Two days after launch, the U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station Thursday.
Discovery fired maneuvering jets on final approach to the space station, which is orbiting at a speed of more than 28,000 kilometers an hour.
Shuttle Commander Steve Lindsey assumed manual control of Discovery as it closed to within several-hundred meters of the station. He then executed a 360-degree "backflip" rotation, allowing space station crewmembers to take pictures of the orbiter's underbelly, to check for possible damage to heat-resistant tiles.
Afterward, Lindsey slowly guided Discovery to a precise docking with the space station, at a final approach speed of just a few centimeters per second.
The photographs taken of the shuttle are part of an exhaustive in-mission safety review process, implemented after the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Columbia broke up upon re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, and heat shields damaged during lift-off were blamed for the tragedy.
Wednesday, Discovery's crew used the orbiter's robotic arm to take photographs of the shuttle's wings and nose cap. Nothing of major concern has been detected.
The shuttle is delivering several tons of supplies and equipment, including a new oxygen generator. One crewmember, Mission Specialist Thomas Reiter of Germany, will remain on the space station for six months. At least two space walks are planned in coming days.
The target date for completion of the International Space Station is 2010, at which point the shuttle fleet is scheduled to be retired.