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US shuttle Endeavour docks with space station
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After a nearly-two-day pursuit, the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour arrived at the International Space Station and docked with it at 5:01 p.m. EDT (2201 GMT) on Sunday, according to NASA TV.

The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour arrives at the International Space Station and is ready to dock with it on Sunday. [Xinhua/Reuters Photo]

The space linkup occurred under the shroud of darkness as both spacecraft passed over the Earth's night side. Commander Christopher Ferguson was at the controls of space shuttle Endeavour docking to the station's Harmony Node.

The station and shuttle crews will open the hatches between their vehicles and greet each other in about two hours.

The first priority for the 10 astronauts, once united, was a crew member swap. Sandra Magnus, who arrived aboard Endeavour, will switch seatliners with station astronaut Greg Chamitoff and replace him as Expedition 18 Flight Engineer.

Then they will begin joint operations of "home improvements" inside and outside of the station. Endeavour was delivering thousands of kilograms of new equipment: a second toilet, a kitchenette, an exercise device, two more sleeping quarters, and anew recycling system for converting urine and other waste water into drinking water.

With these all installed, NASA and its partners will double the size of the space station crew, which is currently three. Their goal is to have six-person crew by spring 2009.

During Endeavour's stay up there, astronauts will also carry out four spacewalks outside of the orbital outpost, servicing the station's two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which allow its solar arrays to track the sun. The starboard SARJ has had limited use since September 2007.

Endeavour, with seven astronauts aboard, was launched into space Friday night. If all goes well, it is scheduled to undock from there on Nov. 27, towards a planned Nov. 29 landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour docks with the International Space Station at 5:01 p.m. EDT (2201 GMT) on Sunday. [Xinhua/Reuters Photo]

(Xinhua News Agency November 17, 2008)

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