Discovery and space station rendezvous

Associated Press

Space shuttle Discovery docked at the International Space Station on Sunday night, delivering a full load of gear and science experiments.

The linkup occurred as the spacecraft zoomed more than 200 miles above the Atlantic and ended a round-the-world chase of nearly two days.

A thruster failure made the rendezvous all the more challenging for shuttle commander Rick Sturckow.

One of Discovery's small thrusters began leaking shortly after Friday's midnight liftoff and was shut down.

None of the little jets was available for the rendezvous and docking, and Sturckow had to use the bigger, more powerful primary thrusters, making for a somewhat bumpier, noisier ride.

Sturckow had trained for this backup method -- never before attempted for a space station docking -- before the flight. NASA said everything went well.

"Great to hear your voices," station astronaut Michael Barratt called out when the two spacecraft were 4 1/2 miles apart. "Can't wait to see you."

Discovery and its crew of seven are delivering thousands of pounds of equipment, including a treadmill named for Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.

The treadmill is in more than 100 pieces.

Earlier in the day, astronaut Nicole Stott -- who's about to become the newest space station resident -- sent "big space hugs" down to her 7-year-old son, Roman.

"I just want to let him know I love him more than anything," she radioed.

Stott will remain at the space station until another shuttle comes to get her in November.

Discovery -- launched for the first time 25 years ago Sunday -- will spend more than a week at the orbiting complex.

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