Shuttle astronauts prepare for TX homecoming

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CA [FULL COVERAGE: NASA and space shuttle coverage]
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Discovery took a cross-country detour to the Mojave Desert on Friday after bad weather scuttled a return to its Florida home port.

The crew will attend a welcome ceremony in their honor at Ellington Field in Houston.

A day earlier, Discovery streaked through the desert sky and glided to a stop on a concrete runway at Edwards Air Force Base after a two-week, 5.7-million mile mission to the international space station.

Six of the seven astronauts emerged after sunset and inspected the shuttle's underside as is customary after landing.

Shuttle commander Rick Sturckow said the vehicle performed well in space.

"We're very happy to be back on land here in California. We wished we could have gone to Florida today ... but it just didn't work out with the weather," said Sturckow.

Astronaut Timothy Kopra, who spent nearly two months in orbit, did not appear on camera after landing. Sturckow said he was undergoing tests.

During Discovery's visit to the space station, astronauts performed three spacewalks and dropped off 18,000 pounds of equipment and experiments including a new $5 million treadmill named for comedian Stephen Colbert.

Over the weekend, crews will work to prepare the shuttle for its cross-country ferry back to Florida aboard a modified jumbo jet. The process was expected to make more than a week and cost $1.8 million.

Friday was the 54th shuttle landing at Edwards; the last one was in May.

Discovery's homecoming came a day after Japan's space agency successfully launched a new unmanned rocket carrying supplies for the space station including freeze-dried space food, bread, soap and other equipment.

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