Endeavour Reaches the Station

The space shuttle Endeavour reached its orbital destination today, linking up with the International Space Station. The shuttle was piloted in by commander Scott Kelly, who aligned the docking ring in Endeavour‘s cargo bay to a port on the front of the Destiny laboratory module.

Just before the arrival, Kelly stopped the shuttle about 400 metres (1,300 feet) away from the station, and then slowly back-flipped, so that astronauts on board the station could take detailed photographs of the shuttle’s wings and belly. NASA engineers will then study these images to see if there was any damage to the shuttle’s heat tile system caused during launch – a few pieces of foam were seen falling during launch, but nothing too damaging.

Once the visual inspection was completed, the two vehicles connected at 2:02 pm EDT, and the station’s residents officially welcomed the visiting astronauts aboard. Station commander Fyodor Yurchikhin rang a ship’s bell on the station signifying their arrival; one of the traditions left over from the shuttle’s nautical heritage.

The astronauts will enter the station for the first time later this afternoon, after they’ve completed checking the two spacecraft’s connection for any pressure leaks. They will also begin transferring cargo, and prepare for the upcoming spacewalks and installation of the S5 truss.

The newly equipped Station-to-Shuttle power transfer system will get its first test this afternoon as well. This system will reroute power from the station’s electrical system to the visiting shuttle. If this works properly, the shuttle mission will probably be extended from 11 days to 14, and the astronauts will perform an additional spacewalk.

Original Source: NASA News Release