The space shuttle Endeavour is seen docked at the International Space Station after arriving on July 17, 2009 during NASA's STS-127 mission.
Credit: NASA TV.
This story was updated at 1:58 p.m. EDT.
The long-awaited crew of the space shuttle Endeavour finally arrived at the International Space Station Friday to begin a two-week construction visit.
Endeavour is more than month late because of launch delays. It pulled up to the station's Harmony Node 2 at 1:47 p.m. EDT (1747 GMT), bearing seven astronauts and some new hardware for the outpost. The shuttle launched Wednesday and spent two days playing orbital catch-up with the station.
Astronauts are scheduled to open the hatches between the two spacecraft at 3:43 p.m. EDT (1943 GMT). When the newcomers join the existing International Space Station (ISS) crew of six, the total population onboard will be a record 13.
Endeavour commander Mark Polansky, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Chris Cassidy, Julie Payette, Tom Marshburn, Tim Kopra and Dave Wolf will make for a crowded station when they join ISS crewmembers Gennady Padalka, Roman Romanenko, Michael Barratt, Robert Thirsk, Frank De Winne and Koichi Wakata. All five space station member organizations - NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the European Space Agency - will be represented.
Kopra is set to replace Wakata as an ISS Expedition 20 flight engineer, while Wakata will ride home aboard Endeavour in his place.
Despite the imminent crowding on the station, the two crews are looking forward to seeing each other again.
"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of emotion as you see your friends up there and it's always an exciting time to do that," Polansky said in a preflight interview. "And then after about five minutes of, 'Boy, this is really cool!' back to work."
Before Endeavour docked at the space station, Polansky guided the orbiter through a backflip so astronauts inside the station could photograph the heat shield tiles lining its belly. The maneuver is a now-standard part of NASA's shuttle heat shield inspections to look for signs of damage from launch debris.
During Endeavour's launch, the shuttle's fuel tank lost an unusual amount of foam from its external tank. Some minor nicks to tiles were also seen.
The two crews have a busy schedule planned for Endeavour's 11 days docked at the station. A primary task is to install a new outdoor experiment platform on the Japanese Kibo laboratory. The segment - used to expose science projects to the space environment - will complete the huge Kibo complex. Endeavour's crew also plans to unload a cache of spare supplies on the station to keep the outpost running after the shuttle fleet retires, planned for 2010.
For the six long-duration station crewmembers awaiting the shuttle, the influx of new faces and supplies will be very welcome.
"We're hoping to get some fresh mail and some fresh fruit, and it's a great crew that's coming up and we're really looking forward to working with them," Barratt said in a NASA interview.
Today's docking occurred on the 34th anniversary of the first docking between an American Apollo spacecraft and a Russian Soyuz capsule. This month NASA is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's first moon landing, which occurred on July 20, 1969.
- New Video - The Kibo Lab: Japan's Hope in Space - Part 1, Part 2
- Final Countdown: A Guide to NASA's Last Space Shuttle Missions
- SPACE.com Special Report - THE MOON: Then, Now, Next
SPACE.com is providing continuous coverage of STS-127 with reporter Clara Moskowitz and senior editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for mission updates and SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed.