Washington: The Atlantis space shuttle successfully landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Friday last week, after missing its first landing opportunity earlier due to bad weather over Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The shuttle, which was on its 28th mission, returned from the International Space Station (ISS), where it delivered a second starboard truss segment and a set of solar arrays.
This mission had earlier suffered a launch delay of almost two months due to hailstorm damage.
The shuttle brought back US astronaut Sunita Williams, who spent more than six months in space, which is now a record for the longest uninterrupted space flight by a woman.
The shuttle's return underwent a period of agony and tension after mission control at Houston said that the crew had enough resources to stay safely in orbit only till Sunday.
Earlier NASA experts decided not to extend the Atlantis mission after a successful test of onboard computers in the Russian segment of the ISS, following problems with the steering system, which was disabled last Tuesday by computer failure.
According to experts the damage was most likely caused by changes in the ISS configuration, after new solar arrays were connected. During the period of the computer crash, the ISS crew used the Atlantis's thrusters to help maintain the station's orientation. The glitch was fixed over the weekend.
A NASA spokesperson said that test results on Monday confirmed that computer systems on the ISS were working sufficiently to allow the Atlantis to depart on schedule.
Earlier the original 11-day mission was extended by two days after an inspection revealed slight damage to its thermal blanket. Similar heat shield damage in 2003 had caused shuttle Columbia to disintegrate, resulting in the death of seven astronauts on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
Orbital station ISS is expected to be complete by 2010.