Wolf climbs out of shuttle to smell of pizza
Endeavour lands in Florida after Mir mission
January 31, 1998
Web posted at: 11:27 p.m. EDT (2327 GMT)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- After more than four months aboard the Russian space station Mir, astronaut David Wolf arrived back on Earth Saturday -- greeted by the smell of the pepperoni-and-mushroom pizza he had ordered from space.
"Stand by. I'll eat it later," he said, as he climbed out of the space shuttle Endeavor and was carted off for a battery of medical tests.
Endeavour, with Wolf, five other astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut on board, ended a nine-day trip with a picture-perfect sunset landing at the Kennedy Space Center at 5:37 p.m.
"Dave, welcome back from 128 days in orbit," said Susan Still from Mission Control.
"This feels great," Wolf said. "Feels like you're having a little gravity storm down here."
After the medical tests, Wolf was reunited with his family. He was to hold his first post-Mir press conference sometime after midnight.
Endeavour returns on space anniversary
The return of Endeavour came on the 40th anniversary of the beginning of space exploration by the United States.
On January 31, 1958, America's first satellite, Explorer 1, was launched. Data sent back by the 20-pound device allowed scientists to find radiation belts around Earth, one of the most important discoveries of the entire space program.
Back then, Americans and Russians were pitted against each other in a fiercely competitive Cold War space race. Today, as illustrated by Endeavour's trip to Mir, cooperation, not competition, is the watchword.
Wolf agrees to be carried off shuttle
Prior to arrival, Wolf -- himself a medical doctor -- had agreed to be carried off Endeavour on a stretcher rather than walk off under his own power. But a NASA spokesman was unable to confirm whether he walked off or was carried off after climbing out of the shuttle's hatch.
The Shuttle approaches the landing site
Doctors prefer that astronauts returning from long stays on Mir remain horizontal for as long as possible to slow the effects of gravity and allow NASA to obtain better medical data about the effects of weightlessness on the human body.
But astronauts have resisted that advice. Of the five previous Americans to live on Mir, only one agreed to be carried off the shuttle on landing day. The others walked; one practically ran.
At the time Wolf was sent to Mir, concerns were being publicly raised about whether it was safe to send Americans to the 12-year-old Russian space station, which had been the scene of a string of accidents, including a fire and a collision with a cargo ship.
But Wolf wanted to go, and, in the face of mounting congressional criticism, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin gave the go-ahead for the trip. His stay turned out remarkably glitch free.
Correspondent John Holliman and Reuters contributed to this report.