Endeavour's Crew Returns Home To Houston

Endeavour's Crew Returns Home To Houston
From left to right: STS-118 commander Scott Kelly, Charles "Scorch" Hobaugh, pilot, and specialists Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastraccio, Dave Williams, Barbara Morgan and Alvin Drew. (Image credit: collectSPACE.com)

Teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan and her sixEndeavour "classmates" returned to Houston Wednesday afternoon, theday after completing their orbital "field trip" with a landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Awaiting their arrival at Ellington Field was a crowd ofseveral hundred, including their families, friends, VIPs, NASA co-workers, andthe public.

"The Endeavour has landed! And the Endeavour has landedsafely!" proclaimed Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who togetherwith Representative Nick Lampson presented each of the STS-118 crew memberswith a Congressional Certificate of Excellence.

"Scott and Charlie, Tracy, Rick, Dave, Alvin andBarbara Morgan, we congratulate all of you all on a successful mission,"said Lampson.

The crew, who flew back to Houston on a Gulfstream jet, tookturns thanking their colleagues and sharing their thoughts about the 13-daymission from their seats on a stage set-up at the front of a hangar.

"This mission was a very exciting mission," saidDave Williams, who flew representing the Canadian Space Agency. "It hadall the three main elements of exciting space flight: using cutting edgetechnology to continue building the space station; doing science and researchin space; and also, that element that's dear to our hearts, education."

"I think the commitment to education on this missionwas absolutely outstanding and it represents the desire of NASA to go forth andstimulate the next generation of space explorers, of researchers, of engineerswho are going to take us back to the Moon and beyond. And there is no personbetter to do that than BarbMorgan," said Williams.

Morgan, who originally was chosen as back-up to ChristaMcAuliffe on the ill-fated 1986 Challengermission, used part of her time aboard Endeavour to talk with students in herhome state of Idaho and at the Challenger Center for Space Education, as wellas flew millions of basil seeds for teachers to incorporate into an engineeringchallenge to design a plant growth chamber for the Moon's surface.

"You teachers are doing a great job making a differencefor our young people, for their future and for all of our future," saidMorgan while thanking the education offices and organizations that supportedher flight. "With all of this, and with space exploration, I can't wait tosee what comes next."

Joining Morgan for her live broadcasts from space was firsttime flyer Alvin Drew, who was a late addition to the crew due to changes inthe manifest.

"I came late to this dance," joked Drew. "Forme, this was an unexpected adventure, but an excellent adventure none the less.And I got to learn a few things, or re-learn a few things about adventures.First, is that they come in two separate parts: you have your destination andyou've got your journey."

"For me the destination was obvious from day one, wewere going to go add to the international space station and make it a betterplace. But the part that I hadn't focused on, the surprise lesson, was thejourney itself."

Drew was added to the flight after it was decided to moveastronaut ClayAnderson from STS-118 to the previous mission, beginning his stay on thestation early. Though he was no longer part of their crew, Anderson stillplayed a part in the success of Endeavour's mission.

"Special thanks to Clay Anderson," extendedmission specialist Rick Mastraccio. "Clay is living on-board the spacestation right now and it takes a special person to live up there for four tosix months."

"As you can imagine, we got there, seven people barginginto your house and taking over your house for about a week or so and he wasjust so pleasant. He was just great. He helped us every step of the way,"Mastraccio recalled.

For pilot Charles "Scorch" Hobaugh, this missionwas his second visit to 'Clay's house'.

"My first flight was about six years ago and thestation was pretty large at that time. The internal volume is pretty much the sameas it's now but it has grown tremendously on the outside and has reallyincreased its capability. It's got more internal capacity, more experimentsgoing on, more real science going on," Hobaugh reflected.

Click here to continue reading "Endeavour's CrewReturns to Houston", including the crew's thoughts on Endeavour's damagedtile and why this mission was their dream come true at collectSPACE.com.

  • Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage
  • NEW VIDEO: STS-118: Coming Home
  • VIDEO: Teaching the Future: Teacher-Astronaut Barbara Morgan

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.