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Discovery Completes 'Wildly Successful' Mission


The space shuttle Discovery has returned to Earth, ending the United States' first manned space mission since the loss of the shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Discovery commander Eileen Collins guided the shuttle to a smooth touchdown at Edwards Air Force Base in the western U.S. state of California early Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at his ranch in Texas, President Bush congratulated the astronauts and the U.S. space agency, NASA, which he said has begun to regain the confidence of the American people.

NASA officials described Discovery's mission as "wildly successful." But they refused to speculate on when the shuttle might fly again. NASA has suspended all shuttle flights until engineers can determine why a piece of hard foam broke off from Discovery's external fuel tank during take-off.

A similar incident damaged the wing of Columbia and led to its break-up as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere in 2003.

Today, Discovery experienced no apparent problems as it cruised home over the Pacific. The landing capped a two-week mission in which astronauts performed unprecedented in-flight repairs to the shuttle's heat shield, and delivered supplies to the International Space Station.
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