Space shuttle Atlantis sustained hardly any damage during a secret Pentagon mission that began with an unusual nighttime launch and ended with a rare Florida touchdown.
"It's probably one of the cleanest birds I've ever seen come back after a mission," James Harrington,NASA's director of shuttle operations, said Wednesday.
Atlantis and its five astronauts landed Tuesday at Kennedy Space Center after five days in space. The shuttle was diverted to Florida because of bad weather at the main touchdown site in California.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Atlantis' brakes had not been removed for inspection but were thought to be in good shape, Harrington said. The only wheel damage was scuffed rims.
Next up is Columbia, which is expected to lift off around Dec. 2 with an astronomical observatory.