Concluding nearly 12 days in orbit
Shuttle skips Florida to land in California
(CNN) -- The space shuttle Endeavour touched down Tuesday at a backup landing site in the California desert after strong rains and winds prompted officials to scrap plans to land the craft at its main strip on the Florida coast.
Endeavour landed at 12:11 p.m. EDT, concluding an extended mission to the international space station, where the shuttle crew delivered and installed a $1 billion robotic arm to the orbiting complex.
"Welcome back after a tremendously successful mission taking the arm to space," said astronaut Scott Altman at Mission Control in Houston.
"Thank you, Houston. It's great to be back and we want to express our gratitude to all the folks on the ground who made that mission pull off like it did," said commander Kent Rominger.
The shuttle was supposed to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but inclement weather forced the crew to head to sunny Edwards Air Force Base in California. Endeavour was in orbit almost 12 days.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would prefer to land shuttles in Florida because the detours to California are expensive. Shuttles must be transported to Florida to prepare for future flights, a trip that costs more than $1 million.
Endeavour's crew accomplished all mission objectives, including delivery, installation and testing of a new robot arm for space station Alpha, officials said.
It took two space walks lasting 14 hours and 15 minutes to complete the installation of Canadarm2, a new device to help load cargo.
Problems with Alpha's command-and-control computers held up testing of the arm for four days until ground controllers finally came up with a solution: The arm handed its packing crate to the shuttle's robot arm -- a mechanical handshake of sorts that NASA said signaled the start of the new device's career.
On Monday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Alpha had two fully functional command-and-control computers. A third was working, but its hard drive was down, NASA said.
Endeavour's crew also unloaded an Italian-built cargo module full of supplies.
The shuttle was launched on April 19 at 2:41 p.m. EDT. The mission was extended by one day to deal with the computer problems on Alpha.
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