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April 20, 2010
Shuttle Discovery's 15-day mission to the space station
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) -- Shuttle Discovery and its astronauts returned safely to Earth on Tuesday after making a rare flyover of America's heartland to wrap up their 15-day, 6 million mile journey to the International Space Station. The touchdown was delayed by rain and fog that dissipated as the sun rose, allowing Mission Control to take advantage of the morning's second landing opportunity. NASA had promised a spectacular show, weather permitting, for early risers in Helena, Mont., and all the way along Discovery's flight path through the Midwest and Southeast. With the space shuttle program winding down, there weren't expected to be any more continental flyovers. This was, in fact, Discovery's next-to-last flight. Only one more mission remains for NASA's oldest surviving shuttle. As soon as it's removed from the runway, it will be prepped for the final shuttle flight, scheduled for September. (21 images)

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Astronauts Rick Mastracchio (right) and Clayton Anderson are seen working in Discovery's aft payload bay during the mission's third and final session of extravehicular activity Tuesday, April 13, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. NASA


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The space shuttle Discovery touches down on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 33 Tuesday, April 20, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. AP / Bruce Weaver



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Backdropped by the blackness of space and Earth's horizon, the Japanese Kibo complex of the International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-131 crew member while space shuttle Discovery remains docked with the station Wednesday April 7. NASA



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The aft section of the docked space shuttle Discovery is photographed by an STS-131 crew member on the International Space Station Thursday April 8. The Gulf of Suez and Gulf of Aqaba are seen 215 miles below. NASA



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The Earth's horizon provides a background to the International Space Station's robotic Canadarm2 as it grapples the Leonardo Multi-purpose Logistics Module from the payload bay of the docked space shuttle Discovery for relocation to a port on the Harmony node of the International Space Station Wednesday April 7. NASA



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During the second spacewalk of the STS-131 mission, NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson (out of frame) unhooked and removed the depleted ammonia tank and installed a 1,700-pound replacement on the station's Starboard 1 truss. This was the second of three spacewalks in the coolant tank replacement process. NASA



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Astronauts Rick Mastracchio (left) and Clayton Anderson participate in the mission's second session of extravehicular activity Saturday, April 10, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. During the seven-hour, 26-minute spacewalk, Mastracchio and Anderson unhooked and removed the depleted ammonia tank and installed a 1,700-pound ammonia tank on the station, completing the second of a three-spacewalk coolant tank replacement process. NASA



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Astronauts Rick Mastracchio (left) and Clayton Anderson participating in the mission's second session of extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station Sunday April 11. NASA



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Astronaut Clayton Anderson participates in the mission's third and final session of extravehicular activity Tuesday, April 13, as construction and maintenance continues on the International Space Station. The shuttle's aft cargo bay can be seen reflected in his visor as he stows the ammonia tank assembly. NASA



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Astronaut Rick Mastracchio, participates in the mission's first session of extravehicular activity Friday, April 9, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. NASA



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Astronaut Clayton Anderson, participates in the mission's first session of extravehicular activity Friday, April 9, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. NASA



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Astronaut Rick Mastracchio, participates in the mission's first session of extravehicular activity Friday April 9, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. NASA



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Dwarfed by space shuttle Discovery, NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio (right) and Clayton Anderson are seen working in Discovery's aft payload bay during the mission's third and final session of extravehicular activity Tuesday, April 13, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. NASA



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Dwarfed by components of the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio (bottom center), is seen working near the Quest airlock during the mission's third and final session of extravehicular activity Tuesday, April 13, as construction and maintenance continue on the orbital complex. During the six-hour, 24-minute spacewalk, Mastracchio and astronaut Clayton Anderson (out of frame), mission specialist, hooked up fluid lines of the new 1,700-pound tank, retrieved some micrometeoroid shields from the Quest airlock's exterior, relocated a portable foot restraint and prepared cables on the Zenith 1 truss for a spare Space to Ground Ku-Band antenna, two chores required before space shuttle Atlantis' STS-132/ ULF-4 mission in May. Also featured in the image are a docked Russian Soyuz spacecraft and space shuttle Discovery. NASA



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The aft section of the docked space shuttle Discovery and the station's robotic Canadarm2 photographed by a shuttle crew member on the International Space Station Saturday, April 10. The Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula (center) and Nile River (left) are seen approximately 215 miles below. NASA



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During the second of three spacewalks STS-131 astronauts Rick Mastracchio (left) and Clayton Anderson continued maintenance activities outside the International Space Station by installing a 1,700-pound ammonia tank on the station's Starboard 1 truss. NASA



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During the STS-131 mission's first spacewalk, astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson (out of frame) moved a new 1,700-pound ammonia tank from space shuttle Discovery's cargo bay to a temporary parking place on the station, retrieved an experiment from the Japanese Kibo Laboratory exposed facility and replaced a Rate Gyro Assembly on one of the truss segments. NASA



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With 13 astronauts and cosmonauts onboard the International Space Station at one time, activities around the galley in the Zvezda module get rather busy at meal time as shown in this photo taken Friday, April 9. Over half the 13 are seen in this aggregation. NASA astronaut James P. Dutton Jr., prepares part of his meal at left. Also pictured, from the left, are Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Alexander Kornienko, NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson, JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, NASA astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. NASA



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A time-elapsed photo made in Cape Canaveral, Fla., captures space shuttle Discovery's path to orbit during liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida was at 6:21 a.m. EDT April 5, on the STS-131 mission. AP / Ben Cooper



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Space Shuttle Discovery lifts-off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Monday April 5. Discovery's seven member crew are on a mission to deliver science racks, the last of the crew quarters and supplies to the International Space Station. AP / John Raoux



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A specialized transporter brought the payload canister to Launch Pad 39A in preparation for the STS-131 mission. The canister, which is the same dimensions as the shuttle's cargo bay, held the Leonardo supply module during the move from processing to the shuttle. Leonardo will be packed inside space shuttle Discovery for launch. In this image, the payload canister holding the Leonardo supply module is hoisted to the clean room at Launch pad 39A. NASA



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