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Shuttle/ISS



Saturday September 9 3:28 PM ET
      Shuttle Atlantis on Way to Space Station

                           By Brad Liston

                           CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - The
                           space shuttle Atlantis continued to track the

                           International Space Station through the
heavens
                           on Saturday, closing the distance between the
two
      by 200 miles with each 90-minute orbit of Earth.

      The two spacecraft are set to rendezvous and dock at 1:53 a.m. EDT

      Sunday so the international crew aboard Atlantis can outfit the
station ahead
      of the November arrival of its first long-duration crew.

      The shuttle astronauts tried to reactivate a balky navigational
tool that had
      first failed on Friday. But the star tracker instrument failed
again when
      restarted and was turned off for what is likely to be the duration
of the flight.

      Although the star tracker is used during the finely choreographed
mating of
      shuttle and station as each fly along at about 5 miles a second,
NASA
      predicted its loss should not prove troublesome.

      ``It's a minor procedural delta,'' said lead flight director Phil
Engelauf, using
      space agency jargon for ``no big deal.''

      Instead of approaching the station as planned, commander Terrence
Wilcutt,
      a U.S. Marine Corps colonel, will tilt the shuttle so he can get a
reading from
      a similar instrument on the left wing. Wilcutt can also make use
of a
      navigational tool normally used during landing if he needs to.

      Engelauf, briefing reporters from Mission Control in Houston, said
this was
      the first time he could recall a star tracker failing, adding that
shuttle crews
      prepare for such a possibility in training.

      ``It's something better trained for than thought about in real
time,'' he said.

      After the docking, U.S. astronaut Ed Lu and Russian cosmonaut Yuri

      Malenchenko will perform a scheduled 6 1/2-hour spacewalk
connecting
      power and data cables to the Russian Zvezda module, which arrived
at the
      station in July.

      The pair will be lifted about 50 feet up the length of the
13-story station using
      the shuttle's robot arm, then climb another 50 feet hand-over-hand
like rock
      climbers.

      After the spacewalk the Atlantis crew of five Americans and two
Russians
      will move through a tunnel connecting shuttle and station and
begin opening
      hatches connecting the three existing modules. Then they will
unload about
      4,800 pounds of supplies from the shuttle's pressurized cargo
hold.

      They will also unload some 1,300 pounds from an unmanned Progress
cargo
      ship docked to the station.

      Most of the cargo is hardware for Zvezda, which was stripped of
many
      onboard systems in Moscow to lighten it during liftoff. Zvezda
will serve as
      headquarters for the first long-duration crew, known as Expedition
One.

      Among the supplies are a toilet, office supplies, exercise gear
and
      Russian/English dictionaries to be used by the Russo-American
expeditionary
      crews who will inhabit the station during its construction phase,
expected to
      last until about 2006.

      The shuttle has enough fuel to extend the 11-day mission one day,
giving the
      crew enough time to begin installation work that would otherwise
be left for
      future crews.

      Engelauf said a 12th day was likely, but a decision would not be
made until
      after docking.

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