Space Shuttle Atlantis
Atlantis reaches the International Space Station
Astronaut Jim Reilly during the mission's first space walk, as construction resumes on the International Space Station on June 11, 2007. (Photo: NASA)
The U.S. space shuttle Atlantis successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday. The shuttle is delivering new equipment to the ISS, including a new solar array, or set of solar panels.
Adding different parts to the ISS is an important step to maintaining a human presence in space. On Wednesday, astronauts Steve Swanson and Patrick Forrester participated in the mission's second space walk to help with construction.
Forrester and Swanson got to work removing an old solar array to make room for the new one. The new solar array will help to provide more power for the station.
The new array will be able to follow the sun and convert sunlight into electricity for the station. It is capable of generating enough power for 10 homes!
Clayton Anderson, a member of the crew, will not return home with the rest of the Atlantis crew. Anderson will stay on the ISS for four months, taking the place of Sunita Williams. Williams, who has lived on the ISS since December, will return to Earth aboard Atlantis.
Atlantis was originally supposed to launch in March but the mission was delayed when a hailstorm caused damage to the fuel tank.
NASA decided to extend the 11-day mission to 13 days to make repairs to the shuttle. During take off from the Kennedy Space Center, a four-inch section of thermal blanket—near the shuttle's tail—was torn. The thermal blanket is used to protect the shuttle from very high heat when the shuttle re-enters Earth's atmosphere.
Astronauts will likely use a special kind of sewing kit to fix the blanket. Crew members are expected to fix the tears during a space walk on Friday or Saturday.
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Tiffany Chaparro is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.