After a two-day orbital chase, the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour has arrived at the International Space Station with a new crew for the outpost.
Endeavour commander Ken Cockrell slowly guided the shuttle to the station's docking port nearly 400-kilometers above the South Pacific.
Space station astronaut Dan Bursch noted the arrival by ringing the ship's bells moments before contact.
The final locking of the two massive spacecraft together took two tries because of an imperfect initial alignment. Shuttle flight director Paul Hill said that larger than normal oscillations between the two orbiters threw the alignment off about one centimeter. This is a tiny amount, within the margin of error for the docking hardware, but Mr. Hill said Mission Control preferred a perfect link-up. "This is just the nature of mating two very heavy spacecraft together," he said. "What our concern was since we saw some misalignment and we did have the time, we wanted to stop and try to force the system to line itself up again to make sure it was perfectly straight."
The final mating marked the start of a four-month stay at the orbiting research facility for the two Russian cosmonauts and U.S. astronaut who flew up on the shuttle. They are relieving the two astronauts and cosmonaut who have lived there more than six months.
Shortly after docking, the combined shuttle and station crews greeted each other and shortly began transferring the first of three tons of supplies the shuttle brought with it for the new station crew.
Over the eight days Endeavour and the station are connected, two shuttle crewmen will don their spacesuits for three construction and maintenance spacewalks. Their major tasks are to replace a faulty joint in the station's robot arm and install a special base for the arm that lets it ride on a mobile platform.
This railroad-like system will allow it to reach distant parts of the outpost during assembly.