HOUSTON (AP) — Atlantis’ seven astronauts reunited with their families in Texas on Saturday, a day after the space shuttle capped a two-week mission with a perfect landing in the Mohave Desert. Sunita “Suni” Williams was especially happy to return to Earth after spending more than six months at the international space station.
“This gravity thing takes a bit getting used to,” she said moments after landing with the rest of the crew on a NASA Gulfstream jet around 2:45 p.m. at Ellington Field.
Williams set an endurance record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman at 195 days, as well as the record for most time spacewalking by a woman.
“It’s just the time and the place,” said Williams, noting she hopes her mission paves the way for more women to travel to space, during a 20-minute ceremony in an open hanger.
The crew was assembled on a stage with a giant American flag as the backdrop. Along with Williams were shuttle commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, James Reilly, Steven Swanson and Danny Olivas. Each offered his thanks to family, ground crew and others in brief remarks.
Williams said she would spend the rest of the weekend getting reacquainted with her husband and dog, Gorby.
The homecoming was delayed by a day when NASA rerouted the shuttle from Florida to California because of bad weather. That diversion is expected to cost $1.7 million because the shuttle has to be ferried back to Kennedy Space Center atop a jumbo jet.
NASA’s first manned flight of the year provided a much needed image boost for the space agency. It had been dogged by distractions this year including a bizarre astronaut love triangle and a murder-suicide involving a disgruntled contractor.
Space Shuttle, Atlantis, Sunita Williams, Suni, Crew, Families Reunite