USS Lake Erie Returns to Pearl Harbor

PEARL HARBOR (KHNL) -- Two days after successfully launching a ballistic missle that destroyed an orbiting wayward spy satellite, the USS Lake Erie returns to port at Pearl Harbor Naval Base.

The missle cruiser's commanding officer described the mission as "truly a team effort that was terrific across the board."

High-speed cameras pick-up the missile launch.

But USS Lake Erie crewmen say, the reality of the situation was vastly different.

''It's very quick. You don't see the missile, you see a huge fireball. You can feel the heat. It's a very unique sensation," said LTJG. Tommy Buck.

The USS Lake Erie's triumphant return to Pearl Harbor included an enthusiastic crowd waiting on the pier.

Family and friends, proud of their sailors, almost as proud as their ship's captain.

''Never thought we could do something like that," said Capt. Randall Hendrickson. "It pushed the system way beyond the limits. It was truly a team effort."

The USS Lake Erie launched its missle, Wednesday, looking to knock-out a satellite that carried about half-ton of the hazardous fuel called -- Hydrazene.

Military leaders feared the spy satellite would enter earth's atmosphere virtually in-tact, then making it an unpredictable falling bomb.

Critics say, the mission was just a way for the Pentagon to destroy classified technology and other materials.

''I get to see on the press, and lot's of discussion about is this an existing capability? Is there some underlying message or political agenda? And frankly, no," said Rear Admiral Alan Hicks.  "If there hadn't been the fuel tank, the Hydrazine aboard the tank, we wouldn't have done this."

But, they did.

Getting the job done with just one missile, from this launch cell.

And now, it's back home.

Mission accomplished.

The Pentagon says, debris now coming down from the obliterated satellite is reportedly no bigger than a football.