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Unmanned European Space Craft Docks With Space Station

An unmanned European space craft has docked with the International Space Station more than 300 kilometers above Earth, heralding a major advance in Europe's space program.

Engineers at European mission control in southern France guided the cargo craft with its seven tons of supplies to the space station without the help of the station's crew. Engineers described Thursday's hook-up as flawless.

Dubbed the Jules Verne in honor of the 19th century French science fiction writer, the craft blasted off March 9 from a launch pad in French Guiana. Twice in the past week ground controllers practiced shuttle approaches to the space station, to ensure a smooth link-up.

Once the cargo is transferred and the space craft detaches, the non-reusable carrier is designed to disintegrate over the Pacific as it reenters the Earth's atmosphere.

European officials say they are counting on the $2 billion unmanned program to supply the station once NASA's manned space shuttles are retired in 2010.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.