Shuttle Commander Dom Gorie started the approach with the Terminal Initiation burn earlier Wednesday evening leading to the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver at 9:26 p.m. From a distance of 600 feet below the station, Gorie manually flew the shuttle through a well-timed backflip allowing the station crew to photograph the shuttle's heat shield. The photos are being analyzed by engineers in Mission Control to ensure the heat shield is in good condition.
Following docking and leak checks, the hatches between the two spacecraft were opened at 12:36 a.m. Thursday.
Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson, joined by Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Leopold Eyharts, welcomed the shuttle crew onboard and provided an orientation of station operations and safety before proceeding to the remaining tasks.
The first 'transfer' item after hatch opening was swapping Mission Specialist Garrett Reisman for Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Eyharts from the European Space Agency.
The transfer was official when the form-fitting Soyuz seatliners were swapped at 2:50 a.m. Eyharts officially spent 33 days as a member of Expedition 16. With an on-time landing March 26, Eyharts will have spent 48 days in space.
The crew also prepared for the mission's first spacewalk, set to begin Thursday evening by Mission Specialist Rick Linnehan and Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Reisman.
Linnehan and Reisman transferred spacesuits to the station, and will spend the night in the Quest Airlock as part of the routine "campout" prebreathe protocol. The spacewalk will take about 6.5 hours as they plan to prepare the Japanese Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section for unberthing from the payload bay. They also will work on some of the initial outfitting and assembly of the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator's two arms.
In preparation for that task, using the Canadarm2, Pilot Gregory Johnson and Mission Specialist Robert Behnken unberthed the Spacelab Pallet containing the Dextre and mated it to a temporary location on the station's Mobile Base System.
Mission Specialists Mike Foreman and Takao Doi commenced with the initial transfer work that will continue throughout the docked phase and set up photo and TV equipment between the two vehicles. The crews are scheduled to go to bed about 7 a.m. and wake up at 3:28 p.m.