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Shuttle Discovery arrives at space station in Florida

world Updated: Mar 18, 2009 07:27 IST

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Space shuttle Discovery arrived at the international space station, delivering one last set of solar wings that should boost the orbiting complex to full power.

The two craft linked up 350 kilometers above Australia, on Tuesday.

"Welcome to the space station, Discovery, we're glad you're here," said Mike Fincke, the station's skipper.

Before pulling up, commander Lee Archambault guided Discovery through a 360-degree back flip so the station astronauts could photograph its belly. Fincke said even though the station residents didn't hear the go-ahead to take pictures because of communication system trouble, they got some good shots and the shuttle looked "clean, very nice."

The digital pictures -- more than 200 of them -- were immediately transmitted to Earth. Experts will scrutinise the images for any signs of launch damage, standard procedure following the 2003 Columbia disaster. A chunk of fuel-tank foam insulation smacked Columbia's wing at liftoff, dooming the shuttle and its crew during re-entry two weeks later.

Fincke and his two station crewmates were thrilled to finally get some company. Discovery and its crew of seven were supposed to show up last month, but launch delays kept the shuttle grounded until Sunday.