CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The space shuttle Atlantis arrived at the international space station yesterday for a weeklong stay, delivering a load of spare parts needed to keep the outpost running for another decade.
The two craft came together 220 miles above the Pacific, between Australia and Tasmania.
Astronaut Nicole Stott, a space station resident for 2 1/2 months, was thrilled to see her ride home. She spotted Atlantis from 3 miles out.
“I have my ticket all ready and stamped, waiting for you guys when you get here,’’ Stott radioed to the shuttle commander, Charles Hobaugh.
“Who is this?’’ Hobaugh teased.
Just before docking, Hobaugh guided Atlantis through a pirouette for the space station cameras, for a final check to make sure there’s no damage to the thermal tiles on its belly.
All indications are the shuttle made it through Monday’s liftoff just fine, officials with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said. The astronauts surveyed their ship Tuesday for any signs of launch damage, and a quick look at the laser images shows everything in good shape. Specialists will continue to analyze the data, as well as the hundreds of digital photos that were taken yesterday.
Atlantis will remain at the orbiting outpost until the day before Thanksgiving, enough time for the two crews, 12 astronauts total, to unload nearly 15 tons of spare parts.