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Shuttle docks at space station

THE NATION

November 17, 2008|Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. — Space shuttle Endeavour linked with the International Space Station on Sunday, kicking off a huge home makeover that will allow twice as many astronauts to live there beginning next year.

Cmdr. Christopher Ferguson guided the shuttle to a smooth docking as the two spacecraft soared 212 miles above India. His ship's radar worked fine, despite earlier trouble with the antenna.

"We understand that this house is in need of an extreme makeover and that you're the crew to do it," the space station's skipper, Mike Fincke, said as he welcomed the shuttle astronauts aboard.

His crewmate, Gregory Chamitoff, was especially excited to see Endeavour. He's been living on the space station for almost six months, and the shuttle is his ride home.

Earlier in the afternoon, Ferguson guided Endeavour through a 360-degree back-flip so Fincke and Chamitoff could take photos of all its thermal shielding.

The digital images will help NASA determine whether Endeavour sustained any damage during liftoff Friday night. Fincke said he noticed nothing amiss.

At least two pieces of debris have been spotted so far in launch pictures.

The first priority for the 10 astronauts, once united, was a crew member swap.

Astronaut Sandra Magnus moved into the space station for a 3 1/2 -month stay, replacing Chamitoff.

Endeavour also was delivering an extra bathroom, kitchenette and exercise machine, two more sleeping compartments, and a fancy new recycling system for converting urine and condensation into drinking water.

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