September 18, 2009 in Nation/World

Space station snags cargo ship

Marcia Dunn Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

In this image from NASA TV, an unpiloted supply ship makes its final approach to the space station Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A brand new Japanese space station cargo ship arrived at its destination Thursday, expertly plucked from orbit by an astronaut who toasted the first-ever event with her crewmates.

Space station resident Nicole Stott used the robot arm at the orbiting complex to grab the 18-ton supply ship as it hovered 30 feet away. The vessel – the first of its kind – was launched a week ago from Japan.

It was the first time an unmanned ship was grabbed from orbit like this. The older-style Russian ships actually dock at the space station. So do Europe’s freighters.

Mission Control erupted in applause when the robotic snares tightened on the vessel 225 miles above the planet.

The six space station occupants celebrated by raising specially decorated foil drink bags with straws and sipping the water inside.

The craft is loaded with 5 tons of food, laptop computers, atmospheric studies and a robotic hand. It will remain docked to the ship until the beginning of November, when it will be set free to deorbit and burn up in the atmosphere.

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