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Shuttle Endeavour landing in Florida  (Source: NASA TV)
Gouge and all, shuttle Endeavour today landed safely in Florida

NASA's shuttle Endeavour today safely landed at the Kennedy Space Center, ending a chaotic 13-day mission in space.  The shuttle's crew continued working on repairs and general construction on the International Space Station (ISS), replaced a gyroscope and delivered food and other supplies to the crew aboard the ISS.

The shuttle touched down at 12:32 p.m. EDT -- one day earlier than expected.  Originally scheduled to land tomorrow afternoon, the direction and severity of Hurricane Dean worried NASA that the Houston space control center would have to be evacuated.  After Hurricane Dean turned directions – now battering the coast of Mexico – NASA decided to land the shuttle.

After deciding not to conduct a space walk to try and fix a gouge on the underside of the shuttle, there was initial fear that the shuttle would not be able to safely land back on Earth.  Although NASA admitted re-entry before landing always is hazardous, flight managers vehemently said there was "zero chance" of an incident similar to the shuttle Columbia disaster.

"Congratulations. Welcome home. You've given a new meaning to higher education," Mission Control told the Endeavour crew after landing.

Drama involving Endeavour started before the shuttle even lifted off, as a former NASA contractor apparently tried to sabotage a computer that flew aboard the shuttle to the ISS.

With two manned shuttle launches completed in 2007, NASA still has two left.





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