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Another Rendezvous in Space: Shuttle Docks at Station

March 11, 2001|From Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The space shuttle Discovery's astronauts arrived at the international space station late Friday and, after handshakes, bearhugs and somersaults, quickly began the crucial exchange of crews.

The two Russian Yuris were the first to swap places.

Yuri Usachev moved into space station Alpha, and station resident Yuri Gidzenko took the vacated spot aboard Discovery.

Americans Jim Voss and Susan Helms had to go out on a spacewalk before joining Usachev over on the station for a four-month stay.

The spacewalk was to get underway late Saturday. Among the highlights: moving a station docking port to make room for the Leonardo cargo carrier ferried aboard Discovery and installing gear in advance of next month's delivery of the station's robotic arm.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration hoped the spacewalk would go better than Friday night's docking, which was accompanied by a pair of vexing problems.

The linkup was delayed one hour when one of Alpha's two giant solar wings would not lock into place, apparently because of a bad latch motor. It was the first stalled rendezvous in eight shuttle-station hookups.

Flight controllers eventually locked the solar wing in place by using another latch.

Then a problem at a relay station in White Sands, N.M., prevented Mission Control and the shuttle astronauts from talking with one another immediately after the docking. Station commander Bill Shepherd had to pass along messages until communication was restored.

All the trouble was soon forgotten as the hatches swung open and the two crews--seven aboard Discovery and three aboard Alpha--greeted one another.

"Mission accomplished," said a relieved John Shannon, the lead flight director.

It was the biggest crowd ever aboard the international space station. But it did not look crowded as the seven Americans and three Russians floated inside the spacious Destiny laboratory, snapping pictures of one another and admiring the view out the porthole.

"Welcome to Yuri, Susan and Jim in their new home," Mission Control called up.

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