Endeavour finishes 16-day mission

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) âÄî Space shuttle Endeavour and its seven astronauts safely returned to Earth on Sunday, taking a detour to sunny California after storms hit the main landing strip in Florida. Endeavour wrapped up a 16-day trip that left the international space station freshly remodeled and capable of housing bigger crews. The shuttle dropped off all kinds of home improvement equipment, including a new bathroom, kitchenette, exercise machine, two sleeping quarters and a recycling system designed to convert astronautsâÄô urine and sweat into drinking water. But the mission wasnâÄôt without its problems. Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper let go of a $100,000 tool bag during the first spacewalk, muttering âÄúOh, greatâÄù as it floated away. And EndeavourâÄôs astronauts also had to put in extra effort to get the urine processor working. About seven liters of recycled urine and condensation were coming back aboard Endeavour for extensive testing. No one at the space station will drink the recycled water until the equipment runs for 90 days and ground tests ensure itâÄôs safe. More samples will be returned on the next shuttle flight. The shuttle crew also conducted four spacewalks to clear metal shavings from a solar wing rotary joint at the space station. The joint had been jammed for more than a year and hampered energy production at the orbiting outpost. Initial tests indicated the repairs on the joint were successful. The space station additions âÄî and a few more scheduled to go up on the next shuttle flight in February âÄî should enable NASA to double the size of the space station crew by June. On Sunday, NASA ordered the detour to California after dangerously high wind and a stormy sky prevented a Florida landing. âÄúWelcome back. That was a great way to finish a fantastic flight,âÄù Mission Control radioed. âÄúAnd weâÄôre happy to be here in California,âÄù shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson replied. Congratulations also came down from the space station. âÄúWow,âÄù said skipper Mike Fincke, who watched the landing broadcast live. Returning home from a six-month mission was former space station resident Gregory Chamitoff, who had rocketed away from the planet at the end of May. The space shuttleâÄôs journey, short by comparison, spanned 6.6 million miles and 250 orbits of Earth. NASA always prefers to land the space shuttles at their home base in Florida. It takes about a week and costs $1.8 million to transport a shuttle from California to Florida, atop a modified jumbo jet. The astronauts also had been rooting for a Florida touchdown; thatâÄôs where their families were waiting. As Endeavour soared over Houston, home to Mission Control, Ferguson could see all the bad weather in Florida. âÄúI think you made a good call,âÄù he radioed. It was the first space shuttle landing at Edwards in more than a year. When Endeavour hurtled over metropolitan Los Angeles, firefighters responded to a report of an explosion that turned out to have been the spacecraftâÄôs signature sonic booms. Ferguson landed on a temporary runway thatâÄôs shorter and more narrow than the Kennedy landing strip. EdwardsâÄô main runway âÄî which parallels the temporary one âÄî just underwent maintenance and upgrades, and has yet to be equipped with all the necessary navigation equipment. NASA officials said both Ferguson and his co-pilot, Eric Boe, had practiced on the temporary runway in training aircraft. Flight surgeons were standing by at Edwards. Chamitoff, in particular, was expected to need assistance at touchdown; he had not experienced gravity for six months. EndeavourâÄôs crew members were expected to be reunited with their families on Monday in Houston. Early Sunday morning, a Russian supply ship arrived at the space station with Christmas presents, food, clothes and other items.