Shuttle docks with space station, delivers three new residents

AP Aerospace WriterCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Space shuttle Endeavour docked with the international space station on Friday, delivering a new three-member crew to relieve the men who have been up there since August.

The shuttle pulled up as the two spacecraft orbited 250 miles above the Polish-Ukrainian border, ending a two-day chase.

Space station commander Frank Culbertson had eagerly awaited the arrival of Endeavour, his ride home. Although his four-month stay was quiet, the retired Navy fighter pilot said he felt isolated and frustrated following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His crewmates were two Russians.

"We're ready to see you guys," Culbertson radioed once Endeavour pulled within 1 1/2 miles. He watched as the shuttle, a ghostly white against the blackness of space, drew ever closer.

As Endeavour slowly closed the final 40 feet, Culbertson rang the ship's bell aboard the space station and announced in the tradition of the high seas, "Endeavour, arriving."

It took longer than usual to draw the spacecraft tightly together. The light indicating alignment kept blinking off aboard Endeavour, and Mission Control had to relay additional instructions to the shuttle crew to deal with a balky docking ring. An hour after the initial contact, the vessels were finally snug against each other, their hooks latched.

"Space flight is nothing if not challenging, right?" Culbertson told flight controllers.

Culbertson and his crewmates, Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin, will move out of the space station on Saturday. Taking their places will be Russian Yuri Onufrienko, the next commander, and Americans Carl Walz and Daniel Bursch. They will stay aboard until May.

During Endeavour's 11-day mission, two shuttle astronauts will venture out on a spacewalk to perform space station maintenance.

------On the Net: