CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Shuttle Discovery and its astronauts returned safely to Earth on Tuesday after making a rare flyover of America's heartland to wrap up their 15-day, 6 million-mile journey to the International Space Station.
The touchdown was delayed by rain and fog that dissipated as the sun rose, allowing Mission Control to take advantage of the morning's second landing opportunity.
Shuttle commander Alan Poindexter held a small U.S. flag as he stood in front of Discovery, two hours later, and described the "beautiful entry." "We got the bonus of coming over the entire United States, and it was just absolutely gorgeous," said Poindexter, flanked by his six crewmates. "The entire entry track took us over the Rockies and over the Midwest and across the Mississippi Delta. It was just a fantastic entry."
Discovery swooped through a hazy sky before landing a day late because of rain. "Welcome home," Mission Control said, radioing congratulations.
"It was a great mission. We enjoyed it," Poindexter said. "And we're glad that the International Space Station is stocked up again."