The Space Shuttle Atlantis glided to a belated textbook touchdown at
NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base,
California, today, wrapping up a 5.3-million-mile mission STS-98 to
the International Space Station to deliver and install the $1.4
billion science laboratory Destiny.

With Commander Ken Cockrell at the controls, Atlantis
descended through high clouds over the Mojave Desert test center to
touch down at 12:33 p.m. Pacific time on Edwards main runway. The
landing was the 47th at Edwards and brought the 102nd flight in the
Space Shuttle program history to a close.

Atlantis was diverted to California after broken clouds and
precipitation formed over the primary landing site at the Kennedy
Space Center in Florida, preventing Atlantis from returning to the
Florida spaceport in the two opportunities which were available today.

Instead, Entry Flight Director Leroy Cain ordered Atlantis to
land 3,000 miles to the west at Edwards, where despite strong winds
and cloudy skies, the weather was deemed acceptable for landing. The
high clouds and a lower broken layer posed no problem for spacecraft
commander Kenneth Cockrell as he took over manual control of Atlantis
a few minutes prior to landing.

Cockrell and Shuttle pilot Mark Polansky fired Atlantis’
braking rockets at 11:27 a.m. Pacific time for the start of the
Shuttle’s 66-minute descent back to Earth. Thirty-four minutes later,
Atlantis and its astronauts reached the fringes of Earth’s atmosphere
and the first tug of gravity at an altitude of about 400,000 feet.

Atlantis soared over the Pacific Ocean and the Southern
California coast, passing over the Long Beach and Los Angeles areas
on its way into to the desert runway at Edwards. About four minutes
before landing, Atlantis heralded its arrival at the landing site
with the double crack of its sonic boom just before it went subsonic.
Atlantis wheels hit the runway at 12:33.05, and it rolled out to a
smooth stop 57 seconds later. Cockrell, Polansky and mission
specialists Robert Curbeam, Thomas Jones and Marsha Ivins exited the
shuttle about 45 minutes later, and after a brief inspection of the
craft, were transported to the Dryden Post Flight Science Support
facility for medical checkups and debriefs.

Total mission elapsed time since Atlantis launch on February 7 was 12
days, 21 hours and 21 minutes.

Atlantis’ astronauts will spend the night at Edwards before
returning to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Wednesday
morning. They are scheduled to leave NASA’s Dryden Flight Research
Center at about 10:30 a.m. after briefly greeting Dryden employees. A
welcome home ceremony is planned for Wednesday afternoon at Ellington
Field near the Johnson Space Center.