The space shuttle Atlantis smoothly nuzzled up to the Russian space station Mir late Tuesday in a docking maneuver that has become routine.
For the fifth time since July 1995, the 116-ton Atlantis inched up to the 149-ton Mir, docking safely at 10:53 p.m. for an exchange of crew members, hugs and ceremonial food. Atlantis’ crew came bearing a special Texas barbecue dinner and gifts of can-openers and flashlights.
The tougher exchanges - hauling 3 tons of food, scientific equipment and water between the two ships - will come today.
“It’s a big packing job,” Atlantis astronaut Marsha Ivins, who will coordinate the exchanges, said in a preflight interview.
“I mean it’s just a huge logistics job, since we’re still new at this game.”