The family of Minnesota's first woman in space breathed a big sigh of relief as space shuttle Atlantis landed safely Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center.
St. Paul native Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper was among the crew of six astronauts who flew to the international space station to deliver a new set of solar panels.
"A big storm went off my heart. I was worried about the landing," Stefanyshyn-Piper's mother, Adelheid, told The Associated Press after watching Atlantis make a smooth, predawn landing.
"I'm glad she's back," her mother added.
A brother, Paul Stefanyshyn, said the landing was "pretty cool," and that the family is glad that everything went well for the shuttle and its crew.
"I felt pretty confident," he said. "I had a good feeling."
The landing was a day later than planned. After the astronauts spotted some mysterious objects floating outside the orbiter, NASA ordered up more inspections of the spacecraft's heat shielding to make sure it was safe to come home.
Stefanyshyn-Piper, 43, a 1980 graduate of Derham Hall high school in St. Paul, was the only girl in a family of four boys. Her mother said she always wanted to prove she was better than her brothers.
Stefanyshyn-Piper and the rest of the shuttle crew performed three spacewalks during a challenging mission that included adding a 17½-ton truss addition to the space station that will help power the orbiting lab.
It was the first construction work done on the station since the Columbia disaster 3½ years ago.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)