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US Shuttle 'Discovery' Docks With Space Station


The American space shuttle Discovery has docked with the International Space Station, beginning a week-long mission of major renovations to the orbiting laboratory. VOA's Sean Maroney reports from Washington with details on what the U.S. National Aeronautics & Space Administration says is one of the most complex missions ever.

Crews from the U.S. space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station are preparing for Tuesday's space walk, the first of three for the current mission.

Astronauts will begin the installation of a new two-ton segment to the station's girder-like backbone. The $11 million component will bridge routing power, data and coolant for the space station.

Since the station went into orbit in 1998, the outpost has been running on a temporary electrical system. Lead Flight Director Tony Ceccacci says the space walk will be the first step to rewiring the station to its permanent system.

"We have seven challenging dock days ahead of us, as we go through and do both the electrical and thermal reconfiguration of the station," he explained.

The shuttle Discovery docked with the space station late Monday, after a two-day flight from Earth.

The linking of the two spacecraft was relatively uneventful. However, astronauts used the station's robotic arm to examine the shuttle's left wing where sensors detected a "minor disturbance." NASA officials say they do not expect it to affect the mission.

Mission Management Team Chairman John Shannon also says managers will examine images showing an orange cellophane-like material sticking out of the shuttle's left external fuel tank door.

"I don't expect it to be a big deal," he said. "The thing we're always concerned about is if you have a tile damage that goes across a seal. And it doesn't look like it goes across a seal in any of these. It looks very shallow."

The seven Discovery crew members include Sweden's first astronaut, Christer Fuglesang, who will be one of two space walkers. Astronaut Sunita Williams is exchanging places with station crew member Thomas Reiter of Germany and will stay on the station for the next six months.