Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Shuttle Discovery Docks with Space Station

Thirteen people are living and working aboard the International Space Station today.

The space shuttle Discovery arrived at earth's orbital complex in space this morning as her crew begins nine days of docked operations to resupply and perform three spacewalks.

Due to the loss of the ship's high gain antenna known as the Ku-Band, commander Alan Poindexter guided Discovery in a slow approach up to the Harmony node section of the space station with the payload bay in the direction of travel.

Docking occurred on time at 3:44 am EDT today, as the two crafts sailed 225 miles high above the Caribbean Sea near Venezuela, as Discovery made her 31st orbit of the earth since her Monday launch.

Prior to docking, Poindexter performed a 360-degree backflip so that the station's crew could photograph the underside belly of the shuttle. These photographs, taken with 400-mm and 800-mm cameras were then sent to the ground so that engineers could access any tile damage which could have occurred since launch.

After a series of leak checks between the two ship's docking ports, the hatches were opened at 5:11 am and Discovery's crew of seven began floating aboard the space station.

Poindexter lead his pilot James Dutton and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenberger, Clayton Anderson, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki arrived inside the Destiny module.

A welcoming ceremony followed by a safety briefing were received by Discovery's crew as they began to customize themselves to working aboard the orbital complex.

Discovery's crew will spend their nine days at the space station delivering huge science racks filled with experiments; performing three spacewalks to retrieve a few experiments on the outside of station; install a huge ammonia tank box to assist with cooling a section of the outpost; and deliver fresh food water and supplies to the crew of six.

Once the crew arrived aboard station, it marked a series of firsts in space: Discovery's three women and station's Tracey Caldwell Dyson together mark the first time four women have been together aboard a single spacecraft.

It also mark the first time two Japanese astronauts have flown in space at one time as Yamazaki joined station's flight engineer Soichi Noguchi.

The space station's Expedition 23 crew compliment became six last Sunday with the arrival of Caldwell Dyson and two Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko. They joined existing crew members station commander Oleg Kotov, T.J. Creamer and Noguchi who began their six-month stay aboard on Dec. 22.

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