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Shuttle Atlantis docks with space station

February 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The shuttle Atlantis has docked at the international space station, delivering a 2-billion-dollar European science lab after years of delay. Atlantis pulled up to the space station this afternoon after performing a backflip so NASA could inspect its thermal shield.

The procedure has become routine after the Columbia disaster in 2003. The space station crew zoomed in for pictures of the ship's belly, and engineers on the ground will examine the images for signs for damage.

Mission control asked crew members to take extra pictures of a piece of the thermal layer that was sticking up.

Atlantis is the first shuttle to dock at the space station's Harmony module, which was delivered by the shuttle Discovery last fall.

The European lab, called Columbus, is the European Space Agency's main contribution to the space station.