Astronaut Wolf returns to Earth -- eager for pizza
Shuttle Endeavour lands in Florida
January 31, 1998
Web posted at: 5:53 p.m. EDT (1753 GMT)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- After more than four months aboard the Russian space station Mir, astronaut David Wolf is back on Earth -- and ready to dive into a eagerly-awaited pizza.
The space shuttle 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 Saturday at 5:37 p.m. EST.
After undergoing initial medical exams, NASA chefs had a pepperoni-and-mushroom pizza ready for Wolf, 41, who has been on Mir since September. About 30 friends and relatives of Wolf had flown in from Indianapolis for his homecoming.
"I can tell that he's ready to come back to a somewhat normal life. And remember, normal for David isn't normal for most people," said his mother, Dottie Wolf, of the son who is also a medical doctor and a aerobatic pilot.
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
Wolf agreed to be carried off Endeavour on a stretcher. 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 them to obtain better medical data about the effects of weightlessness on the human body.
The Shuttle approaches the landing site
"His original thought was to walk off. But the medical folks pointed out, if he walked, that could compromise their work. The stretcher will give them better baseline data," NASA spokesman Ed Campion said.
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, even 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.