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Shuttle Safely Docks With Space Station

NASA's Endeavour crew now ready to deliver key components to the ISS and perform spacewalks.
Space shuttle Endeavour successfully docked with International Space Station early Wednesday.

The docking was preceded by a standard rendezvous pitch maneuver in which the spacecraft does a "back flip" in order to attain the attitude required to couple with the ISS.

The roll also gave crew aboard the space station the chance to photograph the shuttle's underside so experts at NASA Mission Control can assess the health of the craft's heat shield.

Plans now call for the shuttle crew to deliver a connecting module to the ISS that will increase its interior space. The module comes with an attached cupola—a robotic, windowed control station that will provide panoramic views of the Earth, celestial objects, and other spacecraft.

The mission also will see the astronauts perform three spacewalks to conduct maintenance and repair operations on the ISS.

Endeavour blasted off at 4:14 a.m. early Monday, following a one-day delay caused by inclement weather.

Much of their first day in space was spent performing tasks that were routine but essential. Crewmembers inspected Endeavour's heat-resistant tiles and reinforced carbon surfaces on the leading edges of the spacecraft's wings and on its nose.

They also checked out tools that will be used for docking with the ISS.

Endeavour is carrying a five-member crew, including commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts, and mission specialists Kay Hire, Steve Robinson, and Nicholas Patrick.

STS-130 is Endeavour's 24th flight and the 130th for the space shuttle program overall. NASA is cancelling the program at the end of 2010, and there are only four remaining missions scheduled through the remainder of this year.

The Obama administration's budget request, officially unveiled last week, also calls for the space agency to discontinue the Constellation program, which would have seen NASA astronauts return to the moon no later than 2020.

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