Atlantis’ astronauts geared up Monday for NASA’s first major space-station assembly job - erecting a 15-foot docking tunnel that will enable space shuttles to couple with the orbiting Russian outpost Mir.
“We’re doing something no one’s ever tried to do before - trying to build this thing and install it,” said Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the shuttle crew’s crane operator. “It’s definitely a challenge.”
Atlantis blasted into orbit Sunday and quickly gained on the space station Mir for Wednesday’s docking. The shuttle trailed by less than 2,800 miles as of midday Monday.