7:06:18 a.m. EDT. The two-minute, 42-second firing of the orbital maneuvering system engines will slow Discovery by 186 miles per hour for the plunge back into the atmosphere. Discovery will make a 196-degree right overhead turn to align with Runway 22, the three-mile concrete strip at Edwards. Touchdown is expected is expected at 8:11 a.m. EDT (1211 GMT).

A map showing the path Discovery would follow is available here.

0911 GMT (5:11 a.m. EDT)

Now three hours from touchdown in the Mojave Desert.

Today will mark the 50th shuttle landing at California's Edwards Air Force Base, the first since mission STS-111 in June 2002. The predawn touchdown at 5:11 a.m. local time (8:11 a.m. EDT; 1211 GMT) will make Discovery's return the first night shuttle landing at Edwards since STS-48 in September 1991 and just the sixth overall in program history.

0903 GMT (5:03 a.m. EDT)

CALIFORNIA BOUND. Continued instability in the weather off the Florida coast has prompted entry flight director LeRoy Cain to throw in the towel for a Kennedy Space Center homecoming of space shuttle Discovery. Today's landing has been officially diverted to Edwards Air Force Base in California where skies are clear. Touchdown is expected at 8:11:39 a.m. EDT.

Read our earlier Mission Status Center coverage.



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