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Space Shuttle Docks with International Space Station; Delivers European Science Lab


The space shuttle Atlantis completed a giant backflip before its docking Saturday with the International Space Station.

The U.S. space agency NASA says the maneuver allowed crew members aboard the station to look for possible damage to the shuttle's heat shield.

NASA has been concerned about what it calls "foam losses" during the shuttle's launch on Thursday. Cameras detected three instances where insulating foam broke free from the Alantis' external fuel tank shortly after launch.

An earlier inspection by the shuttle's crew found no significant damage.

Atlantis is delivering a $2 billion European science laboratory to the International Space Station.

The Columbus lab is named for 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. It will advance research in such fields as the impact of space travel on humans.

The Atlantis crew includes astronauts from Germany and France who will help activate the lab module. The French astronaut (Leopold Eyharts) will remain in space when Atlantis returns to Earth later this month, replacing an American astronaut as a crew member in the orbiting station.

Atlantis lifted off Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a two-month delay caused by problems with the shuttle's fuel gauges.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.

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