Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shuttle Astronauts Join Crew Aboard Space Station

The Atlantis astonauts joined up with the crew of the International Space Station today, and now there are a dozen people aboard the orbiting outpost.

Coming up next: Some heavy lifting. The shuttle's robot arm will be used to hand off a pallet of large spare parts to the 57-foot station arm so that the carrier can be mounted to the outpost's central truss. The Atlantis astronauts are delivering 27,000 pounds of spares -- many of which are too large to be launched on any vehicle other than the shuttle. Stockpiling large spares on the station before the shuttle fleet retires is one of the chief objectives of NASA's final six shuttle missions.

Hatches between Atlantis and the station swung open at 1:20 p.m. -- a little more than a half-hour ahead of schedule. Shuttle mission commander Charlie Hobaugh crossed over the threshold first and was followed by the rest of his crew: pilot Butch Wilmore and mission specialists Mike Foreman, Bobby Satcher, Leland Melvin and Randy Bresnik.

They joined station commander Frank DeWinne and flight engineers Roman Romanenko, Max Suraev, Robert Thirsk, Jeff Williams and Nicole Stott.

Still to come today:
2:33: Shuttle robot arm lifts spare parts carrier.

3:13 p.m. Carrier handed off to station robot arm

4:23 p.m. Procedures review for spacewalk No. 1.

4:38 p.m.: Install carrier on station’s central truss.

6:53 p.m.: Spacewalkers Mike Foreman and Bobby Satcher camp out in station’s U.S. Quest airlock.

7:58 p.m.: Station crew sleep.

8:28 p.m.: Shuttle crew sleep.

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