Discovery arrives at international space station, brings three new residents
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Space shuttle Discovery arrived at the international space station on Sunday, bringing three new residents to the 240-mile-high outpost.
The two spacecraft linked up as they sailed above Australia’s northwestern corner, but the docking ring that draws them together was misaligned because of a stuck shock absorber. The shuttle astronauts quickly solved the problem, eliciting congratulations from a relieved Mission Control – and a very relieved space station crew.
Two hours later, the hatches swung open.
”You ready for visitors?” asked space shuttle commander Scott Horowitz, extending his right hand to space station commander Yuri Usachev.
Astronaut Frank Culbertson, the space station’s next skipper, warmly greeted the man he will replace. ”Hello, commander,” Culbertson told the Russian cosmonaut, shaking his hand and then embracing him. ”How you doing?”
Within a few minutes, space station Alpha was filled with voices and laughter. The ship’s bell was rung by space station astronaut Jim Voss in honor of Culbertson, a retired Navy captain.
Discovery is serving as a taxi this week. It is dropping off Culbertson and his Russian crew for a four-month stay and picking up Usachev and his U.S. crew following a five-month stay.
The six astronauts and cosmonauts will swap places on Monday.
Culbertson was eager to arrive at his new home. He spotted the twinkling complex from 50 miles away and said it was ”a fabulous view.”
”We’re all standing by ready to start moving stuff your way – and ourselves,” Culbertson radioed from Discovery as the shuttle pulled closer.
Inside the space station, the awaiting crew floated to the strains of Strauss’ Blue Danube waltz – just like in the space station rendezvous scene from the movie, ”2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Culbertson will move into the space station with Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin, and stay until December.
Discovery last visited the space station in March, on the last crew-exchange mission. That’s when Usachev, Voss and Susan Helms became the second resident crew.
The three clearly enjoyed their time in orbit, despite some unexpected difficulties. Critical command-and-control computers broke down in April and continued malfunctioning, off and on. A newly installed robot arm encountered start-up problems in May that took weeks to resolve.
Their mission was extended a full month because of the robot-arm trouble. By the time Discovery returns to Earth next week, the so-called Expedition 2 crew members will have spent 167 days in space.
During Discovery’s eight-day visit, the incoming and outgoing space station crews will move thousands of pounds of supplies across the threshold. The four shuttle astronauts will help.
Two spacewalks are planned later this week by two of the shuttle crewmen to attach equipment to the outside of the space station.
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