Atlantis docks with space station

Shuttle Atlantis has finally docked with the international space station for the first time in three years.

    Nasa will expand the space station over the next four years

    The shuttle carrying six astronauts took off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Saturday, and is currently docked 349km (218 miles) above Earth.

    Atlantis commander Brent Jett had earlier manoeuvered the spacecraft into a 360-degree pitch so that the space station's three-man crew could photograph images of the shuttle's belly and transmit them to Nasa engineers, who will look for any damage from liftoff to the spacecraft's thermal skin.

    The crew are currently preparing to install a 15,880kg (35,000lb) truss for attachment to the space station.

    The crew will have to install two large solar energy panels connected to the truss to provide electricity to the station.

     

    Spacewalk

     

    On Tuesday, the crew will perform the first of three planned spacewalks to complete installation in what Nasa has said is one of its busiest, most complex shuttle missions to date.

     

    There is already one solar array on the station, but the attachment of the truss will double the amount of electricity available, paving the way for expansion plans.

     

    Nasa plans at least 14 more shuttle flights to complete the space outpost before the fleet is retired in 2010.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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