Atlantis will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) today.
The crew of STS-132 began their day at 2:20 a.m. CDT to "Sweet Home Alabama" performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd, played for pilot Tony Antonelli.
"It's a great place to wake up," radioed Antonelli, "and now a great song to wake up to."
At 6:40 a.m., commander Ken Ham performed the final rendezvous burn, called the terminal initiation (TI) burn, a 12-second firing of the left orbital maneuvering system (OMS) engine, to put Atlantis on trajectory to meet the space station.
"We're chasing you down," radioed Ham to the ISS.
"Yee-haw! It's good to hear your voice," Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) flight engineer Soichi Noguchi replied. "We'll be expecting you in a couple of hours."
"We're looking out the window at you right now and you are brilliantly glowing," reported Ham, describing the station. "It is an absolutely stunning view."
Atlantis, at a distance of 26,000 feet, and the Moon from ISS. Credit: NASA TV
By 8:26 a.m. Atlantis should be positioned beneath the station to begin the rendezvous pitch maneuver, a "back flip" enabling crew members on the station to use digital cameras to take detailed images of the shuttle's underside to ensure it has not been damaged.
Docking is scheduled for 9:27 a.m., with hatch opening about two hours later. The Expedition 23 crew will welcome the shuttle crew onboard and provide them with a station safety briefing before beginning the first tasks of the joint mission including using the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm to move the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) from Atlantis' payload bay and transferring spacesuits and equipment to the station's Quest airlock.
With Atlantis at a distance of about 600 feet from the International Space Station, commander Ken Ham began the rendezvous pitch maneuver at 8:27 a.m. CDT, a slow "back flip" enabling the space station's crew to photograph the orbiter's thermal protection system through the windows of the Zvezda service module.
ISS Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov using a camera with a 400mm lens, together with flight engineers Soichi Noguchi and TJ Creamer each outfitted with 800mm lenses, focused on documenting Atlantis' belly and its thermal tile-covered surface. Tracy Caldwell Dyson, also an ISS flight engineer, captured 800mm imagery of the upper surfaces of the shuttle's wing leading edges, an area missed by Saturday's streamlined inspection after a snagged cable required use of a secondary sensor package.
Atlantis flips for the space station. Credit: NASA TV
"We had a great pass," reported Noguchi to Atlantis' crew.
"Thanks for the pictures, it's all about the pictures," replied pilot Tony Antonelli. "We appreciate your work."
"You guys did marvelous," radioed Noguchi, "so you guys can enjoy the pictures later."
All of the photography collected will be downlinked to Mission Control for anaylsis of the overall health of Atlantis' heat shield.
With commander Ken Ham at the controls, space shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station's (ISS) Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 at 9:28 a.m. CDT on Sunday as the two vehicles orbited 220 miles over the South Pacific Ocean.
"Capture confirmed," announced Ham.
"Welcome to station," replied Soichi Noguchi from onboard the ISS, shortly before flight engineer TJ Creamer rang the ship's bell announcing Atlantis' arrival.
Atlantis arrives at the space station. Credit: NASA TV
The 34th visit by a shuttle to the ISS, Atlantis' arrival begins seven days of joint mission operations between the STS-132 and Expedition 23 crew members. It is expected to take about two hours for the hatches between the spacecraft to be opened.
Station commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineers Noguchi, Creamer, Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson will welcome the shuttle crew onboard and brief them on safety procedures before beginning their first activities together.
The hatches between space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station (ISS) were opened at 11:18 a.m. CDT, officially beginning seven days of joint operations between the six STS-132 astronauts and the six ISS Expedition 23 crewmates.
"It's our pleasure to welcome them and see them here," said station commander Oleg Kotov during a brief welcome ceremony for Atlantis' astronauts. "[It is] a big event for us, bringing us a new Russian module to station."
"For almost all of us aboard Atlantis, we have been here before," replied STS-132 commander Ken Ham, whose first visit to the ISS was during STS-124 in 2008, "but it's bigger than we remember and speaking for myself, better than I remember. I love this place!"
Atlantis' crew comes aboard the station. Credit: NASA TV
Following a safety briefing, the 12 members of the joint crew set to work on their first tasks. Using the station's robotic arm, they will move the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) from Atlantis' payload bay and transfer it to the station's mobile transporter, enabling the carrier and the spare parts it holds to be prepositioned for use throughout the mission.
Crew members will also bring spacesuits and spacewalk equipment over from the shuttle's mid-deck to the station's Quest airlock to begin setting up for the mission's first spacewalk on Monday.
After successfully docking Atlantis to the International Space Station (ISS), STS-132 commander Ken Ham, pilot Tony Antonelli, and mission specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Stephen Bowen, and Piers Sellers promptly got to work with the initial transfers of equipment and supplies from the shuttle to the station. Spacesuits were among the first items to be moved.
Flight Day 3 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV
Monday, Reisman and Bowen are scheduled to do the first of three 6.5 hour spacewalks scheduled for the week. In preparation, all Atlantis' crew members gathered for an hour-long spacewalk procedure review before their bedtime. Reisman and Bowen are spending the night "camped out" in the Quest airlock, with pressure reduced to 10.5 psi to avoid formation of nitrogen bubbles in their blood in the vacuum of space.
Earlier, Sellers and station flight engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to move the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) from Atlantis' payload bay to the arm's mobile base system to position it for use during the spacewalks.
The Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) is moved. Credit: NASA TV