Commander Jim Wetherbee waited patiently as International Space Station controllers locked solar arrays in place before he steered the Space Shuttle Discovery to a 12:38 a.m. CST Saturday docking.
“You have a great looking ship there, Captain Shepherd,” Wetherbee radioed to the station.
The linkup, which occurred as the two spacecraft were flying above the southern Pacific Ocean, just east of New Zealand, was delayed by about an hour when one of the station’s P-6 solar arrays failed to register as being properly feathered to avoid damage from the shuttle steering jet plumes. Wetherbee hovered 400 feet away from the Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 port as he awaited the array latch verification and proper lighting conditions for his final approach.
Station flight controllers and crew members also teamed up to overcome a shuttle communications problem that occurred just after docking. Downlinked signals could not be relayed from the White Sands Ground Station in New Mexico to Houston for about 34 minutes, but messages were passed on to the shuttle crew via the space station control room and a radio link between the station and shuttle.
After hooks and latches created a secure bond, the hatches between the two spacecraft were opened at 2:51 a.m. CST, beginning eight days of docked operations. The eighth shuttle mission to the station will feature the first crew exchange aboard the multinational orbiting outpost and the delivery of the first research experiment package for the Destiny laboratory module.
Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev was the first to join Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev aboard the station. He was followed closely by Wetherbee, Expedition Two Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms, and visiting shuttle astronauts Jim Kelly, Andy Thomas and Paul Richards. All 10 crew members spent several minutes greeting each other in the spacious Destiny module.
The arrival of Discovery signaled the beginning of the end of the Expedition One crew's four and a half month stay onboard the International Space Station. The first crew members to trade places Saturday morning were Usachev and Gidzenko. Voss and Krikalev will switch out on Sunday. Shepherd won’t trade his personalized Soyuz seat liner for Helms’ until Tuesday evening, allowing almost a week for the the two commanders to exchange notes. Shepherd remains in control of expedition operations until the hatches close for the final time next Saturday.
The hatches between the two spacecraft were to be closed temporarily about 5:45 a.m. CST Saturday so that preparations for STS-102's first space walk by Helms and Voss can begin on time at 10:47 p.m. CST Saturday. That space walk will involve preparations for berthing of the Leonardo “moving van,” or Multipurpose Logisitics Module to the Destiny module.
The orbiting complex is operating in fine shape at an altitude of 235 statute miles.
The next status report will be issued Saturday morning.
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