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Sunday September 10 2:42 AM ET
Shuttle Atlantis Docks to Space Station 

By Brad Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - With a final whisper from the control jets 
on space shuttle Atlantis, astronaut Terrence Wilcutt gently docked the 
orbiter to the International Space Station on Sunday, the loss of a key 
navigational tool apparently of no concern in what NASA called a ``textbook 
rendezvous.''

This was the third time a U.S. shuttle had docked at the orbital construction 
site. The Atlantis crew will spend at least five days outfitting the station 
in advance of the first long-duration crew's arrival in November.

>From 1,000 feet (300 meters) away, the station appeared on television 
monitors at Mission Control like a tiny hummingbird hovering outside the 
shuttle's window.

As Atlantis inched closer, the station revealed itself to be an ungainly 
combination of tubular modules and connecting nodes stacked 13 stories high. 
As construction continues through at least 2006, the station will only appear 
less like a human habitat as it sprouts modules in every direction andhalf an 
acre of solar panels follow the sun.

Still, it will be home for rotating crews for at least 15 years, as NASA and 
its partners in Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan conduct science and study 
the ways humans can adapt physically and psychologically to long-term space 
travel.

``Atlantis and the International Space Station are now one vehicle orbiting 
the Earth,'' said NASA commentator Rob Navias, the voice of Mission Control 
in Houston. ``A textbook rendezvous throughout the course of the night.''

Wilcutt, a U.S. Marine Corps colonel making his fourth space flight, managed 
the docking despite the malfunction of a navigational tool called a star 
tracker, mounted near the overhead window used during the maneuver. Instead, 
he made do with other navigational tools available on the shuttle.

The primary goal of the five U.S. astronauts and two Russian cosmonauts 
aboard Atlantis is to outfit the Russian Zvezda module, headquarters for 
expeditionary crews during station construction.

The 20-ton Zvezda was stripped of much of its hardware in Russia to lighten 
its weight during liftoff last July. The Atlantis crew will offload about 
three tons of hardware and supplies from the shuttle's pressurized cargo hold 
and from an unmanned Russian Progress cargo ship already docked to the 
station.

Among the supplies are a toilet, office equipment, exercise gear and 
Russian/English dictionaries to be used by the Russo-American expeditionary 
crews.

Bill Shepherd, commander of the first crew, known as Expedition One, watched 
the docking from Russian Mission Control near Moscow. He and his Russian 
crewmates, Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko, are scheduled to ride a Soyuz 
spacecraft into orbit in less than two months.

Before the space crew begin to open the hatches connecting the station's 
three existing modules, astronaut Ed Lu and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko will 
perform a scheduled 6 1/2-hour spacewalk connecting power and data cables to 
Zvezda early Monday.

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. NASA said a decision on that won't be made until docked 
operations are well underway. 

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