CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ A Russian docking compartment pulled up at the international space station, adding another module to the orbiting complex.
The 16-foot-long compartment hooked automatically onto the Russian side of the space station late Sunday, two days after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan.
``We felt that,'' commander Frank Culbertson told Mission Control at the moment of contact, high above Mongolia. Added one of his Russian crewmates: ``We have a beautiful item on the station and also we had a beautiful view.''
The three space station residents monitored the final approach through cameras.
Named Pirs, Russian for Pier, the docking compartment is the sixth habitable module of the space station and the third to be launched by the Russian Space Agency.
Besides providing extra docking ports for space station Alpha, the new module will serve as a portal for astronauts and cosmonauts. It will serve as a backup for the U.S. air lock that was delivered by space shuttle Atlantis in July; astronauts exiting this compartment must wear NASA spacesuits.
Culbertson and cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin are one month into their four-month mission. They will use the new Russian air lock for two spacewalks in October and another in November.
During the spacewalks, the men will take turns installing equipment on the outside of the Russian docking compartment, including power cables and a construction crane.
``It's wonderful to have one more module up here, and we're looking forward to using it,'' Culbertson said.