August 31, 2009
Shuttle Discovery Docked With Station
The Space Shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station at 7:54 p.m. delivering more than seven tons of cargo and a new crew member to the International Space Station and its Expedition 20 crew.
Discovery Commander Rick Sturckow carefully guided the 100-ton orbiter to a docking with the 350-ton station as the two spacecraft flew 220 miles above the northeast Atlantic Ocean approaching southern England.
Prior to docking at a distance of 600 feet, Sturckow "“ with rendezvous help from his fellow crewmates Pilot Kevin Ford and Flight Engineer Jose Hernandez "“ deftly flew Discovery through a "backflip" allowing station Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt to take photos that imagery experts will review to assess the health of Discovery's thermal protection system tiles.
The shuttle and station crews opened hatches at 9:33 p.m. and greeted one another beginning a week's worth of joint operations that includes three spacewalks and transfer of 15,000 pounds of supplies and logistics to sustain the six-person crew on the station.
After the ceremonial welcoming of Discovery's crew by Padalka and Flight Engineers Barratt, Tim Kopra, Roman Romanenko, Bob Thirsk and Frank De Winne, the joint crews completed one of the first major tasks: the swap of Nicole Stott for Kopra as a station crew member. Kopra is scheduled to return aboard Discovery Sept. 10 after 57 days in space. Stott will handle flight engineer duties aboard the station until her return home aboard Atlantis following the STS-129 mission in November.
Ford, Kopra, Hernandez and Pat Forrester will begin robotic activities that include using the station robot arm to remove the orbiter extension boom from its position on the payload bay sill and hand it off to the shuttle arm to provide additional clearance for the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module removal Monday.
Before the crews head to bed about 4:30 Monday morning, transfer of shuttle middeck supplies to the station will begin along with relocation of spacesuits that will be used for the three planned spacewalks.
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