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Atlantis hooks up with ISS

Smooth mating of final shuttle to visit station

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Space shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station at 15:07 GMT yesterday, on its final visit to the orbiting outpost as the US prepares to wrap the shuttle programme.

Before connecting with the ISS, the venerable vehicle did the customary backflip to allow station crew to photograph its heatshield. The snaps will be sent to ground controllers to check for any damage.

Atlantis is carrying the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module, loaded with spares and supplies. Pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialist Sandy Magnus will today use the ISS's Canadarm2 robot limb to shift the module from the shuttle's cargo bay to the station's Harmony node.

Ground-based flight controllers, meanwhile, are monitoring reports from the US Department of Defense’s Strategic Command that a piece of Soviet satellite COSMOS 375 may pass close to the ISS tomorrow afternoon.

NASA said yesterday: "The team expected updated tracking information following today’s docking to help determine if a maneuver using the shuttle’s thrusters is necessary to avoid the debris."

COSMOS 375 was deliberately destroyed* after launch in October 1970, and its remains form part of the roughly 500,000 pieces of tracked debris orbiting the Earth. ®

Bootnote

*Apparently as part of Soviet anti-satellite weapons testing. Ah, the Cold War. Those were the days.

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