1 Dec 2008

Space shuttle lands smoothly in California

8:27 pm on 1 December 2008

The space shuttle Endeavour glided to a smooth landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Sunday, returning to Earth from a mission to expand and renovate the International Space Station.

NASA rerouted Endeavour and its seven astronauts to California after thunderstorms and high winds prevented them from landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Commander Chris Ferguson steered the shuttle through in a series of sweeping curves to burn off speed before gently guiding the 100-ton ship onto a runway at 4:25 p.m. EST to complete NASA's fourth and final mission of the year.

Endeavour returned from an ambitious and successful home-improvement mission at the $US100 billion space station, a project of 16 nations.

During 12 days at the orbital outpost, the crew installed a water recycling system that will enable NASA to add three more astronauts to the space station's permanent live-aboard crew.

They conducted four spacewalks to repair the station's power system and delivered two new bedrooms, a second toilet, exercise equipment, a small galley and other gear.

A Russian cargo ship arrived at the station early on Sunday with fuel, water and more supplies. Flight engineer Yury Lonchakov remotely guided the Progress vessel to a docking port after its automated system failed.