Shuttle Discovery arrives at space station

Apr 07, 2010 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
This TV image provided by NASA shows the Space Shuttle Discovery passing over China as it approaches the space station for docking early Wednesday morning April 7, 2010.

(AP) -- Space shuttle Discovery successfully docked at the International Space Station early Wednesday, its astronauts overcoming a rare antenna breakdown that knocked out radar tracking.

Shuttle commander Alan Poindexter and his crew relied on other navigation devices to approach the orbiting outpost.

"You guys are looking beautiful," Japanese space station resident Soichi Noguchi radioed as the shuttle drew within 660 feet, loaded down with supplies.

The two spacecraft came together 215 miles above the Caribbean, precisely on time.

It was only the second time that a shuttle had to dock with the space station without any radar; the first was 10 years ago.

Poindexter trained for just such an event two weeks ago. As he closed in on the final 150 feet, he radioed, "It's a lot of fun."

One of the first matters of business for the 13 space fliers - once the hatches swung open - was transmitting detailed laser images of Discovery to Mission Control in Houston.

Astronaut Stephanie Wilson pocketed the computer hard-drive holding all the wing and nose images that were collected Tuesday, and handed it over as soon as she crossed the station's threshold. The antenna breakdown prevented their immediate relay to experts on the ground for analysis.

needs to scrutinize the data to make sure Discovery suffered no launch damage that could jeopardize its re-entry on April 18.

On a lighter note, Discovery's arrival also meant that the world finally got to see the seven shuttle astronauts in space.

The failure of Discovery's shortly after Monday's prevented the astronauts from sending and receiving big packages of information during their first two days in orbit. Video shots also fell by the wayside.

The orbiting crowd includes a record-setting four women, three of whom arrived on Discovery. There are eight Americans, three Russians and, for the first time ever together in space, two Japanese.

The two crews embraced and shook hands as they greeted one another.

An hour before the linkup, Poindexter guided Discovery through a slow backflip so the station crew could photograph the shuttle belly, using zoom lenses. About 300 close-up pictures were hustled down to Mission Control so experts could hunt for any signs of damage.

A thermal tile apparently broke off the rudder-speed brake seconds after liftoff. Mission managers were not overly concerned because that area experiences little heating during re-entry. They hoped the laser images and backflip pictures would provide additional insight into what happened.

In addition, about three small pieces of foam insulation came off the fuel tank, too late in the launch, though, to pose any danger to Discovery.

On Thursday, the will move a giant cargo carrier from Discovery's payload bay and anchor it to the space station. That will make it easier to unload the several tons of supplies, spare parts and science experiments.

Then on Friday, two of the shuttle crew will perform the first of three spacewalks to replace an old ammonia tank outside the space station.

The space station is nearly completed; only three shuttle missions remain after this one to wrap up its outfitting.

Explore further: How to grip an asteroid

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Shuttle Discovery arrives at space station

Aug 31, 2009

(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.

Space Shuttle Discovery Rolls Out to Launch Pad

Mar 03, 2010

Just before midnight last night, space shuttle Discovery began its slow roll from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Riding aboard the crawler-transporter, ...

Recommended for you

Cosmic rays threaten future deep-space astronaut missions

41 minutes ago

Crewed missions to Mars remain an essential goal for NASA, but scientists are only now beginning to understand and characterize the radiation hazards that could make such ventures risky, concludes a new paper ...

MAVEN studies passing comet and its effects

3 hours ago

NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere.

How to safely enjoy the October 23 partial solar eclipse

3 hours ago

2014 – a year rich in eclipses. The Moon dutifully slid into Earth's shadow in April and October gifting us with two total lunars. Now it's the Sun's turn. This Thursday October 23 skywatchers across much ...

How to grip an asteroid

3 hours ago

For someone like Edward Fouad, a junior at Caltech who has always been interested in robotics and mechanical engineering, it was an ideal project: help develop robotic technology that could one day fly on ...

Image: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

6 hours ago

It was 45 years ago when astronomer Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko, one of his researchers, unwittingly began a new chapter in the history of space exploration.

Extreme ultraviolet image of a significant solar flare

6 hours ago

The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Oct. 19, 2014, peaking at 1:01 a.m. EDT. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is always observing the sun, captured this image of the event in extreme ultraviolet ...

User comments : 0