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ISS Hookup Successful

Russian Module Links to Space Station   

.c The Associated Press 

KOROLYOV, Russia (July 26) - Opening what exultant space officials called a 
new era in space, the long-delayed international space station linked up 
smoothly Wednesday with the Russian-made Zvezda control module.

The crucial module will allow the first crew to start living and working in 
the station this autumn. It also will provide steering controls, as well as 
adjusting the station's orbit and distributing electricity.

Russian space officials, including several cosmonauts, anxiously monitored 
the automatic docking on a large screen at Mission Control in Korolyov, just 
outside Moscow. Applause rippled through the hall once the linkup was 
achieved at 4:45 a.m., and beaming technicians shook hands all around and 
gave each other thumbs-up signs.

''Speaking from the NASA side, this is an astonishing achievement, something 
we've been waiting for quite some time,'' said Robert Castle, a NASA liaison 
at Russian Mission Control. ''This is the beginning of a new era in space.''

The international space station is running two years behind schedule, and 
already has gone $3 billion over budget because of problems on the Russian 
side that raised questions about Moscow's reliability as a partner. Zvezda 
was the first module to be built solely by the Russians.

Russian space officials tried to put that all behind them on Wednesday.

''I want to wish you all that we will see such events happen again without 
any more delays,'' said Yuri Semyonov, head of the state RKK Energiya 
company, which built the module.

Russian Aerospace Agency chief Yuri Koptev used the occasion to press for 
more state funding, noting that the government had provided only about 30 
percent of the money needed for each launch.

''This event shows that Russia is still strong and developing as a superpower 
and the government should support us,'' he said at Korolyov.

He also saluted his NASA colleagues and expressed hope that the two space 
agencies would continue to cooperate. The successful linkup ''is yet more 
proof that we can work together,'' he told NASA administrator Daniel Goldin 
over a speakerphone.

The linkup was completed two weeks after the unmanned Zvezda was launched 
into orbit from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the Central Asian nation of 
Kazakstan. Over the weekend, space controllers fired the Zvezda's jets 
several times to bring the module into a stationary orbit and aligned the 
rest of the station for a smooth approach.

Although the docking should have been a routine procedure, Russia was taking 
extra precautions with Zvezda, which means ''star'' in Russian.

Two cosmonauts were standing by at Baikonur to fly to the station and dock 
manually if the automatic system had failed. But the system the cosmonauts 
would have used was the one used in a 1997 test aboard the Mir space station, 
when a cargo ship went astray and collided with the orbiter, puncturing the 
hull and severely damaging the prestige of Russia's space industry.

Yet the cosmonauts didn't have to go anywhere Wednesday. Technicians 
confirmed that the components had locked together successfully before the 
space station passed outside radio contact with Mission Control in Korolyov.

Shortly after docking, Zvezda's solar arrays were to begin tracking the sun. 
Within a few days, its computers will take full control of maintaining the 
station's orbit.

The first crew is set to arrive at the international space station in 
October. But the space laboratory, a massive 16-nation project headed by the 
United States, will not be complete for another five years, after more than 
40 space flights.

Some members of the U.S. Congress have questioned whether to fund NASA's 
spending projections on the $60 billion project, particularly after the 
failed launches of two Mars missions last year. But they expressed cautious 
optimism about the Zvezda launch.

As the station expands, many of the module's functions will be taken over by 
other components, but Zvezda will remain the heart of the Russian segments. 
Once the ISS is complete, it will weigh about one million pounds and have six 

Living Quarters Joins International Space Station 

By Peter Graff

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia docked its living quarters module to the 
International Space Station on Wednesday, taking the world's largest and 
costliest space ship a step closer to completion.

Live pictures beamed back from space showed the Zvezda living quarters 
module, which blasted off from Russia's Baikanur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan two 
weeks ago, approaching the two pieces of the station that were already joined 
in orbit.

The pictures then showed the module successfully docked, which Russian 
mission control in Moscow confirmed by telephone at 0046 GMT.

The docking took place by remote control, sparing a Russian crew from having 
to fly up to guide it, which was the back-up plan in case the automatic 
docking failed.

The space station, which is being built jointly by the United States, Russia, 
Europe and Japan, has been described as one of the most ambitious engineering 
projects ever attempted and a unique event in space science.

When complete it will loom seven stories high and spread over nearly an acre 
(half a hectare) of space.

It will cost up to $60 billion and become one of the brightest objects in the 
night sky, with seven full-time crew members living and working in a space as 
big as the cabin of a Boeing 747 jumbo-jet.

Those days are still some way off: at least 35 more space missions will be 
needed before the station is complete in 2005, and the Zvezda module provides 
only enough room for three, in quarters that are comparatively cramped.

Early crews will be busy building the station, not carrying out scientific 

But officials on the ground still hailed Wednesday's docking as a watershed, 
at last creating a new home for humans in orbit.

New Era

``This is the beginning of a new era in space in my opinion, with the world 
participating in this great project,'' Bob Castle, flight director from the 
U.S. space agency NASA, told a news conference at mission control after the 

``My congratulations to all of my colleagues who designed, built, operated 
and made this happen.''

The first three-man U.S.-Russian crew is due to blast off for the station in 

The docking also lets Russian space officials breathe a sigh of relief. They 
have said in the past that a failure of the Zvezda mission could have been 
fatal to a space program that put the first satellite in orbit and the first 
man in space.

``I think in light of what is taking place we have every grounds to resolve 
all the problems within our country,'' the head of the Russian space agency, 
Yuri Koptev, told the news conference on Wednesday.

``I think it will soon be clear how we can extend these relations and our 
ability to continue this wonderful program and huge project.''

Russians have by far the world's most extensive experience in building, 
operating and living aboard permanently-manned space stations, having flown 
the Mir orbiter for 14 years.

But Russia's economic travails had raised questions about how well it could 
keep its commitments to the international station. Zvezda's launch was 
delayed for more than two years. 
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