Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Friday, 31 July 2009 15:48 UK

Space shuttle touches down safely


Space shuttle comes back to Earth

The space shuttle Endeavour has safely landed at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, ending a 16-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The seven-strong crew touched down at 1548 BST (1048 EDT) in near perfect weather conditions.

During the mission, the combined shuttle and ISS crews set a new record of 13 people on the orbiting outpost.

Nasa plans seven more shuttle missions to complete construction of the space station by the end of 2010.

The agency's new administrator Charles Bolden was on the tarmac of runway 15 to greet the crew as they performed the traditional post-flight "walkround inspection" of the shuttle.

Endeavour blasted off on 15 July with its crew of seven astronauts after weather concerns scuppered five launch attempts.

The ISS, now about the size of a four-bedroom house, has been under construction for more than a decade.

Space 'porch'

Endeavour's crew delivered and installed fresh batteries, large spare parts and a "porch" for Japan's $1bn Kibo science laboratory. This addition to the onboard lab is designed to hold outdoor experiments.

The crew also deployed two pairs of small satellites from canisters in the shuttle's payload bay.

Five spacewalks were undertaken during the course of the mission.

Crew members also shared some unexpected inconveniences, most notably a flooded toilet aboard the space station.

ISS crew members (Nasa)
The station hosted 13 crew members for the duration of the mission

During testing on Thursday, one of the shuttle's thrusters failed to fire but Nasa said it would not be needed during re-entry.

Endeavour has brought home Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who has spent 138 days in space and has been a member of three separate space station crews.

Mr Wakata returned to Earth in experimental underwear that he has been wearing for a month. The hi-tech garments were designed in Japan to be odour-free.

US astronaut Tim Kopra, who was carried into space aboard Endeavour, has remained on the station.

Nasa plans seven more shuttle missions to complete construction of the ISS before the scheduled retirement of the shuttle fleet in September 2010.

Discovery will be next to fly to the ISS; its launch is scheduled for 25 August.

Earlier this week, a senior Russian space official was quoted by a news agency as saying that delays to the schedule of US shuttle launches to the space station were resulting in extra work for Russian rocket crews without financial compensation.

Exposed facility
The exposed facility aboard Kibo will have space for 12 scientific experiments

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