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Discovery reaches space station

The arrival of Discovery sets the stage for the continuation of International Space Station (ISS) construction.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2006 14:03 IST

Space shuttle Discovery has docked with the International Space Station (ISS) after two days of orbital pursuit.

Mission Specialist Sunita Williams, the second woman of Indian origin to touch the stars after astronaut Kalpana Chawla, will stay at the ISS for another six months.

The STS-116 crew entered the station at 5:54 pm CST to mark the start of joint operations with the Expedition 14 crew.

Later in the day, Sunita will switch crews and replace Flight Engineer Thomas Reiter, who will return to Earth with STS-116. The crew transfer becomes official when Williams' custom-made seatliner is installed into the Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked to the station.

Sunita will stay back as she takes German astronaut Reiter's place as part of the three-person crew at the space lab.

"I've always wanted to fly a long-duration mission," said Indian American Sunita, whose father Deepak Pandhya is originally from India.

"A long-duration spaceflight will supply answers ... to what happens to the human body, how materials work in space."

The arrival of Discovery sets the stage for the continuation of station construction. Inside Discovery's payload bay is the P5 integrated truss structure.

The STS-116 crew will conduct three spacewalks to install the P5 structure and to reconfigure and redistribute power generated by the station.