Space shuttle Atlantis has arrived at the International Space Station for a weeklong stay, and the astronauts quickly unloaded a huge platform full of spare parts needed to keep the outpost running for another decade.
The platform -- 4.88 meters by 4.27 meters -- contained pumps, storage tanks and other equipment weighing hundreds of pounds each. Robot arms did the heavy lifting, just hours after the two craft came together 354.04 kilometres above the Pacific, between Australia and Tasmania.
Astronaut Nicole Stott, a space station resident for the past 2 months, was thrilled to see her ride home. She spotted Atlantis from three miles out.
“I have my ticket all ready and stamped, waiting for you guys when you get here,” Stott radioed to shuttle commander Charles Hobaugh.
“Who is this?” Hobaugh teased.
“It’s your favourite passenger,” she replied. “You look beautiful out there.”
Just before docking, Hobaugh guided Atlantis through a pirouette for the space station cameras, for a final check to make sure there’s no damage to the thermal tiles on its belly.
So far, all indications are the shuttle made it through Monday’s liftoff just fine, NASA officials said. The astronauts surveyed their ship Tuesday for any signs of launch damage, and a quick look at the laser images shows everything in good shape.