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Shuttle Approaches Space Station With New Crew - 2002-06-06

The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour is closing in on the international space station, where it will exchange crews after it arrives Friday. Costa Rica's leader called the shuttle Thursday to congratulate a native son who has tied a space record.

Endeavour will deposit three new U.S. and Russian crewmembers on the outpost and retrieve the trio that has been aboard since December, setting a new U.S. space endurance record.

Endeavour crewman Franklin Chang-Diaz, a native of Costa Rica, is tying a world space record on this flight. This is his seventh mission, equaling the record set on the April shuttle flight by Jim Voss.

Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco called to congratulate Mr. Chang-Diaz, who told reporters later that the record is only temporary.

"The record will not last long because we're in the process of sending many people to space," he said. "So this record is going to be broken rapidly."

Mr. Chang-Diaz also congratulated the Costa Rican soccer team for its victory over China Tuesday.

He and French astronaut Philippe Perrin will conduct three spacewalks to perform maintenance and assembly work at the station.