CAPE CANAVERAL — Their incredibly successful mission nearly over, astronauts readied the Endeavour for this evening's ride home.
The seven crew members accomplished everything they set out to do in orbit. They added another room to the international space station, assembled a giant robot, tested a gooey patch for shuttle thermal tiles, inspected a jammed solar-wing joint, dropped off a shuttle inspection boom and swapped out station residents.
All that remained was re-entry and touchdown, and the weather looked as though it would cooperate.
As has become customary during their 16-day flight, commander Dominic Gorie and his crew got an early start Tuesday on the flight systems checkout. Everything tested fine.
Endeavour was returning much lighter than when it blasted into orbit in the early hours of March 11.
The shuttle delivered to the space station the first section of Japan's Kibo lab, a 14-foot, 18,500-pound storage compartment. The actual lab will arrive in May aboard Discovery. Endeavour also ferried up a 12-foot, 3,400-pound robot named Dextre — complete with 11-foot arms — that was provided by Canada.
It took three space walks to put Dextre together outside the space station. In all, five space walks were conducted by the astronauts, the most for a shuttle-station mission. Endeavour spent 12 days at the station, the longest visit by a shuttle.
French astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who moved into the space station last month, was hitching a ride home aboard Endeavour. His replacement, American Garrett Reisman, will remain in orbit until June.
A Japanese astronaut, Takao Doi, also took part in Endeavour's mission.