A new trio of residents arrived at the International Space Station this afternoon as the shuttle Endeavour docked to the orbital outpost.
With the new Expedition Four station crew of Commander Yury Onufrienko and Flight Engineers Carl Walz and Dan Bursch looking on from Endeavour’s flight deck, shuttle Commander Dom Gorie brought Endeavour to a gentle linkup with the ISS at 2:03 p.m. CST as the two craft sailed over England. Within minutes, Pilot Mark Kelly and Mission Specialists Linda Godwin and Dan Tani began to conduct post-docking checks of the mechanical interface between Endeavour and the station’s Destiny Laboratory prior to the opening of the hatches on the two vehicles. At first, the shuttle’s docking ring and the docking mechanism on the ISS did not align properly, but after allowing the two craft to dampen their relative motion against one another, the vehicles were hard mated for a week of joint operations by the ten crewmembers.
On board the ISS in their 119th day in space and their 116th day aboard the station, Expedition Three Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin watched as their replacements arrived for the start of more than five months of orbital duty. The only other visitors for the Expedition Three crew during its increment arrived on the ISS in October to deliver a new Soyuz return vehicle.
The hatches were opened between Endeavour and the ISS’ Destiny Laboratory at 4:42 p.m. CST, enabling the ten crewmembers to greet one another. Onufrienko, Walz and Bursch will officially take over command of the ISS Saturday afternoon from Culbertson, Dezhurov and Tyurin after transferring custom made Soyuz seatliners and conducting leak checks to their spacesuits.
The crews now begin a busy week of handing over station responsibilities and unloading tons of supplies brought to the complex by Endeavour. Saturday's activities will be highlighted by Kelly's use of the shuttle's robotic arm to hoist the Italian-built Raffaello logistics module from Endeavour's payload bay and attach it to a station berthing port. Raffaello will stay attached to the station for most of the week while it is unloaded. The crews will begin a sleep period at 10:19 p.m. CST today and awaken at 6:19 a.m. CST on Saturday. The next STS-108 mission status report will be issued at about 7 a.m. CST Saturday or as events warrant.
- end -