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Endeavour, Space Station Crews Meet Face-To-Face

SPACE CENTER, Houston – The crew of the international space station today exchanged hugs with their first visitors a day after watching two of them toil for more than seven hours to install a billion-dollar robot arm.

“Hey, how’re you doing, you guys are awesome!” U.S. astronaut Jim Voss of the station said to space shuttle Endeavour commander Kent Rominger as the shuttle crew floated into the station through an open hatch.

Members of both crews snapped pictures between handshakes and hugs.

Russian cosmonaut and station commander Yuri Usachev, Voss and U.S. astronaut Susan Helms arrived at the station, called Alpha, in March for a 41/2-month stay.

Since Endeavour docked at the station on Saturday, its seven-man crew and the station’s crew had to settle for waving at each other through a porthole.

Endeavour kept its hatch closed to maintain pressure different from that in the station, called Alpha, so Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and U.S. astronaut Scott Parazynski could perform a spacewalk Sunday to unfold and power up the new 58-foot robot arm that the shuttle delivered. Hadfield wiped tears from his eyes as he greeted Alpha’s crew Monday.

After the formal welcome, Helms and Voss waited to power up the newly attached arm from a control center in Alpha so it can take its first 241/2-foot step from its packing crate to an anchor on the station.

Installation of the new arm was a big day for Canada, which built it for the station. Hadfield was the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk.

“Thank you very much for all the people who helped put the arm here,” Hadfield said Sunday. “Scott and I were just the deliverymen. And it really opens the door to what all of us can be doing together here internationally, beginning to explore space as a planet.”

The arm, 3,618 pounds of steel, aluminum and graphite epoxy, has two hands and seven joints. It will act as a high-tech construction crane, walking end-over-end like an inchworm, to add pieces to the station and lessen the need for astronauts to do outside work during spacewalks.

Also on Monday Parazynski and Italian astronaut Umberto Guidoni waited to crank up the shuttle’s 50-foot robot arm to move an Italian-built cargo carrier, named Raffaello, from Endeavour’s payload bay to the station.

The carrier contains 10,000 pounds of supplies, from food and clothes to science experiments and racks to hold them.

On Tuesday, Hadfield and Parazynski will go back outside to wire up the arm in its new location. On Wednesday, the new arm will hand off its packing crate to the shuttle arm in a handshake.

In June the new arm will hook up a pressure chamber to Alpha. That chamber will allow station astronauts to perform spacewalks without the aid of a shuttle.

Next year the station is scheduled to receive a rail car built by Canada to further extend the new arm’s reach. Fingers will be added to the arm in 2003 to increase its dexterity.

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