Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shuttle Atlantis Docks with Space Station

Atlantis approaches the Space Station today. (NASA)

The International Space Station and her crew welcomed the shuttle Atlantis to their home today, as the combined crew of twelve embark on eight days of joint docked operations.

Speeding around earth at 17,250 mph, Atlantis moved in with a slow approach to the space station and docked at 10:28:25 am EDT today, as the pair flew 220 miles above the southern Pacific Ocean.

One hour prior to docking, Atlantis' commander Kenneth Ham performed the post-Columbia standard Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver so that the station's crew could take several hundred images of the orbiter's belly.

Station and Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov using a 400 mm camera, and flight engineers Timothy J. Creamer, Tracey Caldwell Dyson and Soichi Noguchi using 800 mm lens began photographing select sections of the orbiter's belly as the duo flew 221 miles above southern Europe at 9:30 am.

After the backflip concluded the station and shuttle flew 600-feet apart for a half-hour as they configured for the slow-in approach by Atlantis. Then mission control near Houston gave Ham the go to move in and dock.

"Atlantis copies, Go for docking", Ham radioed back to the control center at the Johnson Space Center at 9:54 am.

The 800,000 pound mass of the space station added 263,100 pounds of the orbiter and her cargo upon docking.

The duo crews will spend a busy week ahead as they deliver a new Russian module from the aft section of Atlantis' bay; and deliver new supplies, batteries, a highgain antenna and fuel to the station.

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