The shuttle Discovery docked with the orbiting outpost early Wednesday. An antenna failure knocked out radar tracking aboard Discovery. So the astronauts had to rely on other navigation tools for the 215-mile-high rendezvous.
As soon as the hatches open, the shuttle crew will use the station's equipment to send down detailed laser images of Discovery's wings and nose. The images were collected Tuesday, but the antenna breakdown prevented their immediate relay to Mission Control, The Associated Press informs.
The astronauts will also collect a Japanese science experiment and switch out a gyro assembly on part of the station's truss structure.
Discovery is commanded by U.S. Navy Captain Alan Poindexter, 48, of Rockville, MD. Three of the crewmembers—pilot Jim Dutton, mission specialist Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, and mission specialist Naoko Yamakazi of the Japanese Space Agency—are making their first flights into space.
Only three more shuttle flights remain before the vehicles are retired at the end of this year. Under a plan put forth by the Obama Administration, NASA will effectively outsource transportation of crew and supplies to the ISS to private launch contractors, Information Week reports.