INTRO: The U-S space shuttle Discovery has docked with the international space station to begin a complicated construction mission. V-O-A science correspondent David McAlary reports that the connection went smoothly, despite the loss of a key navigational device.

TEXT: Commander Brian Duffy and pilot Pam Melroy eased Discovery up under the station slowly to connect to the docking port on the U-S module "Unity." In the words of Commander Duffy to U-S mission control in Houston, the shuttle captured the station.


[DUFFY:] Houston, Discovery. We have capture.


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The astronauts were forced to make their approach without the use of radar, a tool used to locate a docking target and determine the distance between the two craft. The shuttle dish antenna used for this purpose stopped operating Thursday. But lead shuttle flight director Chuck Shaw says crew had trained for this problem and employed another navigational tool that locked visually onto exterior station lights.

/// SHAW ACT ///

So we went ahead and used the star tracker device -- an optical device for seeing the station. The station showed up extremely well in the star tracker. We took star tracker data using the docking light on the station. Those data allowed us to come right on in to the station with no problems. This was the first flight that we have ever done a no-radar rendezvous and it worked extremely well. So all the procedures we used and get used to using during the simulations when the training team takes away all our sensors worked exactly as we planned.

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The seven Discovery astronauts arrived at the space station to add two major exterior components that must be installed before the first long-duration crew arrives next month. They are another docking port for future shuttle visits to Unity and a truss - a latticework girder that houses positioning gyroscopes and communications equipment. This is the first of 10 truss segments, and solar power panels and other hardware will be added to it later.

The main work begins Saturday when Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata hauls the docking port and truss into position with the shuttle's crane. The same antenna signal loss that prevented use of shuttle radar during docking also blocks Discovery's television transmissions to earth. So mission controllers will not be able to watch the operations of the crane, which is known as the robot manipulator system or R-M-S, for short. Nevertheless, Flight director Shaw says that will not keep Mr. Wakata from seeing what he's doing.

/// SHAW ACT ///

Koichi still has full use of all the onboard television systems. So he'll be using the cameras on the aft end of the payload bay, the two cameras on the end of the R-M-S and the one on the elbow of the R-M-S. So he's lost no functionality whatsoever.

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Once the new components are in place on the space station, two pairs of astronauts will take turns over the following four days conducting spacewalks to connect the new components to the station electronically.

Discovery will depart the outpost in one week and return to Earth on October 22. (SIGNED)