August 9, 2005
A combination of joy and relief as Discovery and its crew glided safely back to Earth after 14 days in space. From his Texas ranch, President Bush joined Americans in hailing the picture-perfect landing, and the mission's success.
Once the shuttle came to a stop, Mission Control said "Congratulations on a truly spectacular test flight. Welcome home friends."
Landing in the pre-dawn darkness in the Mojabe Desert, Discovery left the shadow of the Columbia disaster behind.
"Today we honored the Columbia crew. We brought Discovery home safely. It's a great day. If you want to know how I feel, I feel fantastic," said Mike Griffin, NASA Administrator.
Commander Eileen Collins of the Discovery said she thought about the Columbia crew every day while in space, and the best way to honor them is to keep flying. "I believe [what is] most significant is just getting the shuttle flying again. It's been two and a half years since Columbia, and we have worked very very hard to do the right things," she explained.
After two no-gos because of bad weather in Florida, Discovery diverted to California as family members in Cape Canaveral watched and waited.
"Exuberant would be a good word. [I'm] very happy. A little bit relieved, and a twinge disappointed that she's still 2500 miles away or so," said Collins' husband Pat Youngs.
The successful landing comes after NASA spent two and a half years and $1billion on safety upgrades after the Columbia disaster.
"It gives us momentum. It's a beginning for us, its a new beginning, its a fresh start. It's an important beginning for us. It's an important mission for us. It's an important milestone in the human space flight endeavor," said flight director LeRoy Cain.
For now, a moment to celebrate and exhale. Now the question of what next. NASA administrator Mike Griffin says Atlantis is the next shuttle on deck, but they're not going anywhere until they're sure its safe.