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Shuttle Crew Gears Up to Erect Docking Tunnel

<i> Associated Press</i>

Atlantis’ astronauts geared up Monday for NASA’s first major space-station assembly job: erecting a 15-foot docking tunnel that will enable shuttles to couple with the orbiting Russian outpost Mir.

“We’re doing something no one’s ever tried to do before: trying to build this thing and install it,” said Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the shuttle crew’s crane operator. “It’s definitely a challenge.”

The show must--and did--go on despite a possible U.S. government shutdown. Mission Control was to be fully staffed, no matter what.

Atlantis lifted off Sunday and quickly gained on the space station Mir for Wednesday’s docking. The shuttle trailed by less than 2,800 miles as of midday Monday.

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When the shuttle astronauts undock with Mir on Saturday, they will leave the tunnel behind to make future dockings easier and safer.


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