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Shuttle <i>Atlantis</i> Returning to International Space Station - 2002-10-08


The crew of the international space station gets its first visitors Wednesday since the space shuttle Atlantis docked in June. Atlantis is again about to connect to the orbiting laboratory, bringing more equipment to expand it.

Atlantis has been chasing the station since its launch Monday. Its six astronauts spent Tuesday checking docking mechanisms that must mate and lock for the link-up.

They also inspected spacesuits that two of their members will don for three spacewalks when they connect a 15-meter-long beam to the station.

The 13-metric-ton truss is the second in series of sections that will span 100 meters, a backbone for the station that will support power, cooling, and data systems for future research laboratories.

This Atlantis flight was originally scheduled to occur seven weeks ago, but emergency repairs to all shuttle fuel lines and last week's Gulf of Mexico hurricane delayed this and other missions.

The postponements mean the U.S. and Russian station crew is staying in orbit longer than planned. Instead of going home this month, they are to be replaced when a shuttle arrives next month.

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