|Discovery, STS-114 Crew Arrive at Space Station||
After completing leak checks, the STS-114 crew entered the International Space Station at 8:50 a.m. EDT today. The seven astronauts ended their two-day chase of the Station when Space Shuttle Discovery docked with the orbital outpost at 7:18 this morning. STS-114 is the first Shuttle mission to visit the Station since STS-113 left in December 2002.
Image above: The International Space Station crew greets the Discovery crew. Image credit: NASA TV
The two crews conducted a Station safety briefing and began joint operations after they greeted each other.
On the ground, Lead STS-114 Flight Director Paul Hill provided good news today about mission operations during a briefing to reporters. "The orbiter continues to perform beautifully," Hill said. "The crew flew a picture-perfect rendezvous this morning."
One of the tasks scheduled for today involves preparations for possible additional Shuttle heat shield inspections with cameras and a special boom on the orbiter’s robot arm. STS-114 and Expedition 11 crewmembers will use the Station’s arm to attach the sensor boom to the Shuttle arm.
Before docking, STS-114 Commander Eileen Collins and Pilot Jim Kelly guided Discovery through a back-flip, enabling the Station crew to photograph Discovery's heat shield.
Space Shuttle Flight Operations and Integration Manager John Shannon said most of data gathering on the Shuttle is complete.
"The initial report was that it looks extremely good," Shannon said, "and we don’t have anything to worry about on Discovery."
Additional inspections of the orbiter’s heat shield inspections will take place Friday.
Unprecedented imagery of the Shuttle from a variety of sources continues to provide NASA with valuable data for the safety of this flight and future flights. A team of about 200 people across the country is working to analyze these photos. Foam loss from the external tank indicates a need for more improvements to the tank's insulation. Shuttle managers have said they will deal with the problem before flying another mission.
NASA's Mission Management Team Chair Wayne Hale said Wednesday that according to data reviewed so far, Discovery appears to be in good shape for a safe return home. However, more detailed analysis will follow over the next few days to be sure, he added.
During Thursday's briefing, Shannon said data about the external tank has been collected.
Other activities planned for today include preparations for three upcoming spacewalks and the start of cargo transfers to the Station.