Sailing at 17,000 miles per hour 200 miles above the Pacific, Commander Ken Cockrell flawlessly pulled the Space Shuttle Atlantis alongside the International Space Station this morning and docked, in position to add the new Destiny laboratory to the complex tomorrow and begin a new era in space research.
Atlantis docked to the station on schedule at 10:51 a.m. Central, and the station and shuttle crews opened hatches between the spacecraft at 1:03 p.m., promptly beginning to unload supplies. The three-member station crew of Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev, on the eve of their 100th day aboard the outpost, greeted their first visitors in almost two months. The hatches were open for about four hours before they were closed in preparation for the first of three upcoming spacewalks, a six-hour sojourn tomorrow from Atlantis by astronauts Bob Curbeam and Tom Jones.
While the hatches were open, the crews transferred from the shuttle to the station three 12-gallon bags of water; a spare computer for the station's Zvezda living quarters; several cables to be installed inside the station to power up Destiny after it is attached; and a variety of personal items for the station crew, including gifts from family and friends, fresh food, and movies. The hatches will be opened and closed twice more during the mission as the two crews work together to hook up and activate the new lab.
After the hatches were closed today, the air pressure aboard Atlantis was reduced slightly to prepare for tomorrow's spacewalk, part of a protocol that purges nitrogen from the bodies of spacewalkers to prevent decompression sickness as they go to the low-pressure environment of spacesuits. With the hatches closed, the shuttle crew discovered that three connectors which are planned to be installed on the lab's exterior during tomorrow's spacewalk were inadvertently left aboard the station. The two crews then used the station's docking compartment as a type of airlock to transfer the connectors back to Atlantis, a procedure that was performed twice during the last shuttle flight, STS-97 in December 2000, as a method of transferring equipment between the two spacecraft despite differing cabin pressures. The station and shuttle crews will go to sleep at 8:13 p.m. today. The shuttle crew will awaken at 4:13 a.m. Saturday and the station crew will awaken a half-hour later.
Saturday's work to install and activate the Destiny laboratory will begin with Curbeam and Jones donning their spacesuits at about 6:13 a.m. At 7:28 a.m., Astronaut Marsha Ivins will power up Atlantis' robotic arm, using it to latch onto a station docking adapter and relocate it, making way for Destiny. Curbeam and Jones are planned to exit Atlantis' cabin at 9:18 a.m. to begin their spacewalk, spending six hours assisting with the attachment of Destiny. At 10:48 a.m., Ivins will use the arm to lift the Destiny lab from the shuttle cargo bay. At 12:38 p.m., the lab is planned to be latched permanently in place to the station. Jones and Curbeam are planned to conclude the spacewalk at about 3:48 p.m., and the hatches between the station and shuttle are to be opened again at 4:28 p.m. Saturday. The Johnson Space Center newsroom will close at 9 p.m. and open at 4 a.m. Saturday. The next mission status report will be issued at 5 a.m. Saturday. Due to a problem with the automatic electronic mail distribution of this report, recent copies may not have been sent. To obtain copies of all Mission Control status reports for STS-98, check the internet at:
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