Shuttle Discovery arrives at space station

Aug 31, 2009 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
Space shuttle Discovery launches from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Friday Aug. 28, 2009. Discovery's seven member crew are on a mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP) -- Space shuttle Discovery pulled up and docked at the international space station on Sunday night, delivering a full load of gear and science experiments.

The linkup occurred as the spacecraft zoomed more than 200 miles above the Atlantic and ended a round-the-world chase of nearly two days. The astronauts cheered when the hatches swung open, and the two crews greeted each other with hugs and handshakes.

A thruster failure made the rendezvous all the more challenging for shuttle commander Rick Sturckow.

One of Discovery's small thrusters began leaking shortly after Friday's midnight liftoff and was shut down. None of the little jets was available for the rendezvous and docking, and Sturckow had to use the bigger, more powerful primary thrusters, making for a somewhat bumpier, noisier ride.

Struckow had trained for this backup method - never before attempted for a space station docking - well before the flight. Mission Control radioed up congratulations after his stellar performance.

"You'll be happy to know it occurred on the 25th anniversary of the maiden flight of Discovery," Mission Control said.

A few hours later, flight director Tony Ceccacci said at an early Monday news conference that Sturckow "flew it like a champ."

Discovery and its crew of seven are dropping off thousands of pounds of equipment, including a treadmill named for Comedy Central's . The treadmill was launched in more than 100 pieces, and astronaut

Nicole Stott - the space station's newest resident - won't have time to put it together until the shuttle is long gone.

Earlier in the day, Stott sent "big space hugs" down to her 7-year-old son, Roman, from Discovery. "I just want to let him know I love him more than anything," she radioed. Stott will remain at the space station until another shuttle comes to get her in November.

Space station astronaut Timothy Kopra - whom Stott replaced late Sunday - peered at his shuttle friends through a porthole in the hatch as he waited for the door to swing open. Kopra has been on board since mid-July.

"He's not looking for a ride home or anything, is he?" Mission Control asked.

"He looks like he's ready," Sturckow replied.

Discovery will spend more than a week at the orbiting complex. Astronauts will perform three spacewalks to replace an ammonia tank and perform other outside maintenance, with the first one on Tuesday night.

Monday evening's action will involve lifting the huge cargo carrier out of Discovery's payload bay, using a robot arm, and attaching it to the space station.

This is only the second time 13 people have been together in orbit. The first was just last month during Endeavour's space station visit.

Discovery, meanwhile, seems to have fared liftoff well.

The chairman of NASA's mission management team, LeRoy Cain, said Sunday that a preliminary look at launch pictures and other data indicates the shuttle had no major damage. No significant pieces of foam insulation were spotted coming off the fuel tank.

Cain cautioned that another few days of analyses are needed. Engineers got even more data after Discovery arrived at the space station. The performed a slow backflip on final approach so the space station crew could photograph its belly in a search for damage. More than 400 pictures were captured.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: India's spacecraft 'on target' to reach Mars

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Space shuttle blasts off, finally flying on try 3

Aug 29, 2009

(AP) -- Space shuttle Discovery and seven astronauts blazed into orbit Saturday on a spectacular midnight flight to the international space station, hauling up a treadmill named after a TV funnyman and thousands ...

Discovery Separates From Space Station

Aug 06, 2005

After more than a week of working together in space, the Space Shuttle Discovery and International Space Station crews bid each other farewell tonight. Space Shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Spa ...

NASA says space station safe from debris

Mar 16, 2009

(AP) -- NASA gave the all-clear to the international space station Monday, telling its astronauts they would not need to steer away from an orbiting piece of satellite junk.

Shuttle Discovery zooms toward space station

Mar 17, 2009

(AP) -- With a kick of its rocket thrusters, space shuttle Discovery zoomed to the international space station Tuesday to deliver one last set of solar wings that should bring the orbiting complex to full ...

Recommended for you

Image: Crescent Mimas

5 hours ago

A thin sliver of Mimas is illuminated, the long shadows showing off its many craters, indicators of the moon's violent history.

India's spacecraft 'on target' to reach Mars

Sep 15, 2014

An Indian spacecraft is on course to reach Mars, an official said Monday, following a 666-million-kilometre voyage that could see New Delhi's low-cost space programme win Asia's race to the Red Planet.

User comments : 0