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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2007, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Endeavour shuttle returns safely
Space shuttle Endeavour, Nasa
Endeavour made a perfect touch down in Florida

Space shuttle Endeavour has landed in Florida after a two-week mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was cut short by Hurricane Dean.

Nasa had feared that Mission Control in Houston would have to be evacuated if the storm lurched towards Texas, but in the end, the facility was not affected.

The space agency also opted not to repair a 9cm (3.5in) gouge in the shuttle's underside before its return.

But the damage appears to have posed no problem to Endeavour on re-entry.

The US shuttle made a perfect touch down at Kennedy Space Center at 1732 BST (1232 EDT).

Its seven crew members spent 13 days in space on a mission that spanned 8.5 million km (5.3 million miles).

Their aims were to continue construction work on the ISS, replace a faulty space station gyroscope and deliver vital supplies to crew members on the orbiting outpost.

Shuttle, BBC

At 1625 BST (1125 EDT) on Tuesday, Commander Scott Kelly and Pilot Charles Hobaugh fired the shuttle's engines for a four-minute de-orbit burn, which sets in motion Endeavour's descent to the ground.

On the way down, Endeavour would have reached speeds of up to 30 times the speed of sound and its underside would have been exposed to temperatures of 1,650C (3,000F).

Nasa officials had already decided that a hole in Endeavour's heat shield tiles would not be repaired by astronauts on a spacewalk before the shuttle attempted to return.

Engineers had been worried the 9cm gash could lead to structural damage on re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, but extensive tests concluded it should pose no problem.

During launch on 8 August, a chunk of insulating foam hit the shuttle, creating the square gouge.

Foam damage has been a major concern for Nasa since the Columbia disaster in 2003 when a briefcase-sized chunk of foam insulation broke off during launch and pierced the shuttle's left wing.

This caused the shuttle to disintegrate on re-entry into the atmosphere, killing all seven crew members.


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SEE ALSO
Nasa opts not to repair shuttle
17 Aug 07 |  Science/Nature
Nasa detects space shuttle damage
11 Aug 07 |  Science/Nature
Endeavour heads for space station
09 Aug 07 |  Science/Nature
Nasa to replace Endeavour valve
02 Aug 07 |  Science/Nature
Nasa scandals overshadow launch
27 Jul 07 |  Science/Nature
Charged Nasa woman 'had no nappy'
29 Jun 07 |  Americas

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