Atlantis Docks With Space Station
Shuttle's crew is delivering $2B European laboratory
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2008 11:43 AM CST
The space lab Columbus, flying now aboard the space shuttle Atlantis, will be installed today on the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Space shuttle Atlantis docked flawlessly with the international space station today, the AP reports. Atlantis is delivering a $2 billion lab eagerly awaited by European scientists. Before docking, the shuttle performed a giant backflip so station crew members could take images of the shuttle's thermal shield. NASA engineers will examine them to make sure all is well.

Such check-ups have become routine after the shuttle Columbia disintegrated, killing all seven of its astronauts. But NASA insists the scrapes on Atlantis are “not a show-stopper.” The Columbus lab marks a greater European role in space exploration, the AP says. Stalled by station redesigns and shuttle groundings, the facility cost $2 billion and took 23 years to complete.