Endeavour docks with space station for the last time
Final trip to orbiting outpost on swansong mission
Space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station for the 12th and final time earlier today, as its swansong mission continues to run smoothly.
Just prior to the 10:14 GMT mating, commander Scott Kelly guided the shuttle through a "backflip rotation" to allow station commander Dmitry Kondratyev and ISS flight engineers Paolo Nespoli and Cady Coleman to capture hundreds of images of the vehicle's thermal tiles for later ground analysis for possible damage.
The hatches between the two spacecraft opened at 11:38 GMT, and the shuttle's crew was welcomed aboard (see pic) by Coleman, Kondratyev and Nespoli, along with their fellow ISS residents Andrey Borisenko, Ron Garan and Alexander Samokutyaev.
Twelve days of joint operations kick off today with the removal of the Express Logistics Carrier 3 – carrying "a spare ammonia tank, a high-pressure oxygen tank, two S-band antennas and 10 circuit breakers" – from Endeavour's cargo bay.
The main STS-134 mission objective is the installation of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, but Endeavour mission specialists Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and Michael Fincke are tasked with various maintenance jobs during four planned spacewalks. There are more details on these in the mission summary (2-page PDF/355KB).
Endeavour will return to Earth on 1 June at the end of a 25-mission career which began on 7 May 1992. Its final home will be the California Science Center in Los Angeles. ®