Sunday, August 30, 2009

Live In Orbit: Shuttle, Station Crews Join Forces

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Seven smiling shuttle astronauts floated into the International Space Station late tonight as the crews of Discovery and the outpost joined for a mission to outfit the complex with supplies and equipment key to keeping a full staff of six in orbit there.

Discovery commander Rick "C.J." Sturckow was the first shuttle astronaut to cross the threshold into the U.S. Harmony module, which serves as a pressurized passageway between the U.S. Destiny lab and both the European Columbus lab and the Japanese Kibo science research facility.

Next came Nicole Stott, a former Kennedy Space Center engineer-turned-astronaut who is beginning a three-month tour of duty on the outpost. Once her custom-made Soyuz seat-liner is installed in the Russian lifeboat, she will become a station flight engineer and Tim Kopra will move to Discovery and become a shuttle mission specialist.

Kopra launched to the station in July and replaced Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. He'll return to Earth on Discovery to wrap up a 57-day round trip to the outpost.

Mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Danny Olivas, Christer Fuglesand, Jose Hernandez and shuttle pilot Kevin Ford followed.

Awaiting them along with Kopra: Station commander Gennady Padalka, who rung a bell in the Harmony module to mark the arrival of a new ship -- a longstanding nautical tradition brought to the station by its first skipper -- Expedition One commander Bill Shepherd.

Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk, European astronaut Frank De Winne, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and American astronaut Michael Barratt.

The crews joined at 10:33 as docked Discovery and the station flew 225 miles above the North Atlantic.

Padalka then led a safety briefing -- another standard operating procedure for shuttle crews coming up on assembly and outfitting missions.

The shuttle astronauts are now off starting to transfer supplies and equipment to the station as their rendezvous and docking day winds to an end. The last big chores of the day: removing Kopra's Soyuz seat liner and replacing it with Stott's. That will end Kopra's tour as a station flight engineer and begin Stott's.

The astronauts also aim to position the shuttle's inspection boom for work that might be required later in the mission.

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