Station crew relocates shuttle docking port

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla Nov 12 (Reuters) Crew members aboard the International Space Station today used a robotic crane to reposition the space shuttle's docking port, a key step toward preparing the complex for the arrival of Europe's science laboratory next month.

Newly arrived station flight engineer Dan Tani, working from inside the station's Destiny laboratory, gently hooked the station's robot arm onto the docking port, which was mounted by 16 motorized bolts onto the front of the module.

Tani then slowly swung the docking port to the left side of the station and mounted it on the Harmony connecting node. The task took about two hours.

Harmony, which was delivered to the station by the shuttle Discovery crew three weeks ago, will serve as the anchoring point for Europe's Columbus module and Japan's Kibo complex.

Now with the shuttle berthing port attached as well, Harmony is ready to be moved to its permanent location on the Destiny laboratory.

NASA has scheduled Harmony's move for Wednesday, followed by a pair of spacewalks next week to hook up electrical and cooling lines to the module. If all goes well, NASA plans to launch space shuttle Atlantis and the Columbus laboratory on Dec 6.

The US space agency has 11 more construction missions and two station resupply flights left on the shuttle's flight schedule before the 100 billion dollars outpost is finished and the aging fleet of spaceships can be retired. NASA is under a presidential mandate to complete the work by 2010.

Reutrs PD DB1904

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