Atlantis docks, astronauts ready for spacewalk

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Space Shuttle Atlantis

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Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis is one of the fleet of space shuttles belonging to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was the fourth operational shuttle built. Following the destruction of Columbia, it is one of the three fully operational shuttles remaining in the fleet. The other two are Discovery and Endeavour. After it completes STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope service mission, Atlantis is scheduled to be the first shuttle retired from the fleet.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station yesterday, and astronauts James Reilly and Danny Olivas were planning their first spacewalk today.

The shuttle docked at 3:36 p.m. EDT (1736 UTC) yesterday, doing an end-over-end flip over South America to let the International Space Station crew photograph the shuttle's heat shield. Called the "Rotational Pitch Maneuver", the move is now routine.

In today's spacewalk, scheduled for 17:53 UTC today, Reilly and Olivas, with the help of a giant robotic arm, will install a new set of solar panels to the station.

After lift-off on Friday from Kennedy Space Center, Atlantis suffered a triangular four-inch by six-inch (10 centimeter by 15 centimeter) tear on a thermal blanket that protects the left side maneuvering rocket pod. Also, small pieces of foam broke off from its external fuel tanks.

Mission chairman John Shannon said he was "leaning toward" ordering another spacewalk so that the tear in the blanket could be repaired.

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