After completing a mission marred by problems, including a small hole on the shuttle's belly, the Space Shuttle Endeavour landed safely today, one day earlier than planned.
Endeavour landed at 12:32 p.m. Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Hurricane Dean forced NASA to cut the mission short by one day to get Endeavour home early, just in case the hurricane took a sudden turn north and threatened the Johnson Space Center.
Endeavour's seven crew members woke early today to Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound," a tribute from all of their families.
"That's very nice of them to think of that," Cmdr. Scott Kelly told Mission Control. "Although it's been a short two weeks, we've accomplished a lot and we still look very much forward to coming home today."
The most celebrated member of the crew is Barbara Morgan, the former-teacher-turned-astronaut who spent some of her time on orbit talking to students on the ground and taping lesson plans to be used upon her return.
Morgan has said that she will be glad to get her feet on the ground. On her first day in space she mentioned she felt upside down and wasn't sure which way was up.
The crew also includes three first-time fliers who clearly rejoiced in the experience, juggling balls, turning somersaults and transferring 5,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station and bringing 5,000 pounds of garbage back to Earth.
The 14-day mission faced many challenges; the threat of a hole burning through the shuttle topped the list. Endeavour was hit by a baseball-size piece of foam that fell off the shuttle 58 seconds into the launch.
The foam hit a strut on the shuttle's external tank, then ricocheted right into the bottom of Endeavour's right wing, leaving a 3-by-2-inch hole. It was an unlucky hit for NASA, which in all its testing had never anticipated foam could hit that part of the shuttle.
Hundreds of engineers worked day and night for almost a week, clocking 4,000 hours of computer time to run an analysis that concluded Endeavour could land safely.
Also during this mission a spacewalk was cut short when astronaut Rick Mastracchio noticed a cut in one of the gloves of his spacesuit, a potentially dangerous incident.
But Endeavour's mission leaves the space station in better shape than before. A broken gyro was replaced and a new spacer truss was installed.
The space station is now 60 percent complete and weighs 491,000 pounds. NASA has a deadline to finish the station by 2010.