Space shuttle Endeavour eased into a dock on the International Space Station on Sunday to begin a series of missions to complete the 10-year-old orbital outpost.
Shuttle commander Chris Ferguson gently pulsed the ship’s steering jets to settle into a docking berth on the station’s Harmony module at 2201 GMT as the spacecraft soared 341 km above India.
“International Space Station is indeed ready for extreme home makeover,” station commander Mike Fincke radioed to the crew as they made their final approach.
The shuttle’s two-day journey began with a moonlit launch on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
By the time it arrived at the space station, flight controllers in Houston already were looking at pictures of Endeavour’s heat shield to check that the craft had arrived in orbit without serious damage from debris during launch.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) added the inspections in the wake of the 2003 Columbia disaster when the shuttle broke apart as it flew through the atmosphere due to wing damage from a piece of foam that fell off during launch. All seven astronauts aboard died.
Nasa redesigned the shuttle’s fuel tank so it would not shed insulation and added a series of in-flight inspections. The crew at the space station said they did not see anything amiss on the shuttle Endeavour.
“It looked really good,” Finke told flight controllers.
The shuttle is carrying a second toilet, sleeping compartments, exercise gear and a water regeneration system. The device recycles urine and is considered essential to support a crew of six on the space station.
Station crews so far have been getting fresh water from the space shuttles, which produce water as a byproduct of their
Only nine more flights to the space station are planned as Nasa shifts toward developing a new craft that will be capable of ferrying astronauts to the moon as well as to the station. The last shuttle flight is expected in 2010. The Endeavour crew plans four challenging spacewalks to work on the station’s power system.
The Endeavour crew plans four challenging spacewalks to work on the station’s power system. A huge rotary joint needed to pivot solar panels to face the sun was shut down last year after Nasa discovered it was contaminated with metal filings. Astronauts plan to clean and lubricate the joint and install new bearings. They will also do preventive maintenance on another rotary joint to avoid future problems.
Endeavour’s stay at the station, slated for 11 days, is expected to be extended a day to allow extra time to gather samples from the new water regeneration system.
Nasa and Russia have been building the station for 10 years. It is scheduled to be finished in 2010, at a cost of more than $100 billion. Europe, Canada and Japan also are participating in the project.