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Space Shuttle Atlantis Docks at ISS


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The U.S. space shuttle Atlantis has docked at the International Space Station.

Mission commander Charlie Hobaugh successfully guided the shuttle through a flip maneuver Wednesday as it approached the station. The maneuver aimed the belly of the shuttle at the station so that cameras could check for any damage from liftoff.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, says all indications are that Atlantis made it through Monday's liftoff just fine.

NASA says that after a series of checks, the hatches between the two vehicles will be opened and the astronauts will begin unloading equipment.

Atlantis is delivering more than 13 tons of spare parts for the International Space Station, including equipment for the outpost's robotic arm.

Inspecting the shuttle for damage after a launch has became standard practice following the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster. Columbia was punctured by debris from the external tank, causing the shuttle to disintegrate as it re-entered the earth's atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts.

Three spacewalks are scheduled during this 11-day space outing, which is NASA's last shuttle mission of the year. The crew will be at the station for a little more than a week, and will bring back an astronaut (Nicole Stott) who has spent three months on the orbiter.

Only five more shuttle missions to the ISS are scheduled before the fleet is retired next year. It is scheduled to be replaced by the new Constellation program, which hopes to ferry astronauts to the orbital outpost, the moon and even Mars. But a recent NASA report says the program is threatened by a serious lack of funding.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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