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Americans Come Calling With Gifts for Mir Crew

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Atlantis’ skipper greeted the commander of the space station Mir with the traditional Russian welcome of flowers and a box of chocolates Wednesday when the hatches opened between the ships linked 248 miles above Earth.

There were three peach-colored carnations from shuttle commander Kenneth Cameron, one per cosmonaut. Mir commander Yuri Gidzenko, lacking a vase, stuck them in a small Mir model.

After the brief welcoming ceremony, which also included handshakes and a bear hug, the astronauts and cosmonauts began hauling water, food, science experiments and other supplies from Atlantis to Mir.

By the time Atlantis undocks Saturday, 1,000 pounds of equipment will have been moved over to Mir and 800 pounds transferred from Mir to the shuttle for return to Earth early next week.

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The astronauts will also leave a new docking tunnel attached to Mir, intended to make future shuttle linkups safer and easier.

The astronauts quickly made themselves at home. They helped the cosmonauts drape U.S., Russian, Canadian and German flags in the station, representing all four nationalities on board.

There are four U.S. citizens and one Canadian on Atlantis, visiting Mir for three days. Two Russians and one German are aboard Mir and are not quite halfway through a six-month stint.


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