Space shuttle Discovery docks with space station

March 18th, 2009 - 5:17 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 18 (DPA) The space shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station (ISS) Tuesday for a construction mission that will allow the station to double its crew.

The Discovery will deliver the fourth and final solar panel that will enable ISS to double the size of its crew to six astronauts. Three spacewalks are planned to install the solar panels and conduct other construction projects. Two spacewalkers will put the panels in place on Thursday with help from the station’s robotic arm.

“Welcome to the Space Station, Discovery. We’re glad you’re here,” the ISS crew said as the two craft made contact at 2120 GMT above Australia.

The mission will also deliver Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is to officially join the permanent crew on the orbiting space station later Tuesday.

In recognition of the Japanese crew member, the first permanent ISS resident from that country, Discovery astronauts awoke Tuesday morning to Radio Exercise, a song used by Japanese school children to exercise, and performed by the Tokyo Broadcast Children’s Choir.

The shuttle launched Sunday after weeks of delays caused by concerns about hydrogen fuel valves and a later leak in a fuel vent.

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