Discovery Docks with the Space Station

HOUSTON, April 7 (UPI) — NASA said space shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station early Wednesday, with the shuttle’s crew beginning at least eight days of work.

The 3:44 a.m. EDT docking occurred without incident, officials said, and after procedural leak checks to ensure a solid mate between the two vehicles, the hatches were opened at 5:11 a.m.

Two space “firsts” occurred with that hatch opening: the first time four women have been aboard the same spacecraft during a mission and the first time two Japanese astronauts have been aboard the space station at the same time.

Discovery’s seven-person crew will join the space station’s six crew members for more than a week of work, the space agency said. The mission, which will include three scheduled spacewalks, will see the replacement of an ISS gyroscope, the installation of a spare ammonia storage tank and the retrieval of a Japanese experiment from the space station’s exterior.

The STS-131 mission is Discovery’s 38th and marks its next-to-last flight. The shuttle program is being terminated this year, with Discovery to make the final flight to the space station Sept. 16.

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