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Discovery docks with ISS; NASA to check shuttle's damage

RIA Novosti

12/12/2006 10:04 MOSCOW, December 12 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. space shuttle Discovery has successfully docked with the International Space Station, and NASA has seven days to check whether damage to the shuttle's left wing could affect its mission.

Sensors have detected a spot on the Discovery shuttle's left wing, which NASA officials said are unlikely to affect the mission. A decision on whether astronauts should be sent on a spacewalk to check the damage will be made after NASA experts examine images of the wing.

Six of the seven astronauts who came aboard the ISS at around 3 a.m. Moscow time (midnight GMT) are set to leave the space station in a week, while the seventh, Sunita Williams, will stay for six months, together with station commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, replacing the European Space Agency's German astronaut Thomas Reiter.

The shuttle delivered a new cube-shaped 4,000-lb section to be attached to the orbital station, and a large amount of cargo, including solar batteries.

The new section is set to be attached to the ISS during the first of the three planned spacewalks, scheduled for 11.42 p.m. Moscow time (8.42 p.m. GMT) on Tuesday.

"We hope all technical work during the three planned spacewalks will be done to make the station's configuration more stable, and improve the station's capacity from the viewpoint of providing life-support and carrying out research experiments," Russian Space Agency spokesman Igor Panarin said earlier.

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