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Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins
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August 24, 2005
The final frontier: amazing pictures from space shuttle Discovery mission
by Gulliver

It was one of the most dramatic space sagas in modern times.

Space shuttle Discovery returned safely to earth in California, completing Nasa's first shuttle mission since the Columbia disaster in which seven astronauts perished.

A global television audience followed every word and manouevre of the crew during their spectacular 14-day mission which included a stay at the International Space Station.

Amazing images of space walks, shuttle repairs and docking with the space station were beamed back to earth throughout.

Discovery made a night landing at 5.11 am PT on August 9 at Nasa's secondary site at Edwards Air Force Base north of Los Angeles.

The landing was due to take place at Kennedy Space Station in Florida, but that was switched to the base in the Mojave Desert in California because of bad weather.

America's most successful woman astronaut Commander Eileen Collins said that she and her crew were "glad to be back."

The ill-fated Columbia space shuttle broke apart during re-entry in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.

The disaster was blamed on a piece of insulating foam that broke off the fuel tank during launch and punched a hole in the shuttle's wing.

When Discovery took off on July 26 foam insulation also fell off its tank. Nasa was forced to ground the rest of the fleet until the problem is solved.

As the crew went through their paces, including spectacular space walks and repairs to the shuttle, Commander Collins admitted the doomed Discovery astronauts were always on their minds.

Collins made history when she became the first woman to command a space shuttle mission in 1999. A Star Trek from her childhood, she used to come straight home from school and watch the TV series whenever she could.

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