Space Shuttle Returns to Earth

<i> Associated Press</i>

Space shuttle Discovery returned to Earth on Friday, bringing home the last American to live aboard Mir and closing out three years of U.S.-Russian cooperation aboard the aging space station.

His body weakened by 4 1/2 months in zero gravity, Andrew Thomas was carried from Discovery on a reclining seat and taken to Kennedy Space Center’s crew quarters, where dinner and a slew of medical tests awaited him.

“They’ll have your lasagna and Oreo cookie ice cream waiting when you get there,” Mission Control assured Thomas as the shuttle landed.

“I’m looking forward to that first meal,” he replied.


NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin greeted Thomas with a bouquet.

The 46-year-old engineer was the seventh NASA astronaut to live on Mir as practice for the building of the international space station; he boarded the Russian outpost in January.

All together, the six men and one woman racked up 977 days in orbit beginning with the first expedition in 1995, and endured a raging fire, a near-catastrophic collision, computer breakdowns, power outages and toxic leaks.