February 27, 2011 in Nation/World

Discovery docks with station for last time

Marcia Dunn Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Space shuttle Discovery docks at the International Space Station on Saturday. Discovery is the oldest shuttle and has logged 143 million miles over 26 years.
(Full-size photo)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space shuttle Discovery arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday, making its final visit before being parked at a museum.

“What took you guys so long?” asked the space station’s commander, Scott Kelly.

Discovery should have come and gone last November, but it was grounded by fuel tank cracks. It blasted off Thursday with just two seconds to spare after being held up by a balky ground computer.

“Yeah, I don’t know, we kind of waited until like the last two seconds,” said shuttle commander Steven Lindsey.

The linkup occurred 220 miles above Australia.

Discovery – flying on its final voyage – will spend at least a week at the orbiting outpost. It’s carrying a closet-style chamber full of supplies as well as the first humanoid robot to fly in space.

The compartment will be attached permanently to the space station early next week.

Altogether, there are 12 people aboard the joined spacecraft, representing the United States, Russia and Italy. And in a historic first, four of the five major partners have vessels docked there right now, including cargo ships from Japan and Europe. The entire conglomeration has a mass of 1.2 million pounds, including the shuttle.

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