The multiple hatches between the International Space Station and the newly docked shuttle Atlantis were opened today kicking off a task filled week in space.
After Atlantis docked this morning at 10:28 am EDT, the region between the hatches of the two spacecraft was pressurized to 14.7 psi - the normal atmospheric pressure felt at sea level here on earth.
Atlantis also spent thirty minutes reorienting the space station's attitude 180-degrees so that the belly of the orbiter would be in the direction of travel. This is typically performed so that orbital debris and micrometeorites do not impact delicate scientific experiments in the payload bay or the orbiter.
Mission control near Houston then gave the go ahead for the two crews to open their respective hatches.
Hatch opening occurred at 12:18 pm, as the station-shuttle complex flew 212 miles high above the Pacific coastline of Ecuador.
Atlantis' commander Kenneth Ham first floated into the station's Destiny module after being welcomed by the station's commander Oleg Kotov. Ham then darted in the microgravity environment right toward the two lone Americans living on the space station -- Tracy Caldwell-Dyson and Tim J. Creamer -- and all three embraced in a big hug.
The joint crew of twelve all passed out hugs and handshakes of greetings followed by a traditional safety briefing conducted by Kotov.
The first big task of the crew's busy day is the unstowage of the massive Intergrated Cargo Carrier from the bay of Atlantis.
The ICC was slowly lifted from the payload bay by the space station's fifty-foot robotic arm and placed onto the station's mobile transport.
The eight-foot long ICC is loaded with nearly six thousand pounds of hardware such as six huge batteries and a new high gain space-to-ground antenna.
The new items will be removed from the carrier during a planned six and one-half hour spacewalk beginning on Monday morning by Atlantis astronauts Garrett Reisman and Steven Bowman.