EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — 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 astronauts' urine and sweat into drinking water.
The mission wasn't without its problems. Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper let go of a $100,000 tool bag during the first space walk, muttering "Oh, great" as it floated away.
Endeavour's astronauts also had to put in extra effort to get the urine processor working.
On Sunday, NASA ordered the detour to California after dangerously high wind and a stormy sky prevented a Florida landing.
"Welcome back. That was a great way to finish a fantastic flight," Mission Control radioed.
"And we're happy to be here in California," shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson replied.
The space shuttle's 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; that's where their families were waiting.
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 spacecraft's signature sonic booms.
Ferguson landed on a temporary runway that's shorter and narrower than the Kennedy landing strip.
Edwards' main runway — which parallels the temporary one — just underwent maintenance and upgrades, and has yet to be equipped with all the necessary navigation equipment.
Endeavour's crew members were expected to be reunited with their families today in Houston.