CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —Space shuttle Discovery successfully docked at the International Space Station early Wednesday, its astronauts overcoming a rare antenna breakdown that knocked out radar tracking.
Shuttle commander Alan Poindexter and his crew relied on other navigation devices to approach the orbiting outpost.
"You guys are looking beautiful," Japanese space station resident Soichi Noguchi radioed as the shuttle drew within 660 feet, loaded with supplies.
The two spacecraft came together 215 miles above the Caribbean, precisely on time.
It was only the second time that a shuttle had to dock with the space station without any radar. The first was 10 years ago.
Poindexter trained for just such an event two weeks ago. As he closed in on the final 150 feet, he radioed, "It's a lot of fun."
Flight director Richard Jones said the flying was flawless. "The crew made it look easy," he told reporters.
One of the first matters of business for the 13 space fliers — once the hatches swung open — was transmitting detailed laser images of Discovery to Mission Control in Houston.
Astronaut Stephanie Wilson pocketed the computer hard-drive holding all the wing and nose images that were collected Tuesday, and handed it over as soon as she crossed the station's threshold. The station crew quickly started sending down the files, a lengthy process that lasted well into the afternoon. The antenna breakdown prevented their immediate relay to experts on the ground for analysis.
NASA needs to scrutinize the data to make sure Discovery suffered no launch damage that could jeopardize its re-entry on April 18. As of late Wednesday afternoon, nothing of significance had been found.
On a lighter note, Discovery's arrival also meant that the world finally got to see the seven shuttle astronauts in space.
The failure of Discovery's dish antenna shortly after Monday's liftoff prevented the astronauts from sending and receiving much information during their first two days in orbit. Video shots also fell by the wayside.
The orbiting crowd includes a record-setting four women, three of whom arrived on Discovery. There are eight Americans, three Russians and, for the first time ever together in space, two Japanese.