April 7, 2010

Discovery Arrives at the International Space Station

The seven-member crew of Discovery docked to the International Space Station at 3:44 a.m. EDT. After a series leak checks between the vehicles they opened the hatches and joined the Expedition 23 crew aboard the outpost at 5:11 a.m.

The crew docked the shuttle without radar because of the Ku-Band antenna failure. They are trained to rendezvous and dock without radar.

Before docking, Commander Alan G. Poindexter commanded the shuttle to slowly rotate so that its underside was facing the station. Expedition 23 Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi began photo-documenting the shuttle's heat shield tiles. That imagery will be added to the video taken on flight day 2 and sent to the ground for study by specialists looking for any damaged tiles.

Earlier, Poindexter and Pilot James P. Dutton Jr. fired the shuttle jets to refine the orbiter's approach to the station. Mission Specialists Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenberger, Clayton Anderson, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki supported them on the flight deck.

At 5:11 a.m. EDT, the crews opened shuttle and station hatches. Discovery's seven-person crew joined the six-person space station crew, beginning more than a week of work together. Four women are aboard the same spacecraft for the first time as Discovery Mission Specialists Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki join Expedition 23 Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson. Yamazaki and Expedition 23 Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi are the first JAXA Astronauts to fly in space at the same time.

Commander Alan Poindexter docked space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station's Harmony node at 3:44 a.m. At the time they connected, the two spacecraft were flying 225 miles over the Caribbean sea near Caracas, Venezuela. Poindexter and his crew completed the rendezvous operation without the failed shuttle Ku-band radar, relying instead on an array of other navigation tools to precisely track the space station.

NASA Television will air a Mission Status Briefing at 6:30 a.m. with STS-131 lead shuttle Flight Director Richard Jones.


Image Caption: Space shuttle Discovery comes out of its back flip maneuver underneath the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA TV 


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