Discovery back home, astronauts in Houston

Cape Canaveral (FL) – Concluding a 5.3 million mile, 13-day mission, Discovery landed safely at Kennedy Space Center on Saturday afternoon. The shuttle crew returned to Houston on Sunday.

Discovery touched down with its seven astronauts at 3:14 PM EDT. The 13-day mission included three spacewalks, about 6-hours a piece, to install the S6 truss and enormous $300 million starboard-side solar arrays. They also unfurled the arrays and performed other get-ahead tasks. The new solar arrays enable double the International Space Station’s capability to produce power and are a vital part to doubling the number of people being able to stay at the ISS.

The end of Discovery’s STS-119 mission also brought back Sandra Magnus to Earth, who spent 129 days aboard the International Space Station as flight engineer for Expedition 18. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata took her place on the orbiting laboratory and will return to Earth with the STS-127 crew.

STS-127 has no clear launch date yet, but is targeted for a 2009 launch. The STS-127 mission will deliver the final components of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory to the station.