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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 August 2005, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Shuttle Discovery back in Florida
The space shuttle Discovery arrives in Florida on top of a jumbo jet

The space shuttle Discovery has arrived back at Florida's Kennedy Space Center after travelling piggyback across the US on a modified Boeing 747.

It had been forced by bad weather to land in California when it returned from two weeks in space on 9 August.

It left Edwards Air Force Base on Friday, but more bad weather along the way delayed its arrival in Florida.

The future of the shuttle is uncertain after Nasa announced the fleet would remain grounded until next year.

Louisiana stop

The 3,591-km (2,232-mile) trip from California to Florida was expected to cost $1m (560,000).

DISCOVERY FLIGHT TIMELINE
26 July: Lift-off
30 July: First spacewalk to check repair techniques
1 August: Second spacewalk to fix faulty gear
3 August: Makeshift repairs completed
9 August: Touch-down in California
21 August: Arrives in Florida

One of the seven astronauts who took Discovery to the International Space Station, Stephen Robinson, was among the small crowd that gathered to welcome the shuttle back to its base.

The shuttle and its carrier had been scheduled to stop in Louisiana for a night during its return journey, but they ended up staying two.

During its stay in California, Discovery underwent maintenance and crews worked around the clock to purge it of hazardous substances and remove fuel from the on-board tanks.

Technicians attached an aluminium tail cone to the shuttle to reduce drag during the flight across the US.

Uncertain future

Discovery's homecoming has been tempered by uncertainties about the future of the shuttle programme.

Nasa has announced that its shuttle fleet will not fly again before March at the earliest.

The fleet was grounded after a large piece of foam was shed from Discovery's external fuel tank during lift-off on 26 July.

A similar problem caused the shuttle Columbia to break up on re-entry to the atmosphere in 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.


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