Cape Canaveral, Fla. — Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven returned to Earth on Saturday and capped a successful expansion job at the international space station, more spacious and robust thanks to a new billion-dollar science lab.
The shuttle descended through a few puffy clouds and landed at 11:15 a.m., under the control of commander Mark Kelly.
Two hours later, all the astronauts - including Garrett Reisman, looking remarkably fresh and fit after 95 days in space - walked out, shook hands with NASA's senior managers and admired the ship that safely brought them home.
At a news conference later in the day, a first for an astronaut returning from a long space mission, Reisman said he felt better than he expected and attributed that, in large part, to being short. His sensory organs are closer to his center of gravity and his heart is closer to his brain for pumping blood, and he believes that may be why he didn't suffer the typical balance problems.
"I think maybe we're on to something here. We need to get more short people in the astronaut office," Reisman said, laughing. "I'm happy that it's finally come in handy for something other than limbo contests."
Discovery's flight spanned 14 days, 217 orbits and 5.7 million miles, and was described by NASA as being about as smooth as it gets.
"It's great to be here on the runway in sunny Florida," Kelly said after exiting the shuttle. "It was really an exciting mission."