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Discovery returns after successful mission to ISS

Space shuttle Discovery lands at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Tuesday. A NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls.

WASHINGTON (BNS): Space shuttle Discovery and its astronauts have returned safely to Earth after completing a 6.2-million-mile mission to restock the International Space Station.

With Commander Alan G Poindexter and Pilot James P Dutton Jr at the controls, Discovery landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 9:08 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, a NASA statement said.

Weather had caused postponement of the first day’s landing attempts, and a rain shower within 30 miles of the runway brought a wave-off of the first of today’s opportunities.

“It was a great mission," Poindexter radioed to Mission Control after landing. “We enjoyed working with you and all the teams in Mission Control, and we're glad the International Space Station is stocked up again.”

Discovery arrived at the space station on April 7, delivering more than seven tons of equipment and supplies. During the 10-day stay, Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson conducted three spacewalks to install a 1,700-pound ammonia tank assembly on the station’s exterior to replace a depleted predecessor. They also replaced a rate gyro assembly, retrieved a Japanese experiment and two debris shields.

"We had a lot of adversity but we overcame it all with some great team work," said Clayton Anderson, who participated in the mission's three spacewalks and previously spent five months at the space station. "

Space shuttle astronauts left behind more than 17,000 pounds of scientific equipment and supplies and brought home a ton of science samples and surplus equipment.

Discovery now will be readied for its final mission, currently scheduled for September. The Leonardo pressurized cargo module completed it last round trip to the station and will be refitted as a permanent module to be delivered to the station on that mission.

The flight marked the first time four women had flown in space together and the first time two Japanese astronauts, Yamazaki and station Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi, had flown in space at the same time.

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