Atlantis detoured, lands in California
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The space shuttle Atlantis and its seven astronauts returned safely to earth yesterday, detouring from stormy Florida to sunsplashed California to end a 13-day mission that repaired and enhanced the Hubble Space Telescope.
"Now and only now can we declare this mission a total success; the astronauts are safely on the ground," Ed Weiler, NASA sciences chief, said at a Florida press conference.
Atlantis's crew had waited since Friday for the go-ahead to land as Mission Control hoped to avoid the time and expense - about $1.8 million - of diverting to California.
The Florida weather refused to yield, and Mission Control directed commander Scott Altman to head to California.
The shuttle's twin sonic booms rocked the Mojave Desert as it swooped out of a dazzling morning sky.
The crew finally set foot on the ground about two hours after touchdown, receiving greetings from ground personnel before they began the customary walkaround to inspect the exterior.