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Endeavour docks with space station

  • Story Highlights
  • Crews greet each other after shuttle Endeavour docks with space station
  • Before docking, the shuttle did a 360-degree backflip so photos could be taken
  • Being delivered: an extra bathroom, kitchenette and exercise machine
  • Also arriving: Two new sleeping compartments, a recycling system for water
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(CNN) -- The international space station's three crew members Sunday welcomed aboard space shuttle Endeavour's seven astronauts, who arrived to help install more living areas and upgrade amenities.

The space station's three crew members (wearing dark blue) greet members of Endeavour's crew Sunday.

"We understand that this house is in need of an extreme makeover, and that you're the crew to do it," station commander Mike Fincke told Endeavour's astronauts after they entered the station. "We're really glad to see you. ... Welcome to space."

The shuttle, which also brought mission specialist Sandra Magnus to replace station flight engineer Greg Chamitoff, had docked with the station just after 5 p.m. ET about 212 miles above northern India.

Two hours after the docking, the crews opened their vehicles' hatches and exchanged hugs and handshakes as Endeavour's astronauts entered the station.

"We're looking forward to working on your house and making it looking a little bit better when you're done," shuttle commander Chris Ferguson said. The greetings were shown live on NASA TV.

Chamitoff, who has been on the space station for nearly six months, greeted his ride home enthusiastically shortly after the docking. Video Watch the docking »

"You look beautiful," Chamitoff said by radio. "I am smiling from ear to ear." Photo See photos of shuttle launch, docking »

Before the shuttle docked, it did a nine-minute backflip so station astronauts could take high-resolution pictures of the shuttle's thermal-protection system, NASA said. The photos were transferred to Earth, and NASA will look at the photos for damage on Endeavour, which launched Friday.

It was a gash on the wing of space shuttle Columbia that caused its destruction and the deaths of seven astronauts during re-entry February 1, 2003.

NASA will first determine whether the images show any damage to part of Endeavour's starboard wing. That determination needs to be made before the installation of a new station module, scheduled for Monday, because the module would be in the way should closer inspection of the wing be needed, NASA officials said.

Should astronauts need to inspect the wing, the module installation would be pushed to Tuesday, NASA officials said.

NASA also said Sunday that debris seen about 26 seconds into Friday's launch did not hit Endeavour, and that the debris wasn't one of the shuttle's thermal blankets as mission managers initially feared.

"We've determined that all of our thermal protection system blankets are intact in that area, so we're continuing to look at what that debris source might have been. The candidate is probably ice," mission management team chairman LeRoy Cain said.

While at the station, the astronauts will increase the station's living space with room for six instead of the current three. They'll install more places to sleep, another bathroom, a better water system, more exercise equipment and a bigger refrigerator.

The population on board the space station is to grow to six next spring.

Also on tap are four space walks focusing on the station's two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which allow the solar panels to track the sun.

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The shuttle is also bringing Thanksgiving dinner, with irradiated turkey, candied yams, stuffing and dessert, because it won't be returning to Earth until November 29.

Besides Magnus and Ferguson, members of the shuttle crew are pilot Eric Boe and astronauts Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Steve Bowen, Don Petit and Shane Kimbrough.

All About Space Shuttle EndeavourNASAInternational Space Station

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