Commander Terry Wilcutt steered Space Shuttle Atlantis to a smooth link-up with the International Space Station at 12:51 a.m. CDT Sunday, setting the stage for six days of outfitting to make the orbiting outpost ready for its first residents in early November.
The approach and docking went almost exactly as planned, with Pilot Scott Altman and Mission Specialists Ed Lu, Rick Mastracchio, Dan Burbank, Yuri Malenchenko and Boris Morukov, helping Wilcutt close the final gap between the two spacecraft as they sped around the Earth at 17,500 miles an hour over Kazakhstan. The only change to the plan was a brief tilt of the shuttle to sight the station with Atlantis’ only working star tracker at a distance of 50 miles from the station.
As soon as docking was complete, the crew activated hooks and latches to forge a hard bond between Atlantis and the station’s Unity module. Soon after docking, the shuttle’s cabin atmospheric pressure was lowered in preparation for tonight’s six and a half hour space walk, or Extravehicular Activity (EVA), by Lu and Malenchenko. This significantly reduces the amount of time crewmembers must pre-breathe pure oxygen before exiting the airlock. This purges the body of nitrogen bubbles and prevents symptoms called “the bends,” well known by divers.
The space walk is scheduled to begin about midnight and conclude at 6:30 a.m. Monday.
The two space walkers will integrate the recently docked Russian Zvezda module with the rest of the International Space Station, routing and connecting nine power, data and communications cables between Zvezda and the other Russian-built module, Zarya. They’ll also assemble a magnetometer boom on the outside of Zvezda. All the while, the robot arm will be used to help move equipment from the payload bay to the station. Atlantis’s STS-106 crew will turn in for the day at about 10:45 this morning and will be awakened for space walk preparations at 6:46 this evening.
The astronauts and cosmonauts will enter the station Monday night, by opening 12 hatches in preparation for delivering supplies for use by the first resident crew – Expedition One.
The next mission status report will be issued about 7 this evening or as mission events warrant.
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