Saturday, February 26, 2011

Station's dozen get to work

The International Space Station's population doubled to 12 today when Discovery's six astronauts floated through hatches joining the spacecraft at 4:36 p.m. EST.

The 10 men and two women, including eight Americans, three Russians and an Italian, exchanged hugs and handshakes.

After brief pleasantries and a safety briefing, they were scheduled to quickly get to work.

Cargo transfer between the shuttle and station was to begin immediately. And Discovery's crew was to begin installing a cargo carrier on the station's starboard truss with handoffs between the station's and shuttle's robotic arms.

Discovery mission specialists Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott will operate the station's arm, which will grapple the pallet, pass it to the shuttle arm and then relocate to a new base.

Pilot Eric Boe and mission specialist Alvin Drew will maneuver the shuttle arm. They'll hand the pallet back once the station arm is repositioned from the Harmony node to the station's mobile base rail system.

The station arm will then install the pallet, which holds a 2,500-pound spare radiator, on the Starboard 3 section of the outpost's football field-length truss.

The crew was running slightly behind schedule after vibrations when Discovery docked created movement that delayed a "hard mate" with the station. If necessary, the robotic work could be completed Sunday, but that's not expected to be necessary.

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